Chip Kelly is no longer running his fast-paced, no-huddle offense in Philadelphia, as the Eagles fired him this off-season. Instead Doug Pederson, a protege of former Eagles head coach Andy Reid, takes the reins and will implement a much different looking offense. Joseph Ferraiola breaks down what type of offense Doug Pederson will hope to run as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Chip Kelly project took a turn for the worse in Kelly’s third season as the Philadelphia Eagles head coach. The Eagles went 7-9 after finishing 10-6 in each of Kelly’s first two seasons with the team. However, those previous successes were not enough to save Kelly’s job in Philadelphia, as ownership decided they would rather move in a different direction. And by different, I mean Doug Pederson, a branch of the Andy Reid coaching tree.
Pederson, formerly the offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs, had the 27th-ranked offense according to yards, and yet his team ranked 9th in points in 2015. Pederson coordinated a highly efficient offense that finished 9th in percentage of drives ending in an offensive score. His predecessor had led the 27th ranked offense in that same statistic.
The 2015 Chiefs weren’t a flashy offense; they moved the ball on the ground and rarely threw deep passes, only attempting 66 deep passes with 27 completed according to NFL Savant. The San Francisco 49ers had the next lowest amount of deep passes attempted with 88.
Kansas City didn’t need the deep ball, however, as the short passing game produced excellent results.
What types of offensive looks may Pederson bring to Philadelphia in 2016?
Multiple Tight Ends
Pederson’s offense in Kansas City used a lot of multiple tight end looks. The TEs were used as receiving threats or as extra blockers in pass protection, as on this play against Houston in Week 1 of last season.
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The Chiefs have 12 personnel on the field with a tight end lined up on each side of the line of scrimmage. Originally the offense has a wide receiver at each sideline, but quarterback Alex Smith (#11) motions the receiver at the top of the screen to the other side of the field. This is now a trips formation with two receivers and one tight end to one side of the field, opposed to one tight end on the other with a single back in the backfield.
Houston is playing Cover 2 with its corners playing off coverage. When the ball is snapped Smith fakes the handoff and looks downfield. The single tight end stays at the line to help in pass protection while Travis Kelce (#87) and the two other receivers run routes. The two receivers run go routes while Kelce fakes a slant inside and runs a corner route toward the sideline. Kelce has no defenders around him and Smith delivers a pass for an easy six points.
Kelce is this wide open because of personnel math. The Texans had five potential deep defenders with two safeties and three cornerbacks at the start of the play. By motioning the receiver, the Chiefs dictated how many deep defenders the Texans could use on that half of the field; the safety and corner on the side of the field with the lone tight end were left covering air.
On the other half, the slot corner covered the slot receiver running a vertical route while both safeties helped out. The outside receiver who also ran a vertical route was covered by the outside corner at the bottom of the screen. Four of the five members of the secondary were committed to covering two streaking receivers. The last remaining corner had no one to cover.
The only other position left to cover Kelce were the linebackers. The linebacker closest to Kelce picked up the running back while the other linebacker was stuck on the other half of the field. Pederson’s offense had the numbers in their favor and exploited it to their advantage.
Another way Kansas City used multiple tight end sets is in 13 personnel or a jumbo set. On this play the Chiefs have the Chargers thinking they’re going to run. San Diego has eight defenders down near the line of scrimmage in an attempt to counter Kansas City’s jumbo package.
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This creates a favorable matchup for the Chiefs and leaves wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (#19) in one-on-one press man coverage against Jason Verrett (#22) to the outside. At the start of the snap, safety Eric Weddle blitzes around the edge. He arrives unblocked just as Smith finishes the play action, but is late as Smith is just able to get off the pass. Maclin, who runs a quick slant, wins inside leverage and makes the catch, picking up 13 yards on the play.
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The Chiefs used the trips formation in a combination of ways with Pederson as their offensive coordinator. On this play, the Chiefs employ 11 personnel in a trips formation with two receivers and a tight end at the top of the screen. The Packers have one safety playing deeper than the other with their corners playing press. At the snap the cornerback defending the slot receiver blitzes and the shallow safety rolls to cover the slot.
Kansas City, however, has a designed play to Kelce running a flat route. The linebacker, Nate Palmer (#51), isn’t quick enough to catch Kelce. The two receivers at the top of the screen run vertical and begin to get ready to block before the pass is thrown. Jason Avant (#81) throws a block and gets just enough of his defender for Kelce to get to the outside and run up the sideline before he’s tackled after a gain of 20 yards.
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The Chiefs are creative with their bunch formations. They use it to set up short passes, screen passes, and run plays. On this play, the Chiefs are at the goal line with 12 personnel. Kelce is the outside receiver at the top of the screen, but he’s motioned into a bunch formation prior to the snap. This creates confusion among Green Bay’s defensive backs.
As the ball is snapped the bunched receivers release into their routes. TE James O’Shaughnessy (#80) runs into a defensive back, setting a pick in the process, as Kelce runs his route into the end zone and gets the attention of Packers’ safety Micah Hyde (#33) – all while Maclin runs an out-and-in route with the outside corner not having enough time and room to stop Maclin for a touchdown.
Pederson’s game plans were highly efficient for the Chiefs passing game in 2015. His running style used in Kansas City was also effective and differs from Kelly’s, who relied heavily on zone schemes. Pederson’s rush attack a season ago, by contrast, employed both man and zone schemes. The Chiefs were without their star running back, Jamaal Charles, for the majority of the season, but were still able to get the job done with Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware.
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Kansas City has 11 personnel in a trips left formation with Smith in the gun and Charles alongside him in the backfield. The ball is snapped and the left tackle lets the defensive tackle by him, but adds a head slap to knock him down before moving into the next level where he throws another key block. The right guard pulls and blocks the tackle, preventing him from getting back into the play. The left guard makes a block on the safety as Charles runs through the path created by the trap block for a touchdown.
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The Chiefs used the split zone, which is a zone run, various times during this Week 10 matchup against the Denver Broncos. In particular, this play early on in the first quarter helped pave the way for a Kansas City touchdown.
Kansas City has 13 personnel on this play with two tight ends lined up to the right. Denver loads the box in what looks like a run look and down on 1st and 10. Smith motions Brian Parker (#82) to the inside part of the other side of the line. The ball is snapped and the line moves laterally to the left while Parker makes a block going against the flow of the offensive line. There’s a hole for West to run through and more room thanks to the added element of Kelce running a route to the flat drawing cornerback Bradley Roby (#29). West hits the hole, breaks an arm tackle, and powers through a few more defenders before being brought down inside the 5. This was perfect execution by the Chiefs offense.
What you can expect from Pederson in Philadelphia this season should be a lot of multiple tight end sets, bunch plays, and motions to create confusion and favorable match ups. For Pederson to duplicate the success he had in Kansas City he’s going to need the right personnel running his offense. They’ll need a strong tight end group that can do different things in the passing and run game, a strong offensive line, and a quarterback who can run the system. Sam Bradford may be able to get the job done under center for now, but if not, Chase Daniel, who was a backup for Pederson in Kansas City, should get a chance. Ultimately, the Eagles hope it is #2 overall pick Carson Wentz who will be handed the keys to Pederson’s offense, whether it’s this season or the next.
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