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Eagles Film Review: Explosive plays from 2022, Part 1

Philadelphia Eagles v Chicago Bears Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

After breaking down all of the Eagles' main run concepts, I wanted to do something different, so it’s time to look at explosive plays. The modern NFL is all about explosive teams. The best offenses create a lot of explosive plays, the best defenses don’t give up many explosive plays. In preparation for the new season, I will go back and break down some of the Eagles' most explosive plays from this past season to see if there are any themes and also to look at some of their passing concepts.

Play #1 - 68 Yard Gain Week 15 vs. Chicago Bears

The situation

4th quarter, Eagles up 17-13, 3rd and 6 on the Eagles 29-yard line.


The Eagles lineup with 11 personnel in Empty with Gainwell out wide at receiver, Watkins and Smith are in a stack and AJ Brown and Goedert are on the same side too. The Bears are clearly playing a sort of zone coverage as the cornerback lining up over Gainwell is a clear tell. Hurts will be aware of that pre-snap which is one of the benefits of empty. It’s hard to see if they are playing 2-high (MOFO) or single-high (MOFC) pre-snap. The Eagles have AJ Brown lined up in a reduced split which means he has a lot of room to work with on the outside. He is also lined up as the Z receiver which means the cornerback can’t press him effectively.

The critical thing to look for pre-snap is the position of the 2 safeties, and you will see why shortly!

The Concept

The Eagles are running a form of mesh, as roughly shown here (although Goedert is running more of a curl as he gets so far upfield). Mesh involves 2 shallow crossing routes where the receivers run routes that cross over, as you can see from the F and Y in the image below. The little short motion at the snap just confirms to Hurts that it is zone coverage and not man coverage.

As well as mesh, the routes by Smith and Watkins show a ‘Smash’ concept. The smash concept is a simple 2-man concept with a short route (usually a flat) and a deeper route (usually a corner), creating a hi-lo. So, this play is a sort of mesh/smash combination play with a backside isolation route from AJ Brown. Jalen Hurts LOVES to throw these isolation routes to AJ Brown when he sees MOFC coverage because he trusts him one-on-one. Defenses always want to be +1 in coverage, but the Bears bring 5 after the quarterback here. This leaves them 6v5 in coverage. Ideally, you want to use the extra defender to cover the main concepts and hope your cornerback is good enough to handle the Z receiver by themselves. This is why elite receivers and cornerbacks are so vital.

The Play

Immediately after taking his drop, you can see Hurts read the deep safety and see that he is in the middle of the field. Hurts reads this perfectly and shows no hesitation at all in hitting his back foot and throwing a beauty to AJ Brown who has loads of room on the outside to run due to his reduced split. Brown’s release and use of his hands to separate are outstanding, and his acceleration and ability to track the ball are elite. As if this wasn’t enough, he manages to stay in bounds and shrug off the tackle from the cornerback. Elite.

What I love about football is that this play has 2 different route combinations as mentioned above, and the ball goes to the guy running a simple downfield go route. Simple.

The Protection

No explosive play can work without great pass protection. The Eagles' pass protection is perfect on this particular play. The Bears send a zone blitz and try to blitz a cornerback, hoping to catch the Eagles’ linemen out. One of the negative aspects of having the receivers in a reduced split is that it is easier to cornerback as they are relatively close to the quarterback already. The Eagles only have 5 men into block and the Bears send 5, meaning each lineman must win their one-on-one matchup. Here is the pre-snap look.

The Eagles will be worried about either 45 or 53 coming on the blitz but neither of them do. The blitzing cornerback isn’t even on the screen here, but Dickerson does a brilliant job of keeping his eyes up and after helping Kelce briefly with the defensive tackle, getting to the cornerback. Just look at the pocket Hurts has to throw the football here.


Does it surprise any of you that the most explosive passing play from the Eagles last year (I’m discounting the week 17 throw as it involved backups) was on an isolation route to AJ Brown? Scheme is important, but as I said a lot last year, talent > scheme all day long. This is just a quick read by Hurts and a perfect throw down the field to his stud receiver. Sometimes, football doesn’t have to be that complicated! I’m excited to look at some more explosive plays and see if there is anything else we can learn about the offense before the new season.

As always, all feedback on any new series is always appreciated and I will take it on board when writing future posts. Thanks!

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