Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson has spent a good amount of time under Andy Reid, from his time as the team’s quarterback in Reid’s first season as Head Coach in Philadelphia to his time as Reid’s offensive coordinator in Kansas City. As a result, Pederson has designed and molded his offense like Reid’s; a West Coast-based system with Spread concepts fused in. But even though it’s been 5 years since Pederson worked under him, there are still things that he can and should be taking from Reid to help the Eagles this season.
The Eagles had issues with speed in the 2019 season. To put it plainly, they didn’t have any. They were one of the slowest teams in the NFL on both offense and defense, if not the slowest. Therefore, General Manager Howie Roseman and the rest of the front office made it a priority to infuse the roster with speed and athleticism, and they’ve done so successfully. On the offensive side of the ball not only do they get back DeSean Jackson but they also drafted Jalen Reagor in the 1st round of the NFL Draft, John Hightower in the 5th, and Quez Watkins in the 6th. They also traded for Marquise Goodwin from the San Francisco 49ers but he ended up opting out of the 2020 season. All the speed on the outside gives the offense more opportunities for big plays which matches up with Carson Wentz’s aggressive play style. It also frees up more space underneath for guys like Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert to operate.
All that is great in theory, but in practice, it’s a bit more difficult when certain factors come into play, which we witnessed in Week 1. Throwing the ball deep requires time in the pocket and protection, but if near half of the starters on your offensive line are injured that’s going to be very hard to come by.
This may come off as snarky, but this isn’t Madden; it’s real football. Calling shots to the intermediate and deep levels of the field time after time after time without proper protection is a recipe for disaster, especially when you don’t even try to get your QB out of the pocket and on the move. Giving the opposing pass rushers a fixed point to attack snap after snap is exactly what they want. And the talented defensive line of the Washington Football Team took advantage of Doug Pederson’s predictable play calling.
Also, a few of the deep shots they took came on 1st and 10. Doug Pederson talked about how they got behind the sticks too many times. However, had he not been aggressive with his play-calling as often as he was in the second half, that wouldn’t have been as much of an issue for them.
Can’t overstate it- Washington defensive staff put together a phenomenal game plan and they dominated up front. Wentz never found a rhythm. Eagles looked a little obsessed with deep shots. Need to be more efficient and patient.
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) September 14, 2020
I asked Doug Pederson why we didn’t see Wentz out of the pocket more if he’s fully healthy. His full response: pic.twitter.com/tMO2I8v80B
— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) September 16, 2020
There are numerous things to point to that resulted in the Eagles’ defeat, but one solution that Doug Pederson should be looking at is what Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs did in their game against the Houston Texans. They showed that there are other ways to utilize the big play ability of wide receivers outside of having them run deep routes.
As you can see from the videos above, the Chiefs barely threw the ball deep against the Houston Texans. Instead, they got their playmakers the ball in a variety of ways, whether it be passing concepts in the short areas of the field, screens, jet sweeps, or even read option. Not all of them went for a ton of yards, but the idea of getting the ball quickly into your playmakers’ hands in different ways is still a good one.
I love that the Eagles have a ton of speed at WR now with Reagor, Jackson, and Hightower. And I love that they’re not afraid to be aggressive and go deep. People always talk about keeping defenses honest with the running game, but there’s also truth to keeping a defense honest vertically by making them respect the deep ball. However, it was very disappointing to see the lack of creativity from a play-calling standpoint and the insistence on continuously forcing deep passes against the Washington Football Team. The few WR screens that were called went to Greg Ward, and while I’ve become a fan of Ward and believe he’s a decent player he’s not the dynamic weapon that the other 3 are.
Ultimately, we’re only one week into the 2020 NFL season. Most of the time how a team looks this early isn’t how they look by the end of the season. We may see more of these concepts incorporated and other adjustments are made as soon as Week 2 against the Rams. But while there’s no need to panic, the urgency needs to be there. There’s a commonly used football phrase out there that says, “You can’t win a championship in September, but you sure can lose it.” If Pederson and the rest of the coaching staff don’t improve the play-calling soon, the Eagles could be in a hole early on that’s too deep to dig themselves out of. And if that happens then acquiring all that speed would have been for nothing.