Yes, I am fully aware that if I am going to add new posts in the 2016 season that the blog needs to undertake a name and branding change. Truth is, I am not sure how much I'll be able to commit to any regular positing but follow me on Twitter at @chipwagoneer or follow the feed to best receive updates on when I manage to add something new here. Honestly, I haven't had much time to really dive deep into any of the preseason material, but the dress rehearsal was one game I paid close attention to. There were couple of general themes from the last regime that caught my eye on Saturday night.
I have to go deep back into the archives for this one, but prior to last season when the Eagles made the trade for the immobile Sam Bradford, I wrote a long post about how Chip would have to introduce some different concepts if he wanted to insist on his overall philosophy of running out of a shotgun spread. The fact of the matter is, there's a reason so many teams (including Doug Pederson) run out of the shotgun spread. Chip's philosophy was built around tempo and simplifying a playbook so that they could execute less concepts at a faster pace. In Oregon, Chip mixed up the running game quite a bit with inside zone, outside zone, power, sweep, etc. By the time Chip's career was ending in Philadelphia his running philosophy grew incredibly stale where he relied primarily on inside zone and a sweep play. One of the main reasons Chip was successful running out of the shotgun spread at Oregon was because he often had mobile QBs who were a threat to run the zone read on the backside. This forced the backside defender to stay honest (and unblocked!) and allow them to win a numbers game with double teams on the playside. Things started well in Philadelphia with Michael Vick for much the same reason. Heck, even Nick Foles was willing to keep and run when the defense gave it to him, and that helped the Eagles have one of the more potent running attacks in the NFL in Chip's first season. When Sam Bradford joined the Eagles the dynamic dramatically changed. If Chip was going to continue being successful running a shortlist of running concepts, he was going to have to build in some other constraints. Early on Chip used things like orbit motion and packaged plays to challenge the backside of the defense on his inside zone, outside zone and sweep running concepts. As time went on, he dramatically moved away from that and I never understood why. The zone read, orbit motion and packaged plays were almost non-existent once Sam Bradford took over the offense. I can understand the first, but if he was going to continue to run the same simple run concepts out of a shotgun spread he needed to add some constraints. One of which I screamed for was the jet sweep. As frustrating as it was to not see this in 2015, it was refreshing to see it last Saturday night in the preseason.
First, I realize this wasn't out of the shotgun but the same principles apply. Highlighted below you will see how the Eagles run inside zone to the left with the threat of jet motion to the right. The idea behind this is exactly the same as using orbit motion or the zone read to freeze an unblocked backside defender (#93). As the play progresses you can see the hesitation from #93 off the snap. Furthermore, you can see how the Eagles OL win the numbers game on the playside with some double team and second-level opportunities. Furthermore, Zach Ertz sells the block on # 93 and then lets him go to get down to the second-level defender. As you can see the run action freezes #93 just enough that he can't get Josh Huff in the backfield and it's game over:
People who have read this blog or follow me on twitter know that I am not one of Sam Bradford's biggest fans. However, another thing that was pretty obvious to me on Saturday night is just how much comfortable Sam Bradford looks in this offense. I know Sam looked like a Hall of Famer in week 3 of the preseason last year, but there is something about his poise in the pocket and his control of the offense that looks more legit this year. I think Pederson does a great job of getting the offense out of the huddle quickly and Sam looks a lot more comfortable surveying the field and making adjustments. The following play was an encouraging sign where the Colts bring a corner blitz off the edge from the DB covering Dorial Green-Beckham. Sam takes the snap and immediately looks to the middle of the field. As he scans to the bottom of the screen, he sees the blitzing CB and immediately lets the ball rip and hits DGB in stride. Really nice read and reaction from Bradford:
Lastly, I am sure Pederson will carry over some favorites from the Chip Kelly playbook. Here's one in particular. The Eagles ran this passing concept to death during the Chip Kelly era with a pretty good level of success. It's a play really designed to beat man coverage and run shallow crossing routes with the hope to set natural rubs underneath to free up a receiver coming out of the mesh point. One way the Eagles evolved this play against zone coverage is to run another receiver beyond that mesh point so when the cross receivers depart, the additional receiver can sit in the spot vacated from the mesh point. The play works perfectly here out of 13 personnel with 3 Tight Ends. Brent Celek and Zach Ertz will run the shallow crossing routes and you can see all 3 Colts linebackers step up at the mesh point. As the receivers separate Trey Burton does a nice job sneaking behind the linebackers and sitting in a nice soft spot in the middle of the field. Bradford hits him for a 1st down:
Doug Pederson has described his offense as a hybrid WCO with spread concepts. I must admit I've seen fewer spread concepts in the 3 preseason games than I had hoped but I am sure they are holding some things back in the preseason. Furthermore, they are going to play to their personnel and Bradford is very familiar and comfortable with many of the WCO concepts Pederson and Andy Reid employed in Kansas City. I expect the hybrid offense and spread concepts to appear more if and when Carson Wentz gets his chance.