What the Chargers should expect from Chip Kelly and the Eagles Offense

Rob Carr

Kyle Posey goes through the game tape of the Philadelphia Eagles' week 1 victory over the Washington Redskins to help prepare the San Diego Chargers for what they'll have to face in week 2.

After one week in the NFL, and listening to all the media, you would think that new Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Chip Kelly had just won the Super Bowl, and is well on his way to becoming a Hall of Fame coach. The reviews have been amazing, albeit, a bit premature.

What Kelly has brought to the NFL is an uptempo, fast-paced offense with unique play designs. Contrary to popular belief, especially in a league that is more and more centered around the passing game, Kelly wants to run, and run a lot. In last Monday nights victory, the Eagles had nearly a 2/1 run/pass ratio(49/25).

I've noticed three things that they like to do (that I'll highlight later on) and what makes them so effective in doing so. Kelly has said one of his main goals when calling plays is to create a mathematical advantage that can be exploited by his players. Just when you thought you have stopped that play initially, you haven't. Kelly runs "packaged plays" which, is essentially two plays in one, that gives the offense another chance to exploit the defense. It also doesn't hurt that this offense has a top five offensive line in the NFL (and is easily the most athletic line), to go with one of the league's best running backs.

Three things that you will see out of this offense this week:

  • Packaged plays
  • Unbalanced lines
  • Spread formations to get their skill players in space

Let's take a look at one package play that we should expect to see.

Play 1

Formation: Gun Right Y Trips(with Trips to the top of the screen)

Personnel: 11(3 WR/1 RB/1TE

Play: Inside Zone with the option to throw the bubble screen/TE pop pass

Screenshot1_medium

Notice the extreme split by the slot receiver to the top of the screen. This forces the slot cornerback to split the difference or else he takes himself out of the play. This was the primary formation throughout the game against the Redskins. Many thought Kelly would run a lot of 2 TE sets but, of the 83 plays, he used a third WR only 70 times.

Screenshot22_medium
Michael Vick's options are highlighted by the black arrows. Vick is reading the red arrow, the inside linebacker to the strong side (the "Mike"). If the Mike crashes down hard, Vick throws the pop pass to the TE. If the Mike stays put, Vick gives it to LeSean McCoy on the read. Finally, if Vick notices both LB's stay put, he throws the bubble to the slot. A very tough play to defend.

Screenshot3_medium

The LB identified by the red arrow crashes hard on the RB, making it an easy read for Vick and leaving a big window for Vick to throw the pop pass to the TE. The separation is too much for the corner to make up, and the play goes for 28 yards. On this particular play, he also had the bubble open, as it was a 2 on 1 situation.

This is one of several "packaged plays" we'll see. Whether it was 2-3 options, it depends, but in order to stop this I'd expect to see a lot of Eric Weddle in the box, along with Donald Butler. That way the Chargers can check to the correct call, read the play quickly, and make any open field tackles if necessary. With Weddle in the box, that means you're trusting two inexperienced Safeties to be able to cover any possible deep routes. This creates holes in pass coverage, but you have to stop the run first against this offense.

There were a couple instances during the game where the Eagles would run the inside zone read option with the bubble screen, and they had the defensive end "spill" (explained in depth here). In short, this means that the defensive end attacks the inside shoulder of the tackle, taking away any cutback lane and forcing the ball to move a specific direction.

Below is an example of how Washington had success stopping the outside zone read.

Was-v-phi_medium

Back in Vick's glory days with the Falcons, this worked for defensive coordinators. They would blitz him one way, forcing him to a certain spot on the field, where they would have players waiting for him. That would be the idea here, and the best plan for stopping this certain play.

Over the course of his career, Vick has struggled with pressure altogether. Primarily, off the edges, he fails to recognize it. Knowing that, I'd expect to see pressure off the edge with the coverage rolled up, forcing him to make a quick decision or an accurate throw. He missed a handful of easy throws last game, and he was 4-11 when he was under pressure.

When Washington was able to get pressure or disrupt plays, it was because their defensive lineman were able to win their 1-on-1 battles. The combination of Corey Liuget, Cam Thomas and Kendall Reyes are as important as any in this game, they will need to win early and often to keep the offense in third and long. Often times in these zone read plays, expect to see Jarrett Johnson double teamed or at least chip blocked.

Dwight Freeney's quickness/aggressiveness might work against him. The Eagles will welcome him to get upfield quickly, and then they'll run right to the spot he vacated. The Eagles love to run "sprint-draw" and there's probably no back better suited to run it than McCoy, as he is as gifted in the open field as any.

On to the next play, since the defense will see a ton of inside/outside zone from the shotgun, the play is dressed to look like an option. Vick will carry out a fake, in effort to pull a defender with him, but it's not an option. It's a normal run play, and the defense needs to read their keys. Washington's defenders chased Vick at times on a normal inside zone play, and McCoy more than took advantage.

Play 2

Formation: Unbalanced line left-Gun left/Split left

Personnel: 11

Play: Outside Zone

Numbers_medium

This is one of the regular zone plays where the defender takes himself out of the play by following the QB when it's not an option play. Also, notice the unbalanced line. From left to right it's the LT/RT/LG/C/RG/TE. This is where Butler, Weddle and Bront Bird are going to have to recognize the formation instantly and check into another call. This formation gives the offense the numbers advantage, as Kelly aims to do on every play. The defense has five in the box and, if you count the RB, they're outnumbered by two here. I've numbered the defenders in the box.

The unbalanced offensive line keeps defenses in the same personnel, but forces them to move over a gap, creating potentially massive running lanes. They ran this play from no huddle, and the defense didn't recognize it and paid for it.

Screenshot4_medium

The circle represents the play-side linebacker, who, in the case of the Chargers, is Bront Bird. The play was an outside zone and, at the snap, the LB ran straight to the outside shoulder of the tackle. The Eagles didn't even attempt to block him. This is what I see happening with Bird. I think Chip Kelly will isolate him, either on run plays like this or on pass plays, and force him to cover.

What happens here is it allows the OL to get a hat on a hat, McCoy to cut it up 12 yards down the field before anyone even touches him. At that point, he turns on his speed, makes a player miss, on scores from 34 yards out.

Play 3

Formation: Gun Left/Trips Left

Personnel: 11

Action_medium

The Eagles like to get DeSean Jackson the ball in space, period. I counted five screen passes to him in the 1st half alone. He's either the inside WR here in the trips formation, or the WR farthest to the outside. As one of the fastest players in the NFL, it makes a lot of sense to get the ball in his hands.

Jackson_medium

This is the other look, where Jackson is at the top of the screen. They also will pump fake the screen to him, and throw it deep, so it's imperative that the safeties over top don't bite on that fake.

Screen_medium

This is the problem when you bring the slot corner off the edge and have your defensive end "spill." As you can see, Washington has committed 8 guys in the box, which now leaves Philly with a numbers advantage on the outside. With 3 WR's to face 2 DB's, the play goes for 16 yards.

Final Notes

The Eagles ran 52 plays. The Chargers ran 55. The Eagles ran 52 plays in the 1st half, San Diego ran 55 for the entire game. Of those 52 plays, 34 came out of the hurry up. What was interesting was that the Eagles would run hurry up even after bad plays, such as sacks and negative gains. It's all about tempo and pushing the pace.

Even though they ran a lot of plays, they didn't really open up the playbook, partially because they didn't have to. It was primarily zone read, inside/outside zone, with screens and quick hitting passes.

While you're watching, it's important to note the depth of the RB. If the RB is offset behind the QB the play, the call is inside zone read, countered with sprint draw, power, and counter, in case the defense over pursues. If the RB is lined up at the same depth as the QB, the call is outside zone read, with the bubble screen option, as well as the packaged plays mentioned previously.

The issue with the outside zone read that I'm worried about is the over pursuit of the defense. What Kelly shoots for by running the outside zone isn't to get the runner to the edge, it's to get the defense to over pursue, which creates creases up the middle for big gains (much like the TD on play 2).

There's really no excuse to see another game where Pagano doesn't have the corners rolled up into press. That takes away the bubble screen and gets you extra defenders in the run game. To stop this offense you have to sell out to stop the run. Expect to see a lot of blitzes, with Weddle in the box, and Marcus Gilchrist as the single high safety (yes, I know the risk involved).

There will be an occasional Tampa 2 type look with two safeties deep, but once Kelly knows he has numbers in the box, his team will check to run and push the pace. As mentioned before, the interior lineman are going to have to win their 1-on-1 battles, and the LB's are going to have to be sound. At any point, any member of the front 7 can be the "read" and I'd expect that to be Freeney/Bird more often than not. Pagano is going to have to trust his defensive backs that they won't get beat deep. Roll the dice, and force Vick to win with his arm.

"Sometimes you've got to be able to play middle-of-the-field coverage to get an extra guy in the box, you have to have some guts and play press coverage" - Nick Saban

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