I get asked every year to break down some of the Eagles’ main concepts, so here you go. Using Logan Radke’s Eagles’ offensive manual to make this easier, I wanted to go and look at what makes the Eagles’ run game special. All of the data here is from Logan’s breakdown of the Eagles’ offense, which is one of the best things I have read in a long time. The only thing missing are videos of the plays, so I am going to add some detail by showing the plays below. I asked Logan before doing this, of course, so please go and read his work!
Success Rate Parameters
1st Down Play: 4 Yards or more
2nd Down Play: Gaining half or more of the yardage needed (ex: on 2nd and
10, a 5-yard gain would be successful. On 2nd and 4, a 2-yard gain would be successful)
3rd/4th Down Play: Successful conversion
Explosive Play Parameters
Run Play: 12+ Yards Gained
Pass Play: 16+ Yards Gained
Now that we’ve looked at inside zone and outside zone, let’s look at something a bit more difficult. Dart is very different from what we have looked at previously as it is a gap scheme run, that looks a lot like one-back power but with a pulling tackle instead of a pulling guard. Power is normally run with a pulling guard. I have called this play one-back power or tackle power throughout the season, but I know a lot of film guys call this play Dart.
The Eagles didn’t use Dart very much last season, but when they did they were extremely efficient. Also, it is worth noting that they only called Dart once in weeks 1-10, but 17 times from week 11 onwards. So it is something I think you may see a lot more of next year. The Eagles averaged an insane 6.6 yards per rush from Dart last year, which is a lot better (albeit a much smaller sample size) than their zone runs.
So, what exactly is Dart and what do I mean when I say a gap scheme run rather than a zone run? Remember, on zone runs, offensive linemen are moving into space and blocking whoever comes into their zones. On gap scheme runs, it is predetermined based on the alignment who the offensive lineman will be blocking. As you can see below, Dart involves the tackle pulling rather than the guard.
Let’s look at some actual examples of Dart and how it works. Firstly, unlike with the zone running game, you won’t see double teams at the line of scrimmage. Dart is also a great mix-up to power/counter because those runs involve pulling guards which can leave you vulnerable to quick interior penetration from the opposing defensive tackle. Dart allows your interior lineman to stay inside which makes it a ‘safer’ run, but as I said earlier, the tackle has further to travel so he needs to be very athletic. The running back will usually aim to run behind the tackle who is pulling and look for a gap to open up.
Here is an example against the Packers. There are no double teams at the line of scrimmage and each offensive lineman already knows who they are going to block. One of the difficulties of running Dart is that you need lineman who can win their one-on-one matchup.
Sanders does a fantastic job staying inside of the pulling tackle and finding a lane. You can see that the play does take a while to develop which is why you really do need an athletic tackle for it to work. Kelce is also crucial as he has to drive the linebacker outside to create an inside lane.
Eagles Dart (sometimes called tackle power) pic.twitter.com/VIgEItN7PP— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) July 10, 2023
Here’s another great example, this time against the Saints. It’s the exact same play but this time it’s Mailata pulling instead of Lane Johnson. The Eagles' run game is incredibly diverse because they have fantastic athletes at every position. You can see Kelce does another fantastic job and Sanders follows his blocks perfectly. Both plays look very similar but a different tackle is pulling. That’s good coaching!
Dart is a very tough play to run and you don’t see a lot of it because the offensive tackle has a lot of ground to cover. The Eagles are lucky as both their offensive tackles are extremely athletic which means they have the luxury of running this play. A pulling guard is more popular because he simply has a shorter distance to travel. One reason I think a lot of teams (and the Eagles) will start running more Dart in the future is that it creates a great angle to target the 1-technique. If you look at both runs above, the Eagles are going at the defense’s 1-technique as the guard already has the perfect leverage. On outside zone, you often have to cross the face of the defensive lineman before you can block him. Whereas with Dart, the guard already is in the perfect position to block the 1-technique, who is often going to be the defense's best run defender.
One more example? Go on then. The Eagles have been running Dart with Lane Johnson for a long, long time now...
Football Friday: The @Eagles running 'Dart' (Tackle wrap). Same side jab step hand-off, combo and climb the 3. The edge sits and gets blocked for a nice gain. #spreadoffense pic.twitter.com/ZLHL8C7TiU— SpreadOffense.com (@SpreadOffense) February 2, 2018
So, why does Dart not always work? As I mentioned at the start, there are a few problems with it. Firstly, the offensive linemen do not have double teams at the line of scrimmage, so the play is reliant on each lineman winning their one-on-one matchups. Secondly, it is quite a slow-developing play as the tackle has quite a distance to travel, so the linemen need to sustain their blocks for a while. Here’s a fantastic example of it not working as Lane Johnson can’t prevent the EDGE defender from winning inside, which blocks Mailata’s path as it has taken him a while to pull around. Remember, there is no such thing as a perfect play...
The Eagles can also run Dart with Jalen Hurts, which feels like a cheat code because it gives them +1 in the box by using the running back to fake a run in the opposite direction. Having a mobile quarterback is just unfair when running the football.
It’s still the same play! But as always, quarterback runs just give you an extra man in the box so the Eagles don’t even have the block the EDGE defender next to the tight end here.
Oh, if you think that’s impressive, just remember that the Eagles can always run an RPO with Dart to catch the defense out if they start keying on the tackle pulling. This offense is so simple, yet so effective. Having a lot of ultra-talented players is really important, who knew? This is just Dart with a TE screen attached, so if Hurts think the defense is crashing down on the run he can just throw the screen. I have also seen the Eagles run Dart with a bubble screen and a slant from the slot. The possibilities are endless...
The Eagles running TE Slow Screen on the Backside of Tackle Dart pic.twitter.com/Xe7niSqR3B— Coach Dan Casey (@CoachDanCasey) April 7, 2023
I enjoyed this one! This is one of my favorite running concepts. As always, comments and feedback are appreciated.