Every year, I sit down with a friend of mine Ryan Sasaki (behind one of the best Eagles X's and O’s websites ever - the Chip Wagon) and we just talk about the Eagles. I like to see this chat as the start of the new season. As part of the conversation, I ask Ryan a few schematic questions based on what I currently thinking about the Eagles and we discuss these questions. If you are interested in the X’s and O’s or current schematic trends, you would love the conversation we had. With that in mind, I thought I would write up the discussion that we had and add a few video clips to make it easier to understand,
These are the kind of questions that I hoped the Eagles coaching staff asked themselves this off-season, and they are things I will be looking out for and tracking this year.
1. There has been some criticism about the Eagles' offensive scheme being too reliant on 'star players' and not the scheme to win. Is this a worry?
Ryan: No. I don’t agree. A coach's job is to put the players in the best position for them to succeed. The Eagles' scheme may be simplistic at times, but that is to be expected with the Eagles' talent. They don't always need to be schemed open and the coach's job is to get them in one-on-one situations because the players they have should win these matchups.
My take: How many times have I said that players > scheme? You might argue that throwing it deep to an outside wide receiver one-on-one is a low % play, but it isn't when you have Jalen Hurts and AJ Brown. I also think this is an unfair criticism because the Eagles' scheme is incredibly diverse when it comes to the run game. But it is true that if the Eagles were to lose one or two of AJ Brown, Dallas Goederet, or DeVonta Smith, the scheme might have to do more to get receivers open.
2. What are the next steps for this Eagles’ offense? What schematic changes might we see?
Ryan: There is so much more from the college game that the Eagles can take. The versatility of Eagles run game is amazing and it opens up a lot. I want to see the next evolution, where the Eagles run more concepts off their RPO game like the Dolphins did with McDaniel last year.
Dolphins with an RPO Glance/Wheel/Flat. CB has to expand with the motion into the wheel and Waddle (17) does a nice job settling into an opening pic.twitter.com/jXRz0XhiUn— Shawn (@SyedSchemes) September 19, 2022
However, in the NFL it is a lot harder as referees call offensive linemen downfield a lot more. So it's possible that this just doesn't work for the Eagles due to the timing and the constant penalties. But I would look at Lincoln Riley for example and what passing concepts he runs off of counter runs.
Cool counter read play from the Eagles here. Check out Lane and Brandon. Hurts will read edge defender who follows run action. Hurts gives for an easy run. If DE stays, Hurts runs behind the convoy of blockers including Goedert. Lifted from the Lincoln Riley Playbook. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/cRqbmTMaYX— Ryan Sasaki (@ChipWagoneer) September 14, 2021
Really creative DBL Screen from USC/Lincoln Riley.— James Light (@JamesALight) March 17, 2023
Looks exactly like GT Counter RPO. QB can throw quick screen if DEF doesn’t match FIB numbers.
DEF matches 3 over 2, QB progresses to TB Screen. FSG down to MLB, BSG wraps for WLB, BST logs WDE.pic.twitter.com/ynvz6z7DJT
My take: I had the exact same thoughts as Ryan and I even said so on a podcast I did a couple of weeks before. I want the Eagles offense to get more ideas from the college game and expand the RPO game. Here are some generic examples, but highlight what I mean about building more passing concepts of the RPO game.
2016 Penn State running QB Pin & Pull RPO with a RB Pop Pass pic.twitter.com/PXU918b7km— Coach Dan Casey (@CoachDanCasey) March 14, 2022
Iowa State running QB Counter RPO with a RB Rail pic.twitter.com/MYn3NEFri5— Coach Dan Casey (@CoachDanCasey) October 27, 2022
3. Where can the Eagles offense improve?
Ryan: This is easy for me - the screen game. We should be a deadly screen team and with the addition of De’Andre Swift, it has to be a big element that improves. We need to incorporate the running back in the offense more in the passing game.
My take: You can't really disagree with this can you? I would also add to this that I want to see the Eagles using more choice routes with the back, as the 49ers did a lot with CMC last year, for example. This is a new thing I think we could see with Swift in particular.
The 49ers got the Cardinals on some big plays with their H Choice concept the last two years. The in-cut off the Choice is the killer for defenses.— Bobby Peters (@b_peters12) May 21, 2021
Both clips feature a backside return route if the Choice gets squeezed. pic.twitter.com/R2F31IGGoD
4. Last year when we spoke, we weren't fully sold on Jalen Hurts. Is he 100% the real deal?
Ryan: 100% - he's the real deal. The best sign was the sustained success he had all year, and the pinnacle was his performance at the Super Bowl. I would urge caution with fans who expect him to do that each week because it's basically impossible for anyone to achieve that each week. But he's 100% the real deal, no doubt.
My take: No surprise, I'm also entirely sold on Hurts! Who isn't?
5. Is there anything Hurts can improve on?
Ryan: This may seem odd, but I still think he can improve with his out-of-structure throws. He often scrambles very effectively and picks up yards by running. But, I think there is the potential to create some explosive plays by escaping the pocket and finding open receivers down the field. I hope Brian Johnson is working on scramble drills more than we did last year. I always think of Aaron Rodgers and his ability to create outside of the pocket.
My take: This is really interesting because I hadn't considered this but it makes sense. How many outstanding out-of-structure throws do you see Hurts make? I can't actually think of too many. It's not a weakness but it is something the offense could improve on as a whole.
I hope you enjoyed the discussion and if you have thoughts on any of the questions above, let me know in the comments!