Warning! This is going to be a long one. Primarily because it is perhaps my favorite foundational running play that the Eagles run. What you will see in this post is how the Eagles take one of the oldest plays in football, execute it to near perfection and then continue to layer different concepts on top of it to keep defensive players guessing.
Before we dive deep in with lots of screenshots, one of the other reasons the Eagles sweep is one of my favorite plays is because it is so damned pretty. Some people love to see the long bomb, some love the one-handed catch, some love the big hit over the middle. Me? I love to see big ass offensive lineman get down the field and take out linebackers and safeties. In short, this is why I love the sweep and this is why I love Jason Kelce:
Let's take a look first at the basic concept. It is standard, traditional sweep play that involves 2 pulling offensive lineman. Most often the Eagles will pull the Center, Jason Kelce and one of the offensive guards. However, sometimes they will pull a guard and a tackle, a center and a tackle, etc. On the first play we'll highlight, the Eagles will pull Jason Peters and Right Guard Dennis Kelly. You will also note a crucial block by tight end Brent Celek. This is the classic "pin and pull" where the Celek pins the interior defensive lineman inside, Peters will take the edge defender and Kelly will pull into the hole:
Also note, the read-option element on this play. here Foles will read the unblocked edge defender, Ryan Kerrigan. This gives the Eagles an additional blocker on the playside. Conceptually, if Kerrigan bites hard on the run, Foles has the option to keep and run to the outside:
Peters seals off the edge defender. The rest is left for Dennis Kelly:
And does a great job executing the block and springing Shady for a big play:
It's worth spending a bit of time discussing the read-option aspect of this play. As we see above, the Eagles run the more common version of the zone read where they leave the edge defender unblocked and he is who Foles reads through the mesh point. However, the Eagles also run another version of the zone read when they call this sweep play. It's known as a midline read whereby the OL leaves an interior defensive tackle unblocked and he becomes the read. Let's look at an example. Here the Eagles are running a sweep against the Cowboys with pulling offensive linemen:
However note on this play where the unblocked defender is. The concept here is that Sanchez reads #97. If he goes after McCoy, Sanchez can keep and run up the middle. If he stays, he will hand off to McCoy on the sweep. Note #97's feet. They are parallel to the line of scrimmage meaning he is playing Sanchez on this play. As a result, the correct read is the handoff to McCoy:
They get great blocks on the outside for a big gain:
Let's see what it looks like if the QB takes the other option. Again, this is a designed sweep play with Kelce and Johnson pulling to the outside and Celek pinning his man inside:
Once again, the Eagles will leave the interior defensive lineman unblocked and like above, Vick will read him. Note this time how the Redskins defensive lineman is now turning to chase McCoy. The right read in this instance is for Vick to keep:
and look at the huge hole that emerges for Vick:
Over the years people have pointed out that one of the potential "weaknesses" of Chip Kelly's scheme is that he dictates the playside based on formations. As we've mentioned earlier in this season with the inside zone, Chip has adopted some counters to that. One such example is motioning the running back just before the snap. On this play, Shady starts out on Foles' right suggesting the playside will be to the left:
But just before the snap, McCoy motions to the other side:
They quickly snap the ball and run a pin and pull sweep play similar to what we highlighted above expect this time Center, David Molk and Right Guard Todd Herremans do the pulling:
Molk and Herremans do an excellent job and Shady breaks free to the outside:
Another example is where the Eagles run a type of sprint draw, where instead of the running back coming across the formation, the Eagles run a sweep to the same side that the running back is lined up. Like so:
Here Foles slides over and simply hands the ball to McCoy who attempts to spring outside behind his lead blockers:
These types of different options are enough to generally keep the defense honest and not to get too aggressive regarding what appears to be the playside.
The other way Chip takes advantage of over-aggressive defenders is by creating a passing option for the QB at the mesh point despite the fact that the offensive line is run blocking on a sweep play. This is of course the packaged play concept that we have discussed extensively on this blog over the years. Let's take a look at a few of the ways Chip has packaged in a passing option on the sweep play described above. Below you will see the standard pin and pull. But note Zach Ertz who is lined up outside Jason Peters on the left side:
If we freeze at the mesh point you'll note that Vick is actually reading the strong-side linebacker on this play. The idea on this play is that if Vick sees the SAM LB aggressively reacting to the sweep to the right side, he will keep the ball and have a nice passing options down the middle to Zach Ertz. As you can see, the SAM LB stays put in his coverage responsibility.
As a result this takes him out of the sweep play. Herremans gets a great block and Kelce has his eye on the middle linebacker:
He'll spring Bryce Brown for a big gain. Note the SAM LB in red who was frozen by the read at the mesh point:
And of course I would be remiss not to mention the importance of downfield blocking from the WRs. Cooper gets a great block, Jackson not so much. But Brown ends up blowing by them anyway:
So what does the other option look like? Here, the Eagles will run sweep action to the left. Note James Casey split out on the top of the screen:
Here the Eagles will run a bootleg play-fake off the sweep action. Note the Giants LBs and safeties biting on the run fake:
Casey will get open downfield for an easy TD:
It is worth noting that the second play here is not a packaged play. It's a designed playaction rollout where the QB is under center and turns his back to the defense so he can't read the defense. However it should give you an idea of how that other option would play out in a packaged play.
Two more fun examples and I will call it a night. The Eagles like to run this play with some pre-snap orbit motion. In this example, the Eagles will appear to run a sweep play to the top of the screen but have Desean Jackson running orbit motion in the opposite direction:
Note in this example, the Bears are in man coverage so the defender chases Desean on the motion. In this scenario, the Eagles have successfully pulled a defender from the playside and they run a screen to the top of the screen with a numbers advantage:
However later in that drive, the Eagles run the same play. This time the Bears are in zone and no one chases Jackson. As a result, Foles keeps and shovels the ball out to Jackson for a big gain:
Last one. Here against the Cardinals, the Eagles appear to be running a sweep play to the bottom of the screen:
But watch Lane Johnson and Jeremy Maclin at the top of the screen. Johnson will release downfield and Maclin steps back for a short screen pass:
Johnson gets a great block and Maclin runs all the way in for a TD on a beautifully designed play:
Next we'll cover the Eagles Power Play and then finish the series with a few miscellaneous points. Stay tuned, the preseason is coming!!