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Scouting Report: Eagles’ Offense Comes With Run-Heavy Approach

As we’ve been doing for several years now, we’ll break down the Pittsburgh Steelers’ opponent each week, telling you what to expect from a scheme and individual standpoint. Like last year, Josh Carney and I will cover the opposing team’s defense. I will focus on scheme, Josh on the players.

Today, scouting the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense.

ALEX’S SCHEME REPORT

EAGLES’ RUN GAME

In a pass-happy NFL, the Eagles’ run game is still their core. They come with another mobile quarterback in Jalen Hurts, one of the best scramblers in football. Their efficiency may not look overly impressive, a 4.2 YPC, which ranks tied for just 22nd in football. But they have a league-high 13 touchdowns. Miles Sanders leads the group in carries and average at a healthy 4.6 per rush. He has four touchdowns with Hurts leading the way with six of them. Five of Hurts’ six rushing scores have come inside the ten-yard line. That’s tied for most in football with RBs Josh Jacobs and Nick Chubb. So Hurts in goal-to-go situations makes him a serious run threat.

As a team, they have 25 runs of 10+ yards, tied for seventh most in the league. Interestingly, there’s not an overly explosive running team, just two runs of 20+ yards, one of the league’s worst marks. It speaks to why their YPC is on the lower end of things but shows they’re a consistent run game that doesn’t rely on a couple of big plays to jumpstart their ground game. They may not win the battle but they win the war.

Schematically, with a mobile quarterback, they run a lot of zone read looks. Unblock the EMOL (end man on line of scrimmage) and read him and make him wrong. If he takes the back, the QB keeps. If he stays outside, give to the back. An example of each.

They’ll also run some power concepts out of those looks too, an interesting way to run it.

One wrinkle the Eagles add in is by positioning the back late. They will often show up in a pistol look with the back behind the quarterback and place him right/left late in the play clock. That keeps the defense on their toes about what direction the back is going. Generally speaking, the back runs the opposite side he’s aligned to. Meaning, if the back is on the right side, he’ll run left and vice versa. Just the natural flow of things at the mesh point of the handoff.

Overall, they ran a fair amount of inside zone. I’d call that their base run-game concept. Also need to alert QB draw out of empty sets, a common theme for running quarterbacks. They’re also a heavy QB sneak team and will dress it up in some interesting ways. They can use a “pusher” which is becoming popular around the league (Pittsburgh tried doing it last week with WR Miles Boykin) and they even did it out a bonafide-looking victory formation, too. Pretty wild looking.

Against the Arizona Cardinals, they once ran four straight QB sneaks on the goal line before finally getting in the end zone.

Some other numbers. They’re the 4th-ranked offense in football averaging 26.8 points per game. They’ve scored 24+ points in five of six games and 20+ in all six. Pittsburgh’s offense hasn’t scored more than 20 points in a single game this year. Their offense is very strange though. They have scored an incredible 112 points in the second quarter this season, 26 more than any other team, while being a bottom-five offense in first, third, and fourth quarter this year. Here’s the breakdown.

1st Quarter: 14 points (26th)
2nd Quarter: 112 points (1st)
3rd Quarter: 17 points (T-25th)
4th Quarter: 18 points (29th)

Very strange curve. But the Steelers are going to have to find a way to win the second quarter. They’re a strong situational team, ranking both 6th on third down (43.7%) and in the red zone (64%). However, they are the worst “third and long” team in the league. They convert just 7.1% of their 3rd and 7+ plays, 32nd in football. The sample size is small and they do well to avoid those moments (14 total plays – the fewest attempts in the league) but they do notably struggle there.

They’re easily tops in the league in taking care of the ball too, turning the ball over just twice all season. Every other team has at least five giveaways. Both have been Hurts’ interceptions coming in Week 2 and Week 4.

Eagles Passing Game

Manned by Jalen Hurts having an excellent season. He’s broken out this year but has slowly progressed each year, improving his completion percentage, YPA, and reducing his INT rate. On the year, he’s completing 66.8% of his passes while throwing six touchdowns to two interceptions. He only has a passing touchdown in half of his games and threw three of them in one. Hurts has been sacked 15 times this season and taken down 3+ times in half his games this year.

His top targets this season are WRs A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith. Brown was traded for on draft night and has made an immediate impact with 33 receptions for 15.2 yards per catch. He’s one of three receivers in the league with 30+ receptions and 15+ YPC joining Chris Olave and Jaylen Waddle. Smith also has 33 receptions and averaging 12 yards per reception while TE Dallas Goedert is one of the top downfield threats at the position averaging 13.7 YPC. That’s tied with the Lions’ T.J. Hockenson for the highest YPC of any tight end with 20+ catches. Those three are the predominant targets in the offense. Only four Eagles have 10+ receptions this season, by comparison the Steelers have six, so their passes are pretty concentrated.

On the season, they have 20 passes of 20+ yards, which ranks tied for 16th, but five completions of 40+ yards, tied for sixth most. So when they hit, they hit big.

Though this could fall in the run or pass game part of the report, the Eagles are predictably a heavy RPO-based offense. One of their favorite calls is a packaged play with an inside zone run and a bubble/flare route with #3 running the bubble. Sometimes they run orbit motion and get that guy moving in the flat.

Very similar to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they use a lot of Twin sets out of 12 personnel, 2×2 looks with the tight ends away from the two receivers. They’ll often run slants to the Twin side.

Off playaction, they most commonly run a three-level “sail” concept, a nine route, a corner route, and flat route.

Josh’s Individual Report

It’s Eagles week, Steelers fans!

A short trip across the state of Pennsylvania to take on the Eagles in a non-conference matchup brings a rather difficult test for the black and gold in Week 8 ahead of the bye week.

Currently, the Eagles are the lone undefeated team in football, and they look rather difficult to beat on both sides of the football, especially for a team that hasn’t quite figured out how to consistently move the football offensively and finish drives, and is missing a key piece defensively.

Entering Week 8, Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts appears to be the frontrunner for the NFL MVP Award. He’s doing it all for the Eagles with his arm and legs, providing second-year head coach Nick Sirianni with an absolute star dual-threat in a well-designed, explosive offense.

Coming out of Oklahoma, there were many questions regarding Hurts and his ability to play the position at the next level. Three years into his career he’s showing he’s just fine.

He doesn’t have the best arm in the world and still struggles with accuracy at times, but he can fire the football into tight windows and has really taken over in the RPO game under Sirianni, thriving throwing to the likes of receivers AJ Brown, Devonta Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert.

Hurts’ ability to make the right decision with the football, stressing defenders with his legs in the process, has made the RPO deadly in Philadelphia.

 

This play has become a staple for the Eagles, designed to get Brown the football in space for YAC opportunities. In Week 6 against the Cowboys, the Eagles ran it multiple times to great success.

It’s just so well designed, forcing EDGE defender Micah Parsons to pick what he wants to do, taking Hurts or dropping to try and take Brown. Add in the fact that they force the Dallas cornerback to wade through the trash in the middle of the field to try and reach Brown, it’s a very hard play to defend, especially in the red zone.

 

Hurts does a ton of damage in the red zone, whether that’s using his legs as a runner or baiting defenders into attacking downhill against him, then using his arm to fire strikes for scores.

 

He stresses individual defenders and defenses as a whole so much. He’s rather difficult to defend.

Outside of his abilities in the RPO, I love the way Hurts is able to throw on the run with sound accuracy. He puts the football in great positions to maximize YAC, or to protect his receivers from contact.

 

That is a perfectly thrown football to Brown on the rollout. It’s like it’s on a string from Hurts to Brown in space, allowing him to catch the football in stride for the big gain against the Jaguars.

The very next week against the Cardinals, he did a great job of protecting Smith after extending the play with his legs. He never once let his eyes drop to the rush when extending this play, and then threw this ball perfectly to the sliding Smith, protecting him in the process.

 

Receivers greatly appreciate that.

One area that Hurts has really taken off in as a passer is with his touch in the middle of the field. He’s really figured out how to layer the football between linebackers and safeties. Granted, it helps having an elite-level RPO and play-action game to suck those linebackers up, but Hurts still has good touch on the football in that area of the field.

 

Next to Hurts in the backfield, Miles Sanders has quietly become one of the best backs in football, especially between the tackles. He has impressive vision and legitimate home run speed.

He’s a tough runner overall, one that can handle a heavy workload in the Eagles’ run-heavy attack, and can really wear down defenders between the tackles. He feels like the perfect complementary piece to Hurts.

 

Special back overall. Look at the vision from the end zone view. That’s a great trait to have. Sets up the defender extremely well, ripping off the explosive run.

Not only is Sanders a dominant running back, so too is the Eagles’ offensive line, led by star center Jason Kelce.

Quite honestly, I could watch Kelce play center all day, every day.

Here’s how I expect the Eagles to line up left to right on Sunday:

LT — Jordan Mailata
LG — Landon Dickerson
C — Jason Kelce
RG — Isaac Seumalo
RT – Lane Johnson

For my money, it’s arguably the best line in football.

Johnson and Mailata are a terrific bookend duo, two of the best athletes in the game at the position. Both bring impressive power to the position but can also move with the best of them, providing Hurts with clean pockets while opening up massive rushing lanes.

I liked Dickerson quite a bit coming out of Alabama in 2021. He’s done well adjusting to the starting left guard role in Philly. It helps playing next to the All-World Kelce. He’s just a master in space. Great run blocker, good pass protector. True leader of that unit.

 

I haven’t talked much about Smith, Brown and Goedert, but all three are terrific route runners. In fact, Smith might be one of the best in the league overall. Brown is a horse after the catch and thrives in this style of offense, while Goedert has dependable hands, is seemingly always open and provides serious juice after the catch.

Quez Watkins is the third receiver in Philadelphia. He’s the deep ball threat when the Eagles want to take a shot. Zach Pascal is a dependable fourth option, one that is a great blocker in the Eagles’ scheme and can provide sound possession-style catches in the ball control offense.

On special teams, the Eagles are pretty solid overall, which is unsurprising.

Kicker Jake Elliott shook off a knee injury earlier in the season and is back healthy. He doesn’t have the biggest leg overall, but he’s accurate and reliable. 45 yards and in he’s almost always coming through for the Eagles.

Punter Arryn Siposs, in his second season with the Eagles, has really come on strong. He’s averaging 45.92 yards per punt and has downed half of his 24 punts inside the opponent’s 20 yard line. That’s rather impressive, considering that punt average.

Watkins and Britain Covey split the role as kick and punt returner for the Eagles, depending on the feel of the game. Watkins brings the big play ability, but Covey is the steady, reliable guy that won’t hurt them in the return game with mistakes.

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