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Eagles’ blitz tendencies and “reactive offense” with Sports Info Solutions

Fireside Chats #12!

Philadelphia Eagles v Detroit Lions Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

Sometimes there’s data that’s such a secret, it only leaves you with two options. Option number one: you could break into Sports Info Solutions HQ and take off with all of their data. Option number two: you could have their top talents on Bleeding Green Nation and let them spill the beans.

I can’t go back to jail, so I went with the second option. Matt Manocherian and Bryce Rossler of Sports Info Solutions were kind enough to spill the beans on a number of Philadelphia Eagles’ analytics.

Reactive Offense...

Reactive play-calling or “reactive offense” as Bill Walsh would call it, involves the following:

“Defenses often develop plans to counter a team’s offensive tendencies. Accordingly, a team should include plays in its offensive attack that offset its own tendencies or to take advantage of a defense’s probable predisposition to act a certain way in particular situation.

Collectively, these special plays are commonly referred as a team’s ‘ reactive offense ‘. As the head coach, you should ensure that your team is properly prepared to react in all conventional reactive situations including:

1. A first down call after getting a first down rushing.

2. A first down call after getting a first down passing.

3. A first down call after the completion of an explosive pass.

4. A first down call after an explosive run.

5. A first down call after a positive penalty ( i.e. 1ST and 5 ).

6. A second down call after a sack.

7. The next first down call to start a series after your team lost the ball on a fumble or interception.

8. A first down call to start a series after your opponent’s loss of possession due to a turn over.

That last point, the “sudden change”, was a major focus for the Eagles last year. They were 31% over league average in choosing to pass after gaining possession via turnover (80%). On the show we posited the theory that it was a shot-taking mentality that caused this bump. In reality, it teaches a lesson about assuming. While it’s true the Eagles leaned toward the pass, it didn’t yield any explosive plays. They did, however, gain 6.13 yards per play with an excellent 58% success rate through the air in those situations.

It’s also worth noting that the Eagles’ offense only started drives after a turnover 15 times. That tied for 18th in the league, along with ranking 26th in starting field position. Those situational stats highlight a lack of “run support” (to use a baseball team) that plagued the team for the early and middle portions of the season.

Bringing the House...

Jim Schwartz isn’t known as a blitzer, but he does have a penchant for bringing heat in specific situations. While he only blitzes 9% of the time on first down, the possibilities of a heater ramp up late in downs:

2nd & Long: 17%

3rd & Short: 36%

3rd & Medium: 29%

3rd & Long: 30%

The most successful blitz was from 3rd & 4-6 yards to go, where offenses only managed a 28% success rate. Their problem came on the short and long situations, where offenses racked up a robust 70% success rate. Last summer I called his go-to “cover 0” blitz a “mixed bag” and it looks like that remains to be the case. Hopefully better health in the secondary next year shores that up.

League-wide, cover 0 has proven to be one of the better blitzes to unleash and doesn’t give up as many big plays as are feared. Perhaps that’s due to the off-coverage that also accompanies the blitz and dictates a quick pass to the offense rather than holding on to the ball and waiting for a deep route to come open. Granted, that still happens when facing more aggressive quarterbacks, as Eagles fans should know well.

We get more in-depth into these topics and also discuss play-action and analytics around the league in Fireside Chats #12! Listen on the media player below or click here if the player doesn’t load. New to podcasts? Check out our guide on how to listen to BGN! FLY EAGLES FLY!