Hi Everyone! First of all, I apologize for the extended hiatus, it's been over 3 months since my last post. The break was in part because of a busy life, but we also had some technical issues on the blog and had to kind of build up the domain from scratch. On that note, if you bookmark or favorite this site, please update your links to https://chipwagon.typepad.com. In short, we didn't notice that our thechipwagon.com domain expired and someone scooped it up before we could notice. The result was a pretty big mess. Anyway, it appears we've sorted through most of those issues, but please let me know if you have any issues access the blog or older posts.
Moving on, we'll finally get back to finishing up the multi-part opus on Chip Kelly's run game and how it has evolved over the last several seasons. In the first 11 parts we really focused on the inside zone as the basic foundation and the different ways that Chip dresses it up, packages things, messes with formations/alignments, etc. That was worth a lot of content because it really is the Eagles bread-and-butter foundational play. Another play the Eagles focus on is their outside zone run.
There is a wealth of material on the outside zone and specifically for outside zone blocking around the internet. Here's just a few of my favorite pieces I have come across over the years:
There are a bunch of major and minor variations that teams may run the outside zone based on different steps, blocking angles, aiming points, formations, with/without a FB, etc. In this post, I want to highlight how the Eagles run outside zone but also to focus a little bit on how Chip evolves from the outside zone package and adds some passing game wrinkles. Depending on the team, coach and philosophy some teams will run outside zone as their base play. They will run it over and over and then once the defense starts to overreact, they'll pop in an inside zone run. Chip Kelly is kind of the opposite. He loves to run inside zone over and over again and once teams adjust, he'll pop an outside zone play or a sweep play (which we will cover later in the series). Arguably, over the last couple of years the outside zone has been probably the weakest play in the Eagles run game vs. inside zone and sweep. However, the power play is also something they haven't been to master yet either. Some of that comes down to practice reps/habits as well as personnel.
Let's start with a look at the play. One of the biggest misnomers of the outside zone is that it's an outside the tackles running play. This is not exactly true. While it is designed to do that, the beauty of zone blocking and reaching across the formation is that this can create a variety of natural cutback lanes for the running back to take advantage of. Check out this first example. One of the first initial keys to an outside zone play is the kick step to the play side from the OL unit. Note below how off the snap, each of the Eagles OL shoots to the right side. Their goal is to get outside of their assigned defender and get between the defender and the playside sideline. Also not on this play that the Eagles are running an unbalanced line with Jason Peters and Lane Johnson on the left side of the formation away from the playside! This tells you the kind of confidence Chip has in TE Brent Celek. He's essentially a right tackle here and Chip has the ball to run an outside zone to that side:
Following the snap you can see the OL does a pretty good job. Speaking of Brent Celek, you can see he does a good job on the initial double team with Herremans and will peel off to the second level:
The thing to highlight on the next image is the number of natural lanes McCoy can run through. That's exactly what you want to see. The defense is spread out and McCoy has a number of options:
He chooses one, makes the safety miss in space and is off the races for a TD:
This next one is in the red zone and is worth showing just for the sheer dominance of Jason Peters:
But sometimes things don't go as planned. And this is where an elusive back like LeSean McCoy really came in handy. The Eagles OL explodes to the left on this outside zone run:
Instead of engaging Clemons, Jason Peters ends up helping out the Left Guard. As a result, Clemons is able to effectively set the edge and take away the outside option for McCoy. McCoy stops in the backfield and looks to reverse. As you can see he doesn't have great options:
But McCoy zips around an arm tackle and turns this into a nice positive 8-9 yard gain:
Clearly McCoy had nowhere to go on that run and his elusiveness saved the OL on that play. However, in general, the outside zone play is all about great vision, being both patient and decisive and trusting your blockers. This is one area where McCoy struggled at times in the outside running game. Too often he would not trust the play or stop moving and give the defense a chance to catch up to him. Check this example. It's an outside zone run to the left where it's the right tackle's job to pin #91 to the inside:
After the snap you see the lateral movement from the OL:
The right tackle actually does a nice job getting outside and pinning his man inside. You see a nice wall forming. The one potential problem on this play is #51. He is currently not blocked and heading to tackle McCoy on the outside. However he has not completely vacated the inside lane so Shady can't cutback. That said, there is a pretty nice wall formed on the outside exactly where the play is designed to go:
But Shady slows down, stops moving his legs and hesitates. In the meantime, #51 is tied up thanks to the blocks on the right side. As you can see the wall is still there. Had Shady not hesitated and just trusted the play he would have easily got to the sidelines for a nice gain:
Unfortunately, by the time he decides to go outside, Jordan Matthews can no longer sustain his block and Shady finishes with a minimal gain:
So I know what you asking next. Shady is no longer here, how about Demarco and Ryan Mathews? The outside zone stretch just happened to be the Cowboys bread and butter play and Ryan Mathews has proven to be effective on outside zone as well. They are both very patient but decisive one-cut runners.
Which means, time for a shameless plug. For the second straight year I am a contributing author on the 2015 version of the Eagles Almanac. It's a great piece of preseason football reading to get your ready for the season with contributors like Sheil Kapadia, Derek Sarley, Tommy Lawlor, Jimmy Kempski and more. It really is must-read material. So if you want to know how Murray and Mathews will fit in this offense, well, it just so happens to be the topic of my featured chapter in the Almanac.
Pre-Order your copy of the 2015 Eagles Almanac. If you like the material we provide here on the ChipWagon, you are sure to not be disappointed.
I promised to finish on some of the other tricks, constraints and tendency breakers Chip calls off outside zone run action. There are a couple I want to note on here. One is misdirection which we covered in an earlier post on inside zone. We use the same concept with outside zone. The defense think the play is going left:
But it's actually going right:
The other became Jordan Matthews' staple play of his rookie campaign. The Eagles designed a play-action roll-out off outside zone run action. This was an extremely successful play for Jordan Matthews in 2014 that I am sure you will recognize:
Most notably, watch the linebackers get sucked in on the run fake. Sanchez will keep and roll right in the opposite direction, meanwhile Jordan Matthews runs a crossing route from the slot and gets behind the linebackers and is wide open for a play over the middle:
Next up we'll have a look at the Eagles sweep play.