Well that was fun, huh? I must admit, I didn't think Carson Wentz's debut was going to be as bad as many of the national media were suggesting, but I wasn't expecting anything like that. Carson Wentz had a terrific debut on Sunday showing amazing poise and confidence throughout the day and making numerous WOW throws along with some fascinating changes at the line of scrimmage. Much will be dissected of the all the things Wentz did great on Sunday along with areas of improvement but what I was really fascinated to see was how Doug Pederson would structure and scheme the offense around him. What was very encouraging on Sunday was that this was not a basic attack. I don't think Pederson really held back too much of the playbook from Wentz and as we saw particularly in the second half, Pederson was happy to let Wentz push the ball down the field.
However, the major theme I pulled out of this game after re-watching is how much Doug Pederson and Frank Reich utilized familiar spread concepts to help Wentz settle into his first career start. The gameplan implemented simple concepts and RPOs to maximize a number of Wentz's first read opportunities. We know that the one area where Wentz will require some development is going through progressions. The coaching staff did a fantastic job with quick step drops and packaged plays to ensure that more often than not, Wentz's first read was open Let's have a look.
The major theme was the implementation of some packaged plays or Run-Pass Options (RPO) which incorporated a run option out of the shotgun spread with a built-in bubble screen on the outside. We ran this concept over and over again on Sunday which is something Wentz was used to running at NDSU. The run option is a sweep to the bottom of the screen. On the top Wentz has a built-in bubble screen option to Darren Sproles:
Here, Wentz will read the outside LB. If he jumps to protect the bubble screen to the top of the screen this takes away an additional run defender. Wentz makes the correct decision to hand off on the sweep:
This really boils down to a numbers game and you can see where spreading the field really benefits the running game. The Browns have 6 defenders in the box. The key defender is #5 whom Wentz will read:
Post snap you can see that LB cuts off the bubble screen. As a result, the Eagles have 5 blockers for 5 box defenders and the middle linebacker is hesitant as he is guarding against both the bubble and the hand off to the left:
That MIKE ends up taking a terrible angle and the Eagles have good blocking up front thanks to winning the numbers game for a nice run from Barner:
Here is the same concept below. This time the OLB cheats in to defend the run:
Wentz likely makes the wrong decision here as you can see the numbers favor the bubble screen on top:
The other refreshing piece here to point out, is despite the RPO, Wentz should always have the option to keep the ball and run himself should the opportunity present itself. And of course unlike Sam Bradford, defenses have to respect Carson Wentz on that QB keeper. Here's that same sweep/bubble concept in the red zone that illustrates how much having a mobile QB here is a game-changer:
At the mesh point, you can see Jason Peters immediately releases to the second level and leaves the backside edge defender unblocked. Wentz will freeze that unblocked defender with his threat to run. Also note how many defenders both Wentz and the threat of the bubble screen on the backside take up in Cleveland's defense (5!!):
Brandon Brooks gets a terrific block on his pull, Peters overruns his defender in the middle of the field and Kelce has his defender lined up well:
Kelce doesn't get his man cleanly, if he does, this is likely a touchdown:
One more time, a packaged play with a sweep to the bottom of the screen and a bubble option at the top.
Once again, Peters leaves the edge defender unblocked and immediately releases with Kelce to the second-level. Brandon Brooks will again come this time on a pull. Wentz freezes that unblocked defender on the edge:
Kelce once again whiffs on his block but Barner is able to work around it and gets a terrific block from Brooks on the pull which springs the explosive gain:
Pivoting off the packaged play concepts Doug Pederson and Frank Reich did a really nice job of dressing up similar concepts in different ways. One related to the bubble screen above was the flat slant combo that the Eagles ran out of the Shotgun spread with a built-in run fake.
This next play on the surface looks like a simple run play, but if you watch the receivers closely you can see that this is another RPO as the receivers are running routes as opposed to looking to block defenders. Specifically, Huff is running the bubble to the flat and Jordan Matthews is running a slant off the line of scrimmage:
I wanted to highlight the positioning of the slot corner below as it will become relevant on the next play I highlight:
To highlight the RPO nature of this, the Eagles go back to the same concept a little later. It's a bubble to the flat for Huff and Matthews will run a slant underneath. Except, this time, Wentz does not hand off:
The slot corner reacts aggressively to the bubble when Wentz keeps thus Wentz has a nice throwing window to Matthews on the slant:
Here the Eagles take a mirrored flat-slant concept and dress it up differently with different personnel and some added motion from the tight end. On both the top and bottom of the screen the tight ends will run the flats. Ertz goes in motion to run a flat to the outside. The outside WRs will run a quick slant inside:
Note at the top of the screen as the defender chases Ertz in motion. This combination route has an additional asset as the WR running the slant runs a natural pick to free up Ertz in the flat:
Easy pitch and catch for the first down.
Carson Wentz will get all the credit this week (and deservedly so) but a major hat tip should go to Doug Pederson and Frank Reich for putting together an excellent game plan to allow Carson Wentz to ease into his debut in the NFL.