There are areas in which the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles can improve their efficiency on offense. It might be hard to believe, but it’s true. There are more areas in which the Eagles are ahead of the league in terms of how they utilize their personnel.
“Tight ends provide a huge efficiency edge, and teams need to work to target these players more often.” - Warren Sharp, Sharp Football
Passing to tight ends from 12 (2TE) or 21 (2RB) personnel sets offers a big advantage over passing to wide receivers from 11 (3WR) personnel. QB Ratings swing anywhere from 4 to 24 points in favor of tight ends when the sets are stacked against each other for each down. The Eagles barely utilize two running back sets and I doubt that changes, but they do love them some sweet sweet tight ends.
The Eagles threw the ball out of 12 personnel with the second highest frequency (57%) in the league. The only team that threw it more was the Andy Reid coached Kansas City Chiefs, go figure. The Eagles have no reason to abandon it either, not with Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz on the roster (#GodErtz). They’ve also seen how effective it can be for them in the analytics. While 11 personnel netted them a 42% success rate and an 89.3 QB Rating, 12 personnel outperformed it through the air with a 49% success rate and a 110.7 QB Rating.
Just because a team runs a high amount of two tight end sets, it doesn’t mean those have to all be in-line snaps with the quarterback under center. Ertz ran 44% of his routes from the slot and only Delanie Walker was targeted at a higher rate (22%) from that alignment. While Ertz was effective in this role, he’s found more stable success in-line. He was the second most efficient in-line receiver among tight ends with at least 20 in-line and 20 slot targets, behind only Rob Gronkowski.
This is where Goedert comes in and allows Ertz to spend most of his time in his optimal alignment while also stretching the defense horizontally. Goedert was moved all over the place for the South Dakota State Jackrabbits, which gives him experience in how the Eagles have used both Ertz and Trey Burton. For example, Burton ran 54% of his routes as a slot receiver. This is right in Goedert’s wheelhouse.
"How many snaps is a backup TE going to get though?"— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) May 7, 2018
Zach Ertz played 776 snaps.
Burton/Celek played 765 snaps.#GodErtz pic.twitter.com/auyyyQVoo7
From the slot, Goedert’s 17 receptions netted 368 yards and a bonkers 21.6 yards per catch average. Scheming him mismatches while detached should be cake for the Eagles coaching staff and also provide him space to utilize his excellent run after catch ability. He also makes the red zone offense even more unpredictable and dangerous.
Dallas Goedert absolutely owns red zone drills. His catch radius and ability to withstand contact shines.— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) August 1, 2018
The Eagles are also incentivized to run these sets from shotgun. As I’ve noted before, Jay Ajayi is a much better shotgun runner than LeGarrette Blount and the Eagles love to use shotgun, so it would stand to reason that we see even more of it this year. With how the Eagles often count box numbers to determine run or pass, achieving lighter boxes requires a spread out formation. If the defense decides to fill the box with more than 6 defenders to stuff the run, the Eagles will find success targeting its tight ends from both in-line and in the slot.
Outside of a few teams, the league is behind the curve on weaponizing their tight end depth. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, the case for drafting a “backup” tight end gets stronger and stronger.