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Brian Johnson’s offense is too simple

Rinse and repeat

NFL: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Last season the Eagles were playing basketball on grass. This season they’re playing a different version of basketball on grass, the football version of post up heavy basketball. The Predictable, repetitive, paint clogging, and infuriating. Watching Brian Johnson’s offense is like watching Joel Embiid and Al Horford share the court.

Too much two tight ends

It starts with 12 personnel. The Eagles are running way too many tight end sets. It’s handcuffing the offense.

In the past two games Jack Stoll has played 52% and 61% of snaps. Meanwhile, since catching a TD against the Bills in Week 11, Olamide Zaccheaus has played more than 27% of snaps just once, and been targeted just once. Julio Jones played a season high 71% of snaps against the Bills, since then: 14%, 24%, 32%, 27%, and then 41% against the Cardinals.

Jack Stoll has only been targeted in four games, not once since Week 12. No offense to Jack Stoll, but the Eagles are playing a man down in the passing game. 39 tight ends have played at least 500 snaps this year, Stoll has the lowest target share among them at 1.4%. If his target rate tripled he’d be 37th of 39. Jack Stoll is just out there getting cardio.

The Eagles do not use motion

Motion isn’t a panacea, but it’s a tool in the toolbox that the Eagles simply aren’t using. Against the Cardinals they put a player in motion just five times.

Three of the motions were on the second possession. The first was moving Grant Calcaterra from inline to behind the center, then out wide to try to drag the outside defender with him on the 23 yard pass to Dallas Goedert. Nifty play, but the defender that moved with Calcaterra made the tackle. The second was to move Jack Stoll from out wide to in line on a run play. The third was on the first Julio Jones TD, D’Andre Swift motioned across the line then back. Then they used no motion until the 4th quarter.

In the 4th, on the play prior to the Dallas Goedert TD they motioned D’Andre Swift out of the backfield to create an empty set, but the play never got off due to a penalty. So they did the same thing again on the play that counted.

That’s it. Five times, one of which didn’t actually count. Correlation doesn’t equal causation, so don’t read too much into this, but the result of those four plays were a 23 yard gain, a 3 yard run, a 12 yard TD pass, and a 9 yard TD pass.

The success on those particular plays aside, the bigger issue with the static offense is that they’re not hunting matchups. Not once did they move AJ Brown around to try to create a matchup they wanted and take advantage of his skillset. Not once did they move Devonta Smith around to try to create a matchup they wanted and take advantage of his skillset. For the entire game AJ Brown and Devonta Smith lined up and stood there until the ball was snapped.

No formation variety

Brian Johnson appears unwilling or incapable of dressing up his offense.

Jalen Hurts has lined up in shotgun on 99.3% of snaps, that 0.7% being the push formation. Joe Burrow and Gardner Minshew are the only other QBs to have played more than 95% of their snaps in shotgun.

There is only so much you can do with 12 personnel. A blocking TE is not a credible threat out wide or down the field. The Eagles lined up with 2 or 3 tight ends on 25 plays against the Cardinals, and ran on 19 of them.

At one point, late in the 3rd quarter and into the 4th, Brian Johnson called the same formation on four straight plays: on the boundary side Jack Stoll and Dallas Goedert in line, with Goedert on the outside; on the field side Devonta Smith and AJ Brown, with Smith on the outside.

The next play after that was the same personnel but with a trips bunch formation. But then the next three non-push plays were the same 2 TE boundary/2 WR field formation. That’s seven out of eight straight plays with the exact same formation. And on the next possession they opened with three of the first four plays out of that formation. Over a 15 non-push play sequence in the 3rd and 4th, Brian Johnson called the same formation 10 times.

When you line up in shotgun on every snap, when you line up with only a handful of formations, when you play with blocking tight end on a majority of plays, when you do next to nothing pre-snap, when you line up the same players in the same place play after play… you’re not giving the defense anything extra to think about, anything extra to react to. You are not doing anything to help yourself.

The talent on this team is too good to not put up points, but the play calling is not maximizing the players.

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