There’s been plenty of talk about how Nelson Agholor and the newly acquired Golden Tate can co-exist in the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles’ offense. There’s little doubt that the Eagles have a precise plan for how to utilize both of their skill sets to maximize their strengths. The Eagles won’t have to change much to achieve that goal either.
Agholor has been used as an underneath and behind the line of scrimmage threat at a much higher rate than last year. The analytics reflect that fact. It’s led to his lower yards per catch and depth of target, which looked like this before the Jacksonville Jaguars game:
Doing a full eval of Agholor after the bye, consider the piece below as a set-up... Looking deeper into his analytics from '17 to '18:— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) October 27, 2018
- @friscojosh https://t.co/yihbfdPVTw: aDOT -2.4, YAC +.23
- #NextGenStats separation +.7, xYAC -.5
- @PFF YPPR -.53, Slot Frequency -24.1% https://t.co/kSoIbupGaV
As noted in that thread, Agholor hasn’t replicated his after the catch production from the year previous and it’s very likely that role will pass onto Tate. It’s well documented how dynamic Tate is after the catch, so we can skip all the stats supporting that fact.
Another concern is that both Tate and Agholor are slot heavy receivers.
Agholor Slot % (‘15-’18): 19% > 22% > 86% > 61%
Tate Slot % (‘15-’18): 56% > 27% > 79% > 70%
One concept where you can have three receivers on the field and utilize all of their strengths is what the Kyle Shanahan playbook calls “Burner”. The Eagles ran this against the Jaguars for a 39-yard gain. First, the setup.
The Eagles are in 11 personnel from a condensed set. Keep in mind these tight sets are still considered “outside alignments” and offer multi-directional route options for all three receivers. This is important when looking at broad classifications of slot and outside snaps. Essentially, not all slot and outside alignments are created equally and the Eagles often utilize these condensed sets.
More on how this formation dictates a defenses’ coverage deployment, using it’s sister concept (Yankee) as an example:
“It is most often run with play action and max protection. Yankee is especially effective because of the bind it puts defenses in: Since the concept is used with heavy run formations... defenses often respond with a single high safety in either Cover 1 or Cover 3.” - Inside the Pylon
Pre-snap, wide receiver DeAndre Carter motions across the formation. This gives the offense a key as to what coverage they’ll be facing; whether it be zone or man. Nobody follows Carter, instead the Jaguars slightly shift, which signifies zone. With that box checked, the next phase is the dual play-action.
The Jaguars linebackers don’t get sucked in by this dual play-action, but the man responsible for covering Agholor on his deep over route doesn’t get to depth quick enough. This leaves a large area which is vacated by Jordan Matthew’s vertical route. This is what Agholor does well; work the intermediate-to-deep areas of the field, especially on horizontal stretches.
Now imagine that’s not Carter, imagine it’s Tate. That orbit/reverse action as the second play fake is followed by a flare route. There’s two ways you can go with this. If the two deep routes aren’t available, you’ve got a checkdown to Tate in space against a cornerback for a guaranteed positive gain.
The other option is to hand it off to Tate on the reverse or a jet sweet. He’s been used successfully like this by the Detroit Lions from similar formations.
The addition of Tate frees up Agholor to do what he does best as he hands over a role that suits Tate much better. They won’t need to change much of anything of what they do offensively, despite their slot labels.
The Eagles possess a creative coaching staff that’s more than capable of maximizing both players. The “Burner” concept is just one concept they can utilize that fits both players perfectly.