After eight months of endless prognosticating, we finally have new Philadelphia Eagles film and analytics to analyze. It’s just one game, but the offensive results for the Eagles were about what we expected from a personnel perspective. From a production standpoint, it took a while to get there, but the offense looked as dangerous and explosive as speculated.
Digging into the personnel groupings and their effectiveness, I charted every snap to examine where the Eagles found the edges in their Week 1 32-27 win over Washington.
Running from 12
As has been well documented, last year the Eagles had the second highest in 12 personnel frequency (36%). On Sunday, they kept along that same trend by utilizing two tight end sets with one running back on 35% of their offensive snaps. The Eagles are so successful passing from that personnel group, that it’s easy to forget the impact it’s had on the running game. The Eagles had their highest rushing success rate from 12 personnel last year and Week 1 was no different.
The Eagles 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter was sparked by two big runs. First, Darren Sproles ripped off a 17-yard run, followed by Miles Sanders exploding through a hole up the gut for 19 yards that put the Eagles at the 3-yard line. On both runs, Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert were on the field and took care of their blocking assignments.
With Ertz and Goedert next to each other, it creates an additional run gap on the left side. This forces the defensive to put a defensive back in immediate run support. It’s a 7-man box for the defense, but on the first play linebacker Cole Holcomb (#55) takes himself out of the play and on the second linebacker Jon Bostic (#53) is distracted by the jet action of Nelson Agholor. It’s all blocked up wonderfully and the extra gap created by the formation is one gap too many for the Washington defense.
In all, 12 personnel churned out 5 yards per carry on average with a 60% success rate. That’s good, folks.
Passing from 11
The Eagles found most of their success through the air utilizing three wide receiver sets. They averaged a blistering 10.5 yards through the air from 11 personnel with a 56% success rate and tacked on two touchdowns. The Eagles used this grouping to spread out the Washington defense and create leverage and assignment mismatches for DeSean Jackson.
On his 51-yard touchdown, Jackson worked from a slot alignment in a reduced trips set. Over the last two years, Jackson has created 74% of his explosive plays from a reduced/slot alignment. Josh Norman is playing with outside leverage and has to process the route combinations in front of him. These two factors, combined with Jackson’s easy speed, create a cake throw for Carson Wentz.
On the go-ahead 53-yard bomb, Jackson again is working from a slot alignment, this time in a more spread out trips formation. Pre-snap Wentz anticipates that Washington is going to be playing zone with a single-high safety to the passing strength. He changes the play, sending both Nelson Agholor and Jackson streaking at safety Montae Nicholson on a route combination akin to a divide concept.
This forces Nicholson into an impossible pickle and Wentz could’ve had either targets for a big gain. There’s no blitz, good protection, and Wentz steps into a rainbow to DeSean for six.
Blitz vs. No Blitz
On the previous two touchdowns shown, Washington defensive coordinator Greg Manusky brought three and four-man pressure. Historically, that’s been a raw deal for him against Wentz. Manusky’s had more success with the blitz, as The Athletic Philadelphia writers Bo Wulf and Zach Berman pointed out leading up to the game.
“Manusky’s defense, which has blitzed about 30 percent of the time overall since 2017, sent at least one extra rusher Wentz’s way 53.7 percent, 48.7 percent and 42.9 percent of the time, respectively, in their three meetings...
The reason for that blitz tendency is not necessarily that it has been effective, but rather that Wentz has destroyed the Washington defense when it sits back passively.”
Wentz was still solid against the blitz, producing a 50% success rate with 5.2 yards per attempt. With no blitz he was lights out. Wentz posted a 52% success rate and ripped off a devastating 10.1 yards per attempt when Washington sat back. Manusky only elected to blitz on 31% of the Eagles’ passing plays and it burned him badly.