In a preseason game that featured a total of 3 offensive points and 5 combined points, you’d be forgiven if you didn’t think anything exciting happened on offense for the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles. Behold, I found one standout player and one concept that got me to stand out of my seat.
On his fifth NFL roster, wide receiver DeAndre Carter led the Eagles last night with 4 catches and 73 yards. Getting reps with the first team due to a currently depleted wide receiver group, Carter made good from the slot. His background as a special teamer paid off as well with a 29-yard scamper on a punt return. The question should be asked, is it all coming together at the right time for the fourth-year journeyman?
His athleticism pops out on tape, displaying 4.4 speed with considerable juice in his get-off. The Eagles understand how to use these dynamic athletes in their passing game and did so with a well-executed post-wheel concept.
Nick Foles is reading the outside cornerback Terrance Mitchell on this concept. If he sits on the outside despite the clearout post by the #1 Mike Wallace to pick up the wheel by #2 Carter, there’s a large area in which Wallace can exploit before the safety is able to drive on his route.
If the outside corner takes the #1 vertical, it puts the nickel corner T.J. Carrie in a very difficult position. Not only does he have to potentially deal with working through traffic from the post, but he must also complete a turn and stay with the wheel step-for-step.
Key to giving the route combination time develop is Zach Ertz. It didn’t take long for the world to see that the slumping Halapoulivaati Vaitai couldn’t block Myles Garrett. To buy another second before the ball needed to be released, Ertz chips Garrett and then releases to the flat as a check down option.
Wallace stems inside, getting to the numbers from his “plus split”, creating more immediate space for the wheel as Mitchell follows him. Carter takes advantage of Carrie, who is turned inside, attacking his outside shoulder and bursting to the space created by the post. This leaves him wide open with a few healthy steps on Carrie.
Foles completes this, but he leaves a potential touchdown on the field if Carter can squirt past the safety coming over top. Instead of getting the throw dropped to him in stride, Carter is forced to flip back towards the line of scrimmage and catch it at his chest. Credit to him for adjusting and being mindful of the sideline on the 29-yard play.
Digging into other ways the Eagles could use this concept, there’s a variety of ways to run the post-wheel. You can utilize it from several alignments with wide receivers, with running backs both in the slot and from the backfield, and with tight ends from single and multiple tight end sets. Here’s how good this route combination is, you can even use it with some window dressing and a tighter stack to make Josh Huff a productive receiver. Mind. Blown.
The other wrinkle you can add to this design is jet motion, which becomes the flat route. This is a staple of the Auburn Tigers offense under Gus Malzahn, but it’s also been utilized effectively on lower levels and in the red zone. Watch here as James Madison deploys their tight end on the wheel in the 2016 FCS Championship Game against Youngstown State.
Carter is a plus athlete that flashes his smooth acceleration on concepts like the post-wheel. In the constant search for mismatches and explosive plays, it’s easy to see how he could find himself on the roster when it’s all said and done. It’s hard not to root for him and the hopes are that he can fulfill the promise he made to his brother on his deathbed.