Well, the 49ers game sucked. I wasn’t particularly optimistic heading in, but it went about as bad as it could have. I always try to stay level-headed, but there are some consistent themes with this Eagles team that I am starting to find a little bit annoying. Let’s get into this one.
The Eagles offense is becoming a little predictable for my liking. They lined up with 11 personnel on 81% of all snaps and only used 21 personnel on 3 occasions. I don’t get it! I feel like I could write a book about this game and how the Eagles approached this one, so I’m going to try and be as concise as possible
There is going to be a lot of ‘Jalen Hurts vs. Brian Johnson - who is to blame?’ talk this week in Philadelphia. I think both had bad games. Hurts in particular, just did not see the field well at all. I think it’s becoming clear as the season goes on that Hurts throws certain concepts well, and seems to trust some players over others. If this is Dallas Goedert on the corner route, I think he throws it. Despite saying that, you can’t make excuses for Hurts on some of these plays. This is just a straight-up miss and it should be quite a simple read too because he is staring at the safety who is coming downhill!
Eagles Offense All22 vs. 49ers. 1) Lots to moan about in this game. I have some issues with the game plan, but you can't deny Hurts didn't play well at all. 1st and 10 and he's reading the safety flying downhill. This ball has to go to the TE on the corner route, he's wide open. pic.twitter.com/N5JRTT1RLQ— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 5, 2023
What would the Eagles do without Crash (deep out and short in)? It’s their favorite passing concept this season and AJ Brown is feasting against man coverage on this short in-route. look how much more decisive Hurts is on concepts where he is comfortable. He can be really decisive at times, but overall in this game, he looked a little bit lost too often.
2) I'm not sure any other Eagles concept had any other real success except for Crash. They must run it 5-10 times a game, and it feels pretty much unstoppable when AJ Brown is facing one-on-one man coverage. You can tell how much more decisive Hurts is when it's a concept he's… pic.twitter.com/3x6heSmoxI— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 5, 2023
This is a call I really liked, and I hope we see it again. I think in the future, if teams start to commit to the 4 receiver side, Hurts can start to keep this ball and choose to run. This is the type of play I feel like the Eagles only run on 3rd down and I’m not sure why we don’t see more designs like this on 1st and 10. I think it goes back to the issue of being ‘obsessed’ with explosive plays, rather than just picking up 5 or 6 yards on 1st and 10. The 49ers played a lot of two-high coverage and were really focused on stopping any throws over their heads, so the Eagles should have taken the easy yards rather than attempting to look for the deep shot on early downs.
3) I love this play. I hope we see this look again. Hurts could keep this and I think he'd have a chance of running for it with Kelce pulling. The Eagles throw the simple screen on this occasion, and it works, but I like the design with Hurts having the option to run too pic.twitter.com/U4fFvfh0hz— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 5, 2023
I’ve seen a lot of complaints about the Eagles' inability to get receivers open and I do partly agree. I also think that a lot of the Eagles' success on offense over the past year and a half has been built on simple plays that allow the Eagles’ playmakers to dominate. Some of the playcalling in the red zone felt incredibly basic in this game though, and the Eagles seemed to lack creativity.
4) There's nothing awful about this play, but it summed up the Eagles offense in the red zone in this game. There's just a lack of creativity. I didn't see a lot of motion, bunches or stacks. Too often, the scheme just relies on players making plays (which they do quite a lot!). pic.twitter.com/6Jem25s63a— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 5, 2023
This is a great example. Do I like the play on 3rd and 6 to throw it up to AJ Brown? No, I don’t. It’s hardly a creative play call and it’s something that any team can run. But let’s be honest now, how many times have we celebrated a 50/50 ball being caught by AJ Brown over the past year and a half? Whether you like it or not, the Eagles’ offense as it is currently constructed will always ask their top playmakers to win one-on-one, and when they don’t, the Eagles’ offense will struggle a little bit.
The ironic thing is, the Eagles have a nice play design with DeVonta Smith running an option route from a bunch route and coming open. But I’m guessing if AJ Brown is one-on-one then Hurts is told to throw the ball to him! So it doesn’t matter.
5) This is a fascinating play to look at design wise. I love the bunch and option route from DeVonta Smith and he ends up open. But Hurts takes the one-on-one shot to AJ Brown. I'm not blaming Hurts though, I imagine he's told to go to Brown here! It's a really interesting play… pic.twitter.com/C7sXwc4sYY— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 5, 2023
Right, let’s do it. Let’s have the run game chat. I have so much to say...
I’m probably going to have a little rant on this week’s podcast, so please have a listen when it’s released if you want to hear more. I just fundamentally disagree with the Eagles’ running game right now. They do not commit to it. Running the ball is not always easy, and it can take a lot of time to have success. The Eagles tried about 5 different concepts and tried each one once or twice throughout the game, and then never called it again. On most of the runs, the Eagles had the numbers in the box, as the 49ers played light boxes consistently to prevent the Eagles from taking deep shots. Now don’t get me wrong, the 49ers were incredibly good at defending the run with light boxes. But on nearly every run, the Eagles were only one better block away from having a successful play. They just didn’t do it enough and commit to running. I’ve been saying this all season, so it isn’t a reaction to this one game, I feel strongly that the Eagles need to take a serious look at their running game.
6) Gonna talk about run game A LOT on the pod this week. I thought the 49ers were outstanding defending the run in light boxes, but nearly every run felt like it had a key missed block. Not sure about this design and asking the slot WR to make that block though either. pic.twitter.com/smemHu0MXa— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 5, 2023
OK, I’m not done yet. The Eagles need to decide if Jalen Hurts is going to be a big part of their running game or not. If he is not, they need to start running a lot more under-center, getting downhill quickly, and scrapping all the zone read stuff from shotgun. This is not an overreaction to one game either. This is what I said about the Eagles’ run game in my midseason review.
What happens if Hurts is no longer a big part of the Eagles’ running game?
I touched on this when looking at the gap scheme stuff earlier, but the Eagles’ run game when it involved Hurts was simply elite last year. The Eagles could not be stopped on plays like QB Counter Bash or QB draw. QB draw was a cheat code for the Eagles last year.
The question the Eagles now have to solve is - what happens if Hurts can’t be a big part of the run game this year? The Eagles have options. They could consider running more from under center and we have seen them effectively run from under center the past few years (and when Jalen Hurts was injured). This offense has an elite offensive line and elite weapons on the outside which means that the running game should not stop without the threat of Jalen Hurts. They need to look carefully at the running game and think about what they can do to improve it.
I say this every week and I always get a lot of criticism online for this take, but I just don’t know about D’Andre Swift being THE main guy. He still has too many plays where he bounces it outside or doesn’t follow his blocks well enough. I think he is one the most explosive backs in the league, and the Eagles need to utilize his skill-set better at times, but I don’t think he’s a foundation back who can carry the load.
Now, before everyone accuses me of being a ‘run the ball more’ guy. You are correct that the Eagles’ run game was at all successful in this game. But, I think the Eagles needed to commit to the run game more. You can’t just run the ball a few times and expect miracles to happen. Sometimes it takes time to wear down a defense. Just take this call. I like the design, and I was glad to see the Eagles run from under-center for the 2nd time all game. The play didn’t work as Kelce missed his block. But if you look at the design of the play, the Eagles have 4 blockers against 4 defenders and this could have been a big play. So although his particular play didn’t work, why not try and come back to this run later on? I think teams have to buy in and commit to running the ball, and this Eagles team currently will not commit to running it consistently. They didn’t even bother to try and use Hurts as part of the run game either, which I can only assume means that he is still hurt, or it makes absolutely no sense to me. Hurts not being a part of the running game is the biggest issue with the offense in my opinion.
9) The Eagles went under center a few times, and I like this call, but they didn't commit to it. Once again, the Eagles have the numbers but the blocking is poor. But I thought the numbers were there in the run game if they had committed to it, despite how well the 49ers played… pic.twitter.com/TMdyzwFnTC— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 5, 2023
This is from my defensive film thread, but if you are wondering what I want to see the Eagles’ run game look live moving forward. Just look at this.
9) The biggest difference between the teams? This. The 49ers were physical and won the LOS in the run game. Under center, physical run game, with CMC running straight behind 2 double teams. Then CMC pushes Eagles defenders and falls forward for an extra few yards. I want our… pic.twitter.com/IsiGTxTuKO— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 6, 2023
Now that I’m done talking about the run game... let’s move on.
There was some stuff I really liked on the first few drives, including this throw to DeVonta Smith on an option route. I hope we see more option routes from DeVonta Smith as I think Jalen Hurts trusts him and he makes a really tight window throw here. Hurts is a lot more decisive when he trusts the guy he is throwing the ball to.
7) Can never be sure what is an option route or not, but I really like this route by Smith. Smith had some really nice option routes in the game and I hope this is something they run more. Excellent read and throw by Hurts too! pic.twitter.com/VCQDnsHxv8— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 5, 2023
Despite me saying earlier I won’t go too mad about the playcalling in the red zone. Does anyone want to explain this one to me? It looks to me like pretty clear man coverage pre-snap, and the Eagles just run 3 crossing routes. I think you can argue that DeVonta Smith is open, and Hurts should throw it, but I also understand why he might think it’s a risky throw. I don’t need to state this but Hurts obviously cannot take a sack here. I just think when you compared the two offenses in this game, it’s pretty incredible how much more creative the 49ers are than the Eagles. The Eagles rely a lot on their playmakers making plays, which does work a lot, but in certain games, I think you need your coaching staff to be more creative in the red zone and make it easier on everyone.
8) You don't need me to tell you that Hurts shouldn't take the sack here. But once again I'm looking at the route concepts and not seeing a great deal of creativity. It's pretty bland. You can argue Hurts could throw it to Smith but it's not an easy throw by any means. pic.twitter.com/27Syc2Cy0k— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 5, 2023
The Eagles are still too obsessed with trying to create explosive passing plays on early downs. Can someone explain to me what on earth this play call is on 1st and 10?! A 2-man route concept with no checkdown available?!
10) Nothing good to say about this. They ran a 2-man concept a few weeks ago and it annoyed me too. On 1st and 10, it's just an overly aggressive play call which highlights the Eagles overreliance on explosive plays. I still think Hurts should do better and not take the sack, but… pic.twitter.com/eLWatcNiJk— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 5, 2023
Let’s end on a high. Because this article is depressing. And we all need some cheering up.
11) This game was depressing so I'm going to end with a good play. Just to remind myself that this team still has some very good players and I can tell myself that everything is going to be OK...! pic.twitter.com/AVH0oakFIt— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 5, 2023
This was not a good game on offense for a number of reasons. I think this coaching staff needs to get back to basics and start simplifying things and focusing more on the run game. I know I bang on about the run game a lot, but I strongly believe it's the biggest issue right now with this offense. If they can commit to the run game and get it going again, I think the Eagles will get more stacked boxes and can start taking more down-the-field shots on early downs. When was the last time you heard me write ‘single-high, let it fly?’. Teams just aren’t giving the Eagles these chances right now because they are able to defend the Eagles’ run game with light boxes. The Eagles must start running more successfully in order to force teams to bring an extra defender into the box so that we can start taking some shots down the field again.
I’m sorry this was a depressing read, but I hope you (somewhat) enjoyed it nonetheless!