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The matchup problems Dallas Goedert will pose against base defenses was much discussed after the selection of the North Dakota State Bison in the second-round of the 2018 NFL draft. In contrast, the impact of an additional tightend in the run game was overlooked. Speaking after selecting Goedert Doug Pederson, on the other hand, was quick to emphasise his utility in the Eagles’ ground game …

The flexibility of personnel, combined with the variety of running plays conjured by offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland (whose background was in power-based schemes at Alabama), kept opposing defenses consistently off balance in 2017. The brilliance of the scheme employed by the coaching staff prevented opposing front sevens from easily diagnosing plays, making it almost impossible to defend.

One of the primary reasons for Chip Kelly’s on-field failure was an inability to adapt his scheme to conceal a handful of repeated running plays. He ran zone almost exclusively, inside, outside and pin-pull. When the Eagles introduced the counter, they suddenly experienced more success, but that was as far as his innovation went. The nadir was a 20-10 loss to Dallas in 2015, when Josh Huff reportedly heard the Cowboys calling out the Eagles’ play pre-snap.

The new coaching staff have embraced two key principles, enabling them to enjoy unmitigated success: variety and disguise. Crucially, the two principles feed into each other. Through variety, it is possible to generate disguise, as I will illustrate with two feature concepts of the Eagles’ running game; the tightend trap and inside zone with a wing peel.

One of the greatest innovations, short of the Super Bowl’s Philly special, was the introduction of the tightend trap concept into the playbook. Traditionally, the trap concept involves a guard pulling from the weakside, to clean out an unblocked playside defensive tackle. In the Eagles’ adaptation, the frontside tightend pulls toward the backside to clean out the same playside tackle. The scheme puts the interior defender in a difficult position, unsure whether they will be blocked by the lineman heads up on them, or by pull blocks from the frontside or backside. Below is a diagram of the traditional trap, and the Eagles’ new version.

Good luck to the 3 tech is all I can say. That’s an absolute nightmare position for what is theoretically an opponents’ top interior pass-rusher. Clearly, however, the linebackers have an easier job of identifying trap concepts dependent on which player is pulling in the formation. If the guard is pulling, the run is going to the playside A-gap (between OC and OG). If the tightend is pulling the run is heading to the playside B gap (between OG and OT).

To counter, the coaching staff use the inside zone with a tightend peel. Schematically, the play appears almost identical to the tightend trap. The tightend pulls from the frontside toward the backside, but instead of clearing out an unblocked 3-tech, he keeps going all the way to the unblocked backside defensive end. It is designed to force the linebackers to overpursue, leaving the backside B-gap clear for a cutback. Below are a couple of videos illustrating the similarity.

The Eagles run game stresses opponents in so many different ways. Through drastic variability, with surface-level similarities, the coaching staff are able to overload defenders mentally, keeping them off balance. Play action is also more effective. Most NFL offenses include the naked play action boot, with the tightend leaking into the flat ( see below). Again, same personnel, same play in terms of appearance, but totally different intention. The best of the NFL elevate themselves through tremendous instincts and film study, learning their opponents’ keys and tipoffs. This current iteration of an Eagles run game has none.