As we emerge from the Philadelphia Eagles’ bye week, I decided I wanted to write a breakdown of Nick Sirianni’s offense and how it has changed throughout the year for this week’s article. I did not want this to become a Jalen Hurts article. However, as I started to think about this more, it is impossible not to mention Hurts at all.
So basically, this is going to be a breakdown looking at how Sirianni’s offense has adapted throughout the year with Hurts at his quarterback and what I have seen from it so far.
A little treat for you all... I had a conversation with possibly the greatest Eagles X&O’s writer of all time - Ryan Sasaki who you may know as @ChipWagoneer (and/or as a former BGN contributor). Ryan no longer writes about the Eagles but his old blog on the Chip Kelly offense was one of the all time great websites. He is one of the reasons I fell in love with studying the all22 and I’ve been lucky enough to speak to him a few times over the years. His old blog is here and it is always worth checking out. I will include his comments throughout.
For the purpose of this article, I am going to split it up into weeks 1-7 and 8-13. Because something changed during the mini-bye following the Las Vegas game.
So... the offense didn’t look very good the first few weeks. It was a mesh of quite a few concepts with a heavy emphasis on a shotgun spread-out passing offense. The whole offense ran through Hurts and the passing game. Without utilizing the middle of the field however. There was a real lack of focus on the run game and no attempt to get Hurts going as a runner either.
There were some concerns that showed up routinely on film too. Such as, an inability to get the screen game going weird odd plays that looked bad from the start.
Eagles all22 Offense thread... would love to see this play on the whiteboard. 1st down after Slays pick. Seems like you are asking a LOT from your OL to block those CBs out in space. Play looked doomed from the start. pic.twitter.com/VlqMWf9vkE— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 12, 2021
Panthers DEs were excellent against the Eagles screen game early on. Eagles obviously expected them to fly upfield but they did the opposite and kept catching the RB from behind. Sirianni must have been surprised and should have changed things up quicker pic.twitter.com/9LGPyP1GE4— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 12, 2021
When I asked Ryan about the early failures in the screen game, he made (as always) a very smart point.
“Teams are less likely to pin their ears back and attack Hurts for fear he breaks the pocket and are focusing more and more on trying to contain him in the pocket. This makes it harder to execute on screens because the DL isn’t exploding off the ball”.
In my opinion, the single biggest issue with the offense early on was the reliance on RPO’s. It was clear to me after a few weeks that Hurts is not good at running them. Hurts seemed to make wrong decisions too often and they led to bad plays in the running game. This led to the inability to run the ball, a lack of running plays in general, and just some very bad football for us to watch.
Lot of talk about run/pass ratio but there's a lot of RPOs being run. Hurts normally throws but chooses to run here... assuming this is an RPO he HAS to throw the bubble screen here because they are clearly 3on2 at the top of the screen pic.twitter.com/p8NP2O0Ciy— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 12, 2021
Another one where Hurts can probably hand off imo. Just not sure he reads all these RPOs correctly. pic.twitter.com/y1sguRCYRk— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 12, 2021
There was a real lack of creativity early on. We saw a lot of curl routes too. Way too many curl routes.
Eagles offense first 3 drives: RPOs, screens & curl routes.— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 12, 2021
The Eagles overall design in the passing game seemed really off in certain weeks too. I commented a lot on this early in the season, but the spacing in the passing game just seemed out of sync.
If someone asked me to summarise the offense in one play its this. It just looks so rough. The spacing all looks wrong, players are too close together. Hurts has Gainwell free down the field but waits, Gainwell then stops just as Hurts throws it. It's just bad. pic.twitter.com/DGyBgIJOch— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 18, 2021
Again, spacing just looks all wrong and players look clueless when Hurts breaks the pocket. Surely out of structure plays is something we practice with a mobile QB? It just looks ugly. pic.twitter.com/8lRc9qSFTE— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 18, 2021
I struggled to find an identity with the Eagles offense. I didn’t see many concepts run well consistently. To be honest, I didn’t really see a clear plan. I asked Ryan what he thought and he didn’t hold back.
“I think I am in a similar boat as most. No idea what the hell they were doing in the first 6-7 games. I can only imagine the first 6-7 weeks was trying to evaluate what Hurts could do as a passer. But it should have been clear from the start that what they’ve been doing the last month was the way to play with Hurts and compete. So strange”.
The Eagles seemed to do a bit of everything. Wide zone. Boot action. RPOs. Deep shots. Spread offense. But they didn’t do anything well. They just threw the ball. A lot.
In weeks 1-7, Hurts had 287 drop backs and threw the ball 242 times. 35 throws a game is a lot for a quarterback who specializes as a runner.
After 7 weeks, fans were melting down. The Eagles were playing terrible. Articles were being written about Sirianni being one and done... and then something changed.
It was obvious from the first drive in week 8. The Eagles were under center. They had an identity. They were going to run the ball.
Eagles All22 Offense thread v. Raiders Immediately from the start of the game, it was obvious Sirianni had changed his approach. Run first. Under center. Offense had a really different look and it was successful early on. Sanders ran behind Maliata/Dickerson frequently. pic.twitter.com/AnA1qkEqWK— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 26, 2021
We saw 3 TE sets which we rarely saw before. The Eagles were committing to the run, for the first time all season.
Again, a totally different approach. 3 TE set, running the ball from under center. And it worked! Eagles left side of OL were moving people & Sanders looked really good. One of his best runs of the season. You can't criticise Sirianni for the same approach this game. pic.twitter.com/iXWlPZaY5O— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 26, 2021
This was not a one off. The Eagles have continue to build their offense around the run game. And it has changed the entire complexion of the offense.
This is not a joke... the Eagles ran under center 4 times in a row from 13 personnel!! This is tough, aggressive downhill ball. Howard still has power. Kelce/Dickerson were awesome on nearly every run on this drive. Quite a lot of split zone used but also mixed it up with OZ. pic.twitter.com/bpPXxtbC9z— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 2, 2021
Eagles OL were moving people early on. This is a great example of each OL winning his assignment & flowing in unison perfectly. The TEs also provide help. Also - look at what the threat of Hurts running does to 49. That's the benefit of having a QB who can keep it. pic.twitter.com/7BDWc8EqZ8— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 9, 2021
One of the best all22 writers that I follow, @OllieConnolly, published these stats that back up everything the film showed. The offense had gone from one of the worst in the league to one of the best. And it was a completely different offense.
The difference is striking. The EPA per play change is insane. The Eagles were running more 2/3 TE sets. Hurts was being asked to run more. It is not an exaggeration to say it was a different offense.
When I asked Ryan what changed, he confirmed what we could see on the film.
“The scheme looks a lot more like I thought I would from the start: heavy focus on QB-enabled run game showcasing Stoutland’s diverse run schemes. Not many schemes they don’t run”
The Eagles run game has become incredibly diverse. They run zone, power. counter, trap, split-zone, RPOs. As well as a bunch of designed QB runs such as counter, power, etc. Here are some of my favorite below.
Bit of a random mention but I'm going to do it anyway!! Jack Stoll is awesome on split zone and had a number of really good blocks coming across the formation. So shoutout Jack Stoll! pic.twitter.com/7PGRkxxF4s— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 16, 2021
This is how you run power. What a job by the OL. Kelce seals the 1T. Maliata and Dickerson double the 3T before Maliata gets one LB. Herbig pulls and takes the other LB. Reagor comes down and takes safety. Goedert takes DE. Leaves RB vs CB who takes a terrible angle. PERFECT! pic.twitter.com/Wd9qGPiO9G— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 7, 2021
Eagles ran the hell out of this counter run with Hurts and some of the holes were absurd. Watch this play 3x times (at least) and just watch Dickerson, Maliata & Johnson. This is near perfection. Maliata & Dickerson look so athletic for 2 huge guys. This is awesome. pic.twitter.com/wqJOLskpFF— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 30, 2021
This is literally 2 plays later lol. Johnson, Dickerson & Maliata are unbelievably good on this counter run. My goodness. pic.twitter.com/nhLEdCwC8D— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 30, 2021
I know Analytics Twitter hates this and let me be clear: you do not need to run the ball effectively to run play-action. However, when you run the ball very well (especially from under center) it becomes easier to run play action and we have seen the Eagles be more effective with play action recently.
Eagles also used PA from under center! It produced Hurts best throw of the day which... makes you think. Raiders play a lot of C3 and Eagles dialed up a lot of zone beaters with 3 level passing plays. Here they get here with Goedert running a post/corner and its a beauty by Hurts pic.twitter.com/1QM6ANh0cD— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 26, 2021
At the start of the season, it seemed like a bunch of random jumbled plays that did not link together. Since week 8, we have seen some concepts become used over and over again and we have also seen clear examples of sequencing, which is something I did not see much early on except for the Falcons game.
It is truly amazing what motion can do to some defenders in the run game. Look at 34 literally freeze here! Previous play they faked a handoff to Watkins and ran a screen to the TE too, good to see some more creativity creeping in. pic.twitter.com/fLfpnoKpkM— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 2, 2021
Hey, look at the Eagles starting to sequence some plays together?! The very next play, Eagles decide to hand it to Reagor and he picks up a nice gain. Look how slow the left DE is to react after seeing the previous two plays include the WR in motion used as a decoy only. pic.twitter.com/VdGAVQjgVD— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 2, 2021
So, what are Sirianni’s core concepts? If you have read the film room pieces you should know by now... but let’s go over some of them.
It is really good to see the Eagles running Flood 2 weeks in a row consistently and Hurts looks really comfortable running this play. Last week it was Goedert as the intermediate route but here they use Watkins from across the formation. Pass protection is perfect here too. pic.twitter.com/r5Dbed080y— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 2, 2021
Eagles All22 Offense thread v. Broncos! Eagles staff have done a great job building on concepts of late. They have loved running sail/flood recently so they started getting into it from different looks. Here they roll Hurts out. Hurts is v good at hitting the intermediate route pic.twitter.com/o7wwRlHSUV— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 16, 2021
4 Strong/4 Level Flood
Not sure I've ever seen an Eagles team run this play... is this a '4 strong' style of play you see the Chiefs run every so often?! 4 routes flooding the same side of the field with 2 deep, 1 intermediate, 1 short? pic.twitter.com/3sunjel03G— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 2, 2021
Shoutout @denizselman33 for this one
It wasn’t even the only one. This earlier play also is a three level stretch with two guys deep (4 guys total). 31 carries Stoll to clear space for Goedert’s route, so I guess whatever works. pic.twitter.com/AWUszVCiSm— Deniz Selman (@denizselman33) November 3, 2021
I am gutted Hurts got hit on this play and couldn't complete this because Eagles ran '4 strong' (or whatever you call it - 4 WR flood essentially) with Reagor almost hiding behind the TE before coming open late behind 2 deep. Pretty weird/awesome concept. Becoming another staple. pic.twitter.com/AUHfrIpFnu— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 16, 2021
Variety of Man Beaters
Sirianni has also showed a good understanding of wide receivers splits, match ups and formations to get his receivers open against man coverage.
Sirianni was cooking against man coverage this game. Was taking apart the blitz & seemed to have a great feel for Denver's defense early on. Condensed split means CB has outside, move Smith in motion to confirm man coverage, throw the shallow cross. Easy money = 1st down. pic.twitter.com/xtSSKoPzys— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 16, 2021
Again... classic man beater & example of putting your best player in a position to succeed. Put Smith in condensed split, CB has to have outside lev, spread out options so he is left 1v1. Great job by Hurts ignoring the rush and knowing Smith will be open. It all looked... easy! pic.twitter.com/FhCToq1Czc— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 16, 2021
Bit like taking candy from a baby here... clear press man coverage shown pre-snap. Safety moves late but doesn't change the read. Great legal pick by Scott. No idea why both the Jets CBs are pressing so high but credit Sirianni for spotting this and calling the perfect play. pic.twitter.com/g2xsX7ejE3— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 7, 2021
Saw this play week 1... thanks @TS_Sportsbook for video
There has also been a lot of flat/corner routes and smash but Hurts has been hesitant to pull the trigger. This is an area he MUST improve.
Hurts had some weird reads in this game. Not sure what he was seeing at times. Corner/stop 2man concept with Watkins/Smith. Vs Quarters Smith is open on the comeback. Hurts sees it, doesn't throw it, then launches it to Watkins who is never ever coming open against this coverage pic.twitter.com/9ComiFEiyU— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 30, 2021
This is at least the 3rd time I've highlighted Hurts not throwing an out/corner against C2 Zone when a WR is wide open. He's staring right at Smith, gotta throw this thing, especially on 3rd down! Led to a FG. Should have been converted. Late safety rotation must confuse him here pic.twitter.com/hL0c1v0Erw— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 2, 2021
In summary, I have been really impressed with that Sirianni has done since week 8. I was not impressed with the first 7 weeks. Defenses are smart and teams will adjust, so it will be interesting to see how Sirianni’s offense evolves over the final few weeks.
I asked Ryan for some final thoughts about what we can do to improve, and he said the following:
“I would like to think the focus in the bye week is to look for ways to incorporate some more passing concepts off their run looks. I do like how they have mixed in some nice quick easy ones off of motion and they’ve done a nice job incorporating the screen game as of late. I am hoping they use the bye to focus a bit more on presenting Hurts with more quick options off the run action... That’s what he did so well at Oklahoma. He’s not there as a deep drop passer and struggles to get through his progressions and doesn’t throw with anticipation. And they need to spend the whole bye week to scheme better ways to ensure DeVonta Smith is getting 8-10 targets a game. It’s inexcusable. That play out of the backfield was a nice example”
Sirianni, if you are reading, can we throw a bit more to DeVonta please?!
Anyway, bit of a long one this week but hope you enjoyed. Comments and feedback appreciated as always. Until next week.