The Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles have an affinity for trap and wham plays that rivals my own love for them, and why not? It’s worked very well for them as an effective and efficient concept that routinely catches defenses off guard. You could argue that they’re so useful for the Eagles that they may be under-utilized, but it’s their element of surprise that aids their production.
Looking at their preseason run game to this point, it looks like these concepts are here to stay, and with good cause. From my Art of Wham article:
“Trap concepts were an extremely effective weapon for the Eagles in 2017. According to Pro Football Focus, they ran a league leading 40 plays (8.5%) that featured components of a trap play. Their 8.5% market share was well over the league average of 2.1%. Those 40 plays averaged 7.3 yards per carry, which was tops in the league among teams that ran 10 or more trap concepts and also 2.5 yards more than the league average.”
The wham isn’t a revolutionary concept. Coaches like Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer have been using it for years. It’s easy to find cutups of teams from all levels using this concept with success, like this from 2005-2006.
Why does it work so well? Imagine you’re a defensive lineman getting smacked from all sides by the Eagles offensive line. Then you randomly get a clean look to the backfield. Your lizard brain takes over all motor function and sucks you into to the quarterback-running back mesh-point like a moth to a flame. You saw it on tape, you knew the chances of a trap were very real, still, that quarterback is RIGHT THERE. That’s the dilemma facing these linemen. They get tunnel vision and rarely see the tight end coming to attack from their side.
Defenses have implemented counter tactics like the “block-down, step-down” rule, the “wrong arm technique”, or an old school “squeeze technique”, but none of those work if the defensive tackle doesn’t slow his read and steps upfield too quickly. His job is often to penetrate and disrupt so you can see the mental bind it forces on him.
Now imagine you’re a 220-240-pound linebacker and you have a lineman taking a free run at you. Not just any lineman, Jason Kelce for example, who has the quickness to stick with you in short areas. That’s a losing proposition. Linebackers are less stack-and-shed and more about getting around blocks with processing and elusiveness. When they must stack a lineman like Kelce, or Brandon Brooks because they didn’t beat them to the spot, chances are they’re taking a loss on that rep.
Think about that overall weight advantage when you go from two offensive lineman blocking two defensive linemen, to two offensive linemen blocking two linebackers. The design takes care of the big fellas with less weight and you get big-on-small at the second level.
What this also does is allow easier blocking assignments from tight ends who might not have blocking on the top of their résumé. Look how easy this block is for rookie tight end for Dallas Goedert, who is tasked with blocking the 309-pound Javon Hargrave (he’s good). All he has to do is get a piece of the inside half of his man for a half second to do his job. You’ll also notice the combination of Kelce and Brooks getting clean to the second level.
The execution allows running back Corey Clement to run his “B-gap rail” right off the butt of Goedert, who seals off Hargrave. It’s an easy conversion. They’d run another like this later in the game with Wendell Smallwood with similar results.
This time, they trap two players, with Chance Warmack responsible for the 1-tech Hargrave and Goedert crashing L.T. Walton’s party. Warmack drops his right foot and attacks the inside shoulder of Hargrave while Goedert just gets enough of the side/back of his man. This allows center Isaac Seumalo and left tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai to climb to the second level. Goedert gets just enough of Walton and Smallwood uses some quick footwork to get to the lane for 13-yard gain.
For the Eagles run game, variety is the spice of life and you could spend all off-season learning the nuances of their attack. The wham is just one design in a sea of others, but it’s so efficient as a curve ball that I can’t help but be enamored with it when they pull it out of the tool box. It also gets bonus points for helping young rookies like Goedert stay on the field for run downs so they don’t tip their hand via personnel. Expect plenty more of this slice-and-dicer in 2018.