Well, this wasn’t a fun offensive game to watch. I’ve been very complimentary of the Eagles’ offense this year but this game plan had a few obvious issues. The good news is that most of these issues should go away with Jalen Hurts, but it is still worth talking about. This Saints game was important, and it was a bad loss.
The EPA data this week backs up what you probably thought - the offense was bad! The run data looks really poor which is surprising, but it’s because of Gardner Minshew’s failed QB sneak which had a huge impact on EPA and win % as it happened on 4th and 1. Minshew also had a failed rush on 3rd and short earlier on in the game. Sanders had a positive rush EPA overall.
The Eagles went empty a lot in this game and I did not understand why they kept doing it. It barely ever worked and Minshew was no threat to run at all, which is what made empty so successful with Hurts at quarterback. When Hurts is playing, defenses have to respect the run still so they will often play only 1 deep safety and a linebacker will have to keep a close eye on Hurts. With Minshew at quarterback, the defense knew it was going to be a pass every time so the defense could play loads of split-field coverages where every defender was focused on Minshew. I just don’t think it worked and I’m shocked they kept doing it.
Eagles offense all22 thread vs. Saints. The Eagles kept going empty/4-strong & it rarely worked because Minshew had no threat to take off and run. I'm surprised the coaches used it so often. Minshew was slow to eliminate what wasn't there and didn't process things well at all. pic.twitter.com/bnJoVcNFrw— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
Another thing the coaching staff did was run these RPOs in short yardage like Jalen Hurts was at quarterback. This is a terrible play call for a quarterback like Minshew on 3rd and short because if nothing is open, he has to beat Cam Jordan in the open field! Hurts may be able to do this, but Minshew cannot. Just run the ball in this situation and don’t get too fancy without your star quarterback.
Speaking of weird calls, this one needs to get in the bin without the threat of Hurts legs. Saints played a ton of tight man coverage and plays like this just give you no chance at all. Asking Minshew to beat Cam Jordan is poor offensive game planning. pic.twitter.com/usPCDvvAEn— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
The Saints played a ton of man coverage in this game as Minshew was no threat to escape the pocket. I do not think they would have played as much man with Hurts in the lineup, as playing man against a very mobile quarterback is very risky. The Eagles ran some good concepts against man coverage, but Minshew was just too slow to release it. There were not many receivers ‘wide open’ but he had chances to release it. Here he has AJ Brown coming across on a drag route and he can dump it off to him rather than take the sack. Minshew was slow to process and held the ball for too long early on.
#3 Eagles ran a lot of drive concepts and Minshew just didn't throw it against man coverage in the first half. The coverage was really good early but he had some small windows he could throw into and he just held onto the ball forever. He took way too many sacks & looked frantic. pic.twitter.com/GhxdPv88hL— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
Sirianni took the blame for Minshew’s interception later in the game, saying he called the same play earlier. That is the best example of a coach taking the blame for something that is not their fault I have ever seen. The quote is nonsense. This is the play Sirianni was talking about. It worked earlier because AJ Brown was one-on-one and was going against press coverage, so the slant was an easy throw. We will get to the interception later...
#4 This was what Sirianni was talking about when he hilariously blames himself for Minshew's INT later. It's the same play but the defensive look is completely different and it's a QBs job to see that. Here, Lattimore is in press man with outside leverage so the slant is open pic.twitter.com/qd916fOFZS— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
We know the Eagles love the slot fade against MOFC man coverage, but I question if this was the right week to run it. Minshew didn’t look good throwing down the field and the coaching staff didn’t really help him get into a rhythm early on. You can see a huge flaw with Minshew’s pocket presence here, as he drifts to his left while looking at Goedert, and then by the time he throws it to DeVonta Smith, he has turned this into a far hash throw! There’s nothing wrong with the decision to throw but it’s a bad ball because he’s throwing from the other side of the field. I have blamed the coaching gameplan at times, but I’m not excusing how Minshew played, he was flat-out bad this week.
#5 Eagles fav concept Vs MOFC man coverage is the slot-fade. Minshew correctly eliminates Goedert side as the DB avoids the pick from Scott, but he's drifted so far to his left he ends up having to throw it from the far hash all the way to Smith. The coverage is great again. pic.twitter.com/jbAsWlciY2— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
As I’ve mentioned before, he was just far too slow to get through his reads. I think the coaches deserve the blame because they didn’t give him any layups or easy completions early on to get him in a rhythm, but he just has to throw one of these comebacks and get rid of the ball. Against tight man coverage, you aren’t going to get huge wide-open receivers in the NFL and you have to throw with some anticipation. Minshew just didn’t do this at all in the first half and took way too many unnecessary sacks.
#6 Minshew was way too slow to checkdown & go through his reads, but the coaches didn't help him much early on. No help for Driscoll v. Jordan. Not many easy short completions early on. A lot of downfield intermediate routes against sticky man coverage. A bad job all around. pic.twitter.com/yYZAle1njH— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
The best play of the game looked easy, but it’s a really clever design. The Eagles go 12 personnel which forced the Saints to match with single-high coverage. This is also the benefit of being able to run the ball effectively (which we will get to later). The Saints are now being more aggressive against the run and playing less split-safety coverages. The Eagles also line up AJ Brown in a reduced split which gives him a huge amount of wide-open space to get open. He ends up not getting that much separation but wins at the catch point as he has done so often this year, and runs away from the defenders for a huge touchdown. AJ Brown didn’t have his best game overall, but he’s a superstar talent.
#12 Sometimes when things aren't going well, just throw it to your superstar in one-on-one coverage and see what happens! Perfect shot design. 12 personnel to get MOFC and a reduced split to give AJ Brown lots of room to work with outside. Brown is SO good at the catch point. pic.twitter.com/fa9RhPxPLf— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
Someone who is not a superstar talent is Quez Watkins. I do not understand why he keeps running these short routes but it is going to cost the Eagles if they keep throwing these routes to him.
#13 Someone get a message to the staff, please stop throwing short routes to Quez Watkins. Please. It's a really poor route and it's nearly another INT. This can cost this team in the playoffs if they do it again. When the margins are fine, you can't make errors. pic.twitter.com/Q01xzXne9A— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
Let’s finish by looking at the interception. It’s simply awful by Minshew. The Eagles are in empty once again (why?!) with 4 receivers to one side and AJ Brown as the isolated receiver. The Saints have a safety and linebacker quite close to AJ Brown, so there is no way Minshew should even be looking at this side. The passing strength is clearly to the 4-receiver side as I pointed out straight away after the game and also stated on the BGN Instant Reaction pod.
Spoke about this on @BGN_Radio - guess what side is the passing strength?! https://t.co/xjZq8XDOXH pic.twitter.com/I3TjNYVLhR— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 1, 2023
Not only that, but Lattimore is clearly in off coverage (not in press like earlier) and is staring right at Minshew, knowing he has help from other defenders close by. There is about a 0.1% chance of this throw being completed and it should simply never, ever be thrown. It’s a mistake you expect from a bad rookie, not an experienced quarterback. It’s just flat-out bad. Ugh.
#14 This is comically bad all around. Just look at Lattimore, he will never get an easier pick. It's the same play/look as earlier, but he's not in press man anymore! This throw is just clearly not on. It's really bad QB play and I expected more from Minshew tbh, this is basic. pic.twitter.com/cOvlR6G9MG— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
I was stunned the Eagles didn’t commit to the run earlier on. I hate being the ‘run the ball guy’ because it’s usually wrong, but the Eagles ran the ball really well in this game and just did not do it enough. I’m shocked they didn’t do it more early on to force the Saints to bring a defender into the box which would have made throwing the ball easier. With a backup quarterback, sometimes you just need to run the ball and help him out. The running game was really good at times and the gap scheme runs were really effective against the Saints' 4-man fronts.
#7 Eagles running game really got going later. I'm stunned they didn't commit to it early on. They had a lot of success getting to the second level against the Saints 4-man front. They used a lot of pullers or a trap like you can see here with Goedert. I thought Sanders ran well. pic.twitter.com/VkVNtJ3vlG— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
I wasn’t sure exactly what concept this was and I had lots of help from players and coaches. Geoff Schwartz said he’d call it tackle power or tackle trap. Some others called it DART, tackle power, or counter. I personally thought it was tackle but who cares what it’s called! It was beautiful. Just watch how Kelce can get to the second level quickly because the Saints linebackers are slow to react. The problem last week was the lineman couldn’t get to the second level because the Cowboys were so aggressive at the line of scrimmage. This week, they could easily get to the second level and they created some huge holes. Mailata was a beast on the move in this game as well and showed off his athleticism.
#8 Tackle power, or counter, whatever you wanna call it! It's beautiful gap scheme running with Mailata on the move and Kelce getting to the 2nd level with ease. Completely different to last week when the Cowboys stacked the LOS and stopped Kelce from advancing. pic.twitter.com/cDdziEDECS— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
I can’t believe the refs called a penalty on this block. It’s a perfectly blocked play and it really cost the Eagles. I love the design of this play so much and I’m gutted it wasn’t called a touchdown on the field.
#9 Love this design. Goedert in the backfield moving to his left and the Saints LB bites. Pretty sure he thinks it's Goedert running to the flat on the RPO flat the Eagles love. Goedert ends up taking 2 defenders out the play and it leaves a huge gap. Shame about the refs... ! pic.twitter.com/fNsuKLhD0R— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
I said last week I wanted to see the Eagles run more gap scheme runs and not just run zone read because, without Hurts, it wasn’t working as well. Gap scheme runs (power, counter etc) are less reliant on having a mobile quarterback. The Eagles proved this week they can run some more traditional gap scheme runs and do not need a mobile quarterback to run effectively. The offensive line dominated at the point of attack and some of the holes they created were huge. I just wish they ran it more often early on in the game because the Saints’ defense never really stopped the Eagles' rushing attack.
#10 Mailata on the move is as good as it gets. I said last week how basic I thought the running game was at times and reliant on a mobile QB it was, but this was much better. The Eagles looked really good running it and I'm stunned they had so little rushing attempts overall. pic.twitter.com/TKiDRAE80F— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
The other thing that running the ball did was protect Driscoll who was really good in the run game. In pass protection, Driscoll was fine considering the Eagles gave him very little help against Cam Jordan. He got beat a few times, but I blamed Minshew for most of the Eagles' sacks and came away pretty impressed with Driscoll at right tackle.
#11 It's not just Mailata who can move! This was proper under-center old school power. I love that the Eagles can win in this way. Great job by Dickerson but look at the power of Driscoll. Goedert does just enough on the edge as he usually does. pic.twitter.com/nfxZHNDoAi— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
Final thoughts... I’m looking forward to seeing QB1 back for the Eagles.