The Eagles were an absolutely punishing redzone offense in 2017. Carson Wentz tossed an Eagles all-time record 33 touchdowns, many of them from short range. Only the Jaguars bettered the Birds 64% redzone touchdown percentage a year ago, with much more of their success reliant on the ground game. Exceptional execution obviously underpinned redzone success, but the introduction of a play from Wentz’s college career at North Dakota State elevated the unit to almost unstoppable. The Eagles scored touchdowns in five consecutive games using the Bison concept. It also worked fantastically as 2 point play, generating frankly absurd value over the course of the season. Today, we’re going to take a look at the subtle differences to the Bison concept that ensured its continued success.

H/T to the Athletic’s outstanding Sheil Kapadia for originally documenting the play

No Two Bison the Same
At its most basic level, the Bison concept is a three receiver horizontal stretch concept that stresses the spacing of zone defenses. It can also be effective against man defenses, however, by isolating the middle receiver (Ertz most frequently) with a one-on-one matchup in scoring position. Predominantly, the Eagles ran the play from 12 personnel, doubles weak (pair of receivers split out on the weakside), back strong. The vast majority of the Eagles’ success with the Bison concept came out of that formation. You can see the play explained below.

All but a handful of Bison plays came the formation outlined above. The challenge for the offensive coaching staff, therefore, was to mix up the look of the play in other ways. Motion is a common method of creating disguise. Simply lining up in the formation from the snap gives defenses time to prepare for the play, making it easier to stop. In the play below, the Eagles align in trey right (three wide right), before motioning into doubles right, the look they run the play from almost exclusively. The other advantage of using motion is that it allows different personnel to carry out the concept. Watch below as Alshon Jeffery motions across the formation, making him the primary target on the play. Easy TD as the Chargers bust the underneath coverage.

There are also a couple of examples of the Bison concept called from different formations. It might be more difficult to execute this season with the departures of Trey Burton and Brent Celek, but Bison out of 13 personnel (1 back, 3 tightends) was a genius piece of scheming by the offensive coaching staff. The other advantage of this adaptation is that it doesn’t require the back to involve himself in the horizontal stretch, enabling the Eagles to use play action if they wish.

Richard Rodgers’ injury might make it more difficult to include in gameplans, because I can’t see Isaac Seumalo catching a touchdown anytime soon, but I can imagine Pederson looking to use it more often.

Saving your best, most creative, plays for divisional opponents has long been a tradition in the NFL. The Eagles cracked open a unique version of the Bison against Dallas in Week 11 last year. Looking to pile more misery on the Cowboys, leading by 12, Dougie P opts to go for two. On this occasion he opts for empty formation, 13 personnel splitting LeGarette Blount wide. The adapted play, with four receivers on the stretch side, has an added receiver running an in-route, stressing the defense further. The play breaks down, but Wentz still manages to make it work.

Projection
Everything the offensive coaches touched a season ago turned to gold. Frank Reich and John DeFillipo are no longer in the building, but the two key components of the Eagles’ gameplans, Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson remain very much in situ. Wentz, after all, brought one of the offense’s best plays from his successful stint at North Dakota. Going forward, the brain trust need to continue subtly adapting their redzone offense. Judging by their previous record, that shouldn’t be a problem.

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