The Eagles were the center of attention all season long in 2022. Being the last undefeated team and making a run to the Super Bowl will do that. Now that the season is over, it appears they will remain in the spotlight.
This week, the NFL Competition Committee is meeting in Indianapolis to discuss potential rules changes and player safety. On Sunday, a number of items were discussed and some interesting trends were revealed, many of which should be of interest to the Eagles and their fans.
Here are five Eagles-related thoughts from the first day of meetings by the committee, first reported by NFL.com’s Judy Battista.
The Tush Push
As has previously been reported, the committee discussed the elimination of “The Tush Push,” the Eagles’ use of the QB sneak in which two players get behind Jalen Hurts and help push him past the first down marker during sneak plays. It’s an awesome football play that the haters believe isn’t aesthetically pleasing enough to remain in the NFL.
Troy Vincent said committee discussed QB push/sneak at length. Will revisit the topic at later meeting next month. Some argued it should be allowed and anticipate more offensive plays springing from it.— Judy Battista (@judybattista) February 26, 2023
It’s gratifying to hear that there are some who believe it should be allowed, and the latter point of Judy’s tweet is important. More offensive plays absolutely can spring from that formation, as we saw the Eagles do multiple times this year, including in their NFC Divisional round victory against the Giants.
The entire league was bitching about the Eagles QB sneak formation.— Brenden Deeg (@BrendenDeeg_) January 22, 2023
Sirianni says suck it pic.twitter.com/SuLN7tH0Gs
Even if it didn’t, there is absolutely no reason to outlaw The Tush Push. None. Every team could do the same thing if they chose, but they don’t because they lack the offensive line the Birds do, and do not have a QB as physically strong as Hurts. It plays into two of the Eagles’ biggest strengths. Not only that, what could be more “football” than 11 players pushing against 11 other players in order to gain one stinking yard?
That’s old school, hard, grind-it-out football, and the league shouldn’t penalize the Eagles for running a successful play. I’m hopeful they won’t kill it.
The Growth of the Running QB
Jalen Hurts’ ability to run the ball effectively, Shane Steichen’s play calling, Nick Sirianni’s offensive philosophy and an offensive line that dominates the run game so thoroughly all contributed to their QB-heavy run game philosophy. But as much as Hurts ran this year (760 yards on 165 carries), he was only 4th in the NFL in rushing among QBs.
So perhaps this nugget of information shouldn’t be a big surprise.
Some interesting data: QB usage highest in NFL history -- record number of designed QB runs, record number of sneaks, 2nd most QB scrambles in league history. Perhaps related -- all time high 69 starting QBs used because of rotation or injury.— Judy Battista (@judybattista) February 26, 2023
Hurts, of course, missed two games with a severely sprained shoulder and didn’t appear to fully be himself until the Super Bowl rolled around. Lamar Jackson, long considered the best running QB in football, missed five games with an injury, while Kyler Murray missed six. That being said, the rest of the QBs on that list above stayed relatively healthy, so perhaps it’s not all because of running the football.
It also appears quarterbacks can help themselves in this area, as Battista noted.
Also interesting: Josh Allen was tackled on 66 percent of his downfield runs, vs. 22 percent for Mahomes. Committee considers the disparity between how often different QBs are hit a teachable subject.— Judy Battista (@judybattista) February 26, 2023
Part of Hurts’ advantage is the brute force with which he can run, but we saw him dial back on initiating contact in the playoffs until he really needed to. One would think we’ll see a more judicious Hurts starting in 2023.
Eagles Offensive Philosophy Leading the Way
It’s pretty clear Sirianni’s style of play, especially given his QB’s skills, has helped set the tone for the rest of the league.
More interesting data points: fewer deep passes are being thrown, second fewest INTs per game in league history, and more balls being thrown away. Also, more conservative play in the 1st and 3rd quarters, rushing more and fewer downfield shots.— Judy Battista (@judybattista) February 26, 2023
While it’s true the Eagles’ offensive was a ground-heavy operation with mid-range passing the norm, they did push the ball down the field a bit.
Marcus Mariota, noted deep-shot taker.
Hurts’ 8.1 intended air yards per play was tied for 11th in the league, just behind Dak Prescott for top-10, which makes sense given his two wide receivers were A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith.
The Eagles absolutely took their shots with Brown and Smith last year, but didn’t force it, and it’s very true the Birds were more conservative in the 1st and 3rd quarters of games. However, it was all just the right mix of run game, intermediate passing and some big shots down the field that made their offense so difficult to deal with. After all, this is the first season in franchise history they had two 1,000 yard wide receivers and a 1,000 yard rusher.
Now I’m getting mad online again.
Playing surfaces will also come up during the health and safety briefing for the Competition Comm.— Judy Battista (@judybattista) February 26, 2023
Yes, both teams had to play on that ridiculous surface, but that grass in Phoenix made equal what was expected to be a huge strength in favor of the Eagles coming into the game, their edge rushers against the Chiefs’ offensive tackles.
Players slipping on the Super Bowl field pic.twitter.com/fNJCZ7RaBU— sportsvids99 (@sportsvids991) February 13, 2023
There’s no way to get Super Bowl 57 back and play it on a real, professional surface, but maybe this will head off another issue before the Eagles play in Super Bowl 58.
Roughing the Passer Reviewable?
So it appears the league will at least consider the idea of reviewing whether a defense should have been called for a roughing the passer penalty.
NFL Competition Comm. wrapped up first day of meetings at the Combine. One team has proposed making roughing the passer reviewable by replay. Committee will discuss tomorrow, early indication is little appetite in the room for making it reviewable.— Judy Battista (@judybattista) February 26, 2023
It doesn’t sound like there is much enthusiasm for this to be a thing. Frankly, I think all penalty calls should be the subject of review, but no one asked me. Either way, it would have been nice to be able to review this play from earlier this year.
A roughing penalty is called on Brandon Graham pic.twitter.com/A4zeDuoYmI— Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) November 15, 2022
The committee is meeting again today, where the focus will be health and safety concerns.