Doug Pederson’s explanation of Eagles offense should raise alarm bells

NFL: SEP 20 Rams at Eagles
PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 20: Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson looks on during the game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles on September 20, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

The Eagles are in a tricky spot as they enter the quarter-mark of the NFL season. At 0-2-1, they’ve been underwhelming at just about every avenue, but none more so than the offense. Doug Pederson met with reporters on Friday and attempted to explain the team’s offensive identity. His response was…alarming.

I would define the identity as using the strength — number one, you’ve got to go off the strength, I think, of your quarterback, and then you build your plans around that. So obviously the identity, you want to be able to run the football, play-action pass, the QB movements, and then as [The Inquirer reporter] Les [Bowen] mentioned, the screens, you’ve got to mix in the screens effectively in your system. You want to be physical up front. That goes without saying. You want to be dominant there, control the line of scrimmage, all of that, and that’s where the run game comes in. 

There’s one big problem with this explanation.

The biggest strength

“go off the strength, I think, of your quarterback, and then you build your plans around that.”

What are the strengths of Carson Wentz? Well, this season, there aren’t very many at all. Traditionally, that question is much simpler to answer. What makes Carson Wentz so lethal (typically) is his ability to put the offense on his back and make plays that just shouldn’t be possible. He’s extremely quick to diagnose coverages, shifts, and disguised looks. His post-snap reads are tremendous and even now, his issues don’t stem from mental processing, but from physical fundamentals…making the whole thing seem puzzling.

When outside of the pocket, Wentz is a monster. His QBR in 2019 on plays outside of the pocket was 94.4, better than Russell Wilson, Jimmy Graoppolo, Deshaun Watson, and even Patrick Mahomes. The Eagles may be running a lot of play-action, but Wentz is spending most of his time in the pocket behind a banged-up offensive line and feeling a ton of pressure.

If the offense was more tailored to Wentz’s strengths, as we expected it would be after the hirings of Rich Scangarello and Marty Mornhinweg, then we’d surely see far more sprint-out action, bootleg looks, and even something as simple as an RPO to get Wentz some leverage over defenders and a chance to take advantage of a bad defensive read, just as he did frequently in 2017. At the very least, this would help provide a rhythm.

What absolutely shouldn’t happen is a reliance on screens on 3rd-and-long, and Wentz feeling an obligation to charge out of the pocket or turn into Houdini just to stop a play collapsing in on itself. All we seem to be witnessing from the Eagles are levels concepts, screens, and play-action looks. If you combine this with a struggling Carson Wentz, it’s just asking for problems. It’s easier to admit that your star QB (for whatever reason) has regressed and needs all the help he can get, than continuously throwing him to the wolves.

Instead of an offense of mystery and explosiveness, we’re seeing one of predictability and stale play. Partly due to injuries, partly due to play-calling, partly due to Carson Wentz, and partly due to the running game stalling (poet and I didn’t know it), there just isn’t a plan in place to play to the strengths of the quarterback as much as there is a plan to desperately throw mud at the wall and hope something sticks.

The Eagles aren’t doing anything pre-snap to help Wentz, either. As of right now, they run the lowest percentage of shifts and/or motion in the entire league. What you see is what you get. And what you get is predictability.

The immediate issue is that screens/RPO’s will not work against a Shanahan offense that’s built on those very principles, meaning the Eagles are already back to the drawing board.

There’s no easy fix for this offense. No magic potion for Carson Wentz, no reset button for Doug Pederson. But pretending your offense is one thing when there is absolutely no proof of that, is the latest in a string of concerns surrounding the Eagles’ Head Coach.

Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire

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