After winning the Super Bowl in 2017, many labeled Doug Pederson as a brilliant offensive mind due to his play calling with backup QB Nick Foles and even their franchise QB Carson Wentz, before his injury. Coach Pederson did something that Andy Reid couldn’t and that Chip Kelly wouldn’t.
He integrated his base West Coast offense with Kelly’s style of the spread offense. Taking two great offensive ideas and making it his own. Two years later and now the offense looks as if it’s hit a brick wall.
This season the Eagles are playing out of shotgun 86% of the time while going under center for only 14% of the time. As much as it seems like this is the way to go, many forget that Wentz was a more effective playing under center back in 2017. Now sure, the team passed the ball 29% of the time from under center but that fact that they were still effective is what made the shotgun formation so lethal for the championship team.
One stat truly stands out and could be the reason that the offense just isn’t moving. In 2017, the Eagles run game was among the top of the league. The run rate under center was for 71% of the time verse 29% out of shotgun. Interesting isn’t it? The team ranked 3rd in rushing yards and 4th in yards per carry.
In 2018, they dropped to 28th in rushing yards and 30th in yards per carry. Now granted, the Eagles leading rusher last year was Josh Adams, only because there wasn’t any of healthy back. Smallwood wasn’t efficient and while Adams provided a spark here and there, his inconsistency became a flaw for the team. In 2018, the runs under center dropped a little bit to 64% under center and increased to 30% from shotgun.
Now in 2019, most defenses have figured out how to stop the RPO’s and anything else that has to do with the spread offense. Unfortunately, Coach Pederson hasn’t shown he can adapt to the change. The Eagles are playing their offense out of shotgun for 86% of the time. Seeing Carson Wentz under center has been a rarity while he’s played there only 14% of the time. The team’s pass rate under center is down to 44% while they pass out of shotgun for 66% of the time.
This an interesting move by Pederson as Wentz showed promise to be more effective out of center. I mean, he did run a pro-style offense in North Dakota and we all know how he balled out over there. Why else would you make the 2nd overall pick? Surely, his red hair isn’t the reason why. I think…
Even the run rate has fallen to 58% under center vs 34% shotgun. Neither of the running backs have been effective this season and this could be a huge reason why. Running a big back like Jordan Howard can only give you a decent amount of yards while running him from under center gives you big yardage possibilities.
Take the LA Rams, for example, an offense that has been productive ever since Sean McVay has taken over. Now look, I’m not a fan of McVay, I mean he did win Coach of the year when Pederson deserved it more but that’s irrelevant right now. The Rams are running their offense out of shotgun only 37% of the time while playing under center for 63% of the time. Their run rate from under center is 63% while shotgun is only 6%. What a difference isn’t it?
The Eagles right now, health-wise, don’t have the personnel to rely on their shotgun formation. The receivers aren’t getting open in a timely manner for Wentz which has resulted in Wentz hanging on to the ball longer. The offensive line itself can’t keep up with the timing of the young receivers either, as you may have seen them giving up on the play against the Lions while letting Went get sacked.
With Green Bay right around the corner, it may be time for Pederson to mix up the playbook. Bring back some RPO‘s, bring back the bubble screens which ironically have not been apart of this year’s offense.
The team has seen how effective Sanders can be as a receiver and has yet to use him, Agholor or even Ward in any screens. They ran one or two against Washington but it’s been pretty nonexistent since.
The focus going into Green Bay has to be the running game. They’re the healthiest group but Pederson has to let the offense live under center for more than just 14% of the game. Jordan Howard can give the play-action game a boost while Sanders can be more effective as the change of pace back.
It’s time for the Eagles to do the opposite of what everyone else is doing again, master it and win with it. Pederson has all the tools he needs to do so as well. This offense has been stale for way too long.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports