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Eagles Concepts: Counter

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

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!

PREVIOUSLY IN THIS SERIES: Inside Zone / Inside Zone Variations / Outside Zone / Dart

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

Counter Read

Counter is a classic gap-scheme run that can be run in numerous different ways. Counter read is essentially the same play, but the quarterback reads the EDGE defender and has the ability to keep it himself. If you want more detail on the difference between gap scheme and zone runs, then go back and read the other articles I have written in this series. One thing I have realized from this series is that the Eagles were significantly better with their gap scheme runs than their zone runs last year. I had a feeling they were better, but the numbers are pretty stark.

Counter read is a variation of the classic counter play that the Eagles can run because they have a mobile quarterback. Counter involves two players pulling across the formation and usually, this is the offensive tackle and guard. Teams will sometimes mix it up and use someone else to pull across the formation (such as a H-back or slot receiver) but the Eagles don’t have this issue as they have extremely athletic offensive linemen. When looking at a counter run, I always focus on the two pullers first. One of the pullers (usually the first) will try to move one of the defensive linemen towards the sideline, in order to create a gap where the other puller can run through. The running back will then follow the second puller. The rest of the linemen will all be down blocking and therefore, the two pullers will be moving in the opposite direction to them, hence the term ‘counter’. A running back will usually have to take slow steps (sometimes called counter steps) because they cannot beat the second pulling lineman to the hole or the play won’t work. It’s important a running back doesn’t try to bounce it outside and must follow his blocks.

The difference between counter read and counter, is that counter read also involves the quarterback. In counter read, the quarterback will have the option to carry the football. Usually, the play will look like standard counter but the quarterback will keep the ball if the EDGE defender comes crashing down on the running back. Let’s look at some examples. Firstly, let’s look at a classic counter play where Hurts is reading the EDGE defender but just handing it off as he doesn’t come crashing down. The Eagles run this away from Micah Parsons who has to watch Jalen Hurts, so you can effectively use the mobility of your quarterback to take away the defense's best defender. Simple.

Do you want another example with Parsons being targeted by the first puller instead of being read? You got it. This is textbook. Beautiful.

The beauty of having a mobile quarterback is that you can also keep the ball if the EDGE defender does come crashing down. Here is an example of counter read, but this time Hurts keeps the ball because he sees the EDGE defender come crashing down on the running back.

Despite this play looking pretty common, it is actually rare you will see the Eagles run counter read and Hurts keep it. If you see Hurts keep it on a counter read play, you are probably seeing what is known as counter bash.

Counter Bash

Counter ‘bash’ is still counter read, but with a twist. Counter bash is where the quarterback and running back roles are reversed, with the quarterback following the pulling linemen instead. It’s such a difficult play to stop because a lot of linebackers are watching the running back and all of a sudden have to completely change direction. The Eagles used this a lot down the stretch last year and it is no surprise because it is a fantastic play to run with a mobile quarterback. Here’s what counter bash looks like.

Hopefully you can see it’s the exact same play, but with the quarterback and running back roles reversed. I think this play is about as hard to stop as any running play. The only issue is that the quarterback will take a lot of hits.

If you want a fantastic team to watch run counter bash, go and watch Lamar Jackson and the Ravens' offense. They run it so so well. Watch 54 on this example and you see why it’s so hard to stop. He is watching the running back and that tiny false step is enough to allow Lamar to break free.

Counter read / counter bash is probably the most interesting run to look out for because there are so many variations you can run. I could show countless examples of the same play from different looks, formations, etc. Here is an example of the Eagles running it from empty and using the running back in motion. This time, the center and the tackle are pulling rather than the guard and tackle. It’s counter bash because the quarterback is following the pulling linemen. This would be called CT Counter Bash (the CT = center and tackle pulling). This is just awesome. It’s the same play as before but dressed up differently. Beautiful. Look at the size of that hole!

Counter Trey

Finally, you may also see some people online talking about counter trey. It’s the same thing once again, but the ‘trey’ refers to the second puller being a h-back. You will also see some GY Counter which is counter with the guard and Y receiver pulling.

Here’s an example of GH Counter trey (referring to the guard and the h-back who are the pullers).

I could show thousands of examples here, but hopefully, you learned a lot more about counter from this one!

Thank you for all the feedback and comments as always. Some of you have mentioned that the videos no longer load without opening up Twitter (I refuse to call it X), but when I read the articles this doesn’t seem to be an issue, so if you could let me know how it is for you that would be appreciated. Thanks!

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