The Eagles borrowed a play from the North Dakota State playbook to maximise their redzone production in 2017. Philly ran the Bison concept extensively in scoring position, shredding defences to second spot in redzone TD percentage (64%) a year ago. Doug Pederson’s aggression manifests in many facets of the game, close not only to the opponent’s, but also his own, goal line. Today, we’re looking at the offensive tendencies in a backed-up position.

Staying on the Throat
The offensive coaching staff have never been afraid to risk a safety under the shadow of their own posts. There was a clear example of that in the Browns preseason game, as Foles tripped for a sack on a deep play action pass. Despite the struggles of the offensive line, the front still maintained a clean pocket for over four and a half seconds as the signal-caller recovered to connect on a corner route. A touch in the backfield negated the splash play, but it was a sign of Pederson’s aggression nonetheless.

The offensive coaching staff are also willing to take risks with their run scheme, utilising misdirection to find some breathing room. Handback punch is a man concept designed to trick defenders into taking missteps in the wrong direction, incorrectly reading zone to the other side of the formation. The quarterback’s backfield action, turning to one side before handing off to the other, also helps sell the fake. Lately, the offensive coordinator has called the play’s number frequently in a backed-up position. We’ve seen it both in the playoffs, and in a couple preseason games this season with the starters still on the field.

First against the Giants in Week 3 last year.

And now against Atlanta with the offense at the seven-yard line needing a first down to ice the game.

And here’s Ajayi getting loose in the first preseason game against the Steelers.

And finally, Smallwood in the most recent game against the Browns.

Countering a Stacked Box
In these scenarios, defenses are typically going to be aggressive to try to put points on the board, either via a safety or turnover. That aggression can be used against them by using a play that appears very similar to outside zone post-snap. Each play has the same look, using the same heavy 13 personnel package (extra OL along with two tightends), but one is designed to go left, the other right.

Jason Kelce’s footwork will be a particular-read for the defense, but you can see his movement off the snap in both images appears almost identical. Same too with the movement of the QB, turing to their left to hand the ball. The backs’ initial footwork also takes them to the left.

Now compare the movement of the offensive line as a whole.

The design of the blocking looks very similar, but the runs are designed to go in opposite directions, creating a headache for linebackers who have to diagnose accurately in a very small space of time.

Below are the two plays in full.

The Eagles were special offensively a season ago because of the combination of outstanding quality and schemes that maximised their strengths. In Andy Reid’s words, the group were “put in the best position to succeed”. Additionally, defences had a nightmare identifying concepts because of the variety of plays the Eagles could run from the same look. Linebackers were forced to think rather than attack, which was doubly detrimental because the athleticism of the front five enabled them to get to the second level so quickly. Jeff Stoutland was promoted to run game coordinator this offseason, if he helped scheme the ground attack a year ago, it’s easy to see why.

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