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Cowboys' Game Plan Week 13: The Eagles Offense

One of the reasons the Philadelphia Eagles have been successful these past two years is because of the schemes, the philosophy, and the culture that Chip Kelly has brought to them. In this article we will examine his offensive scheme.

Dez Bryant is Key
Dez Bryant is Key
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Chip Kelly has an understanding and purpose in everything he does. He is the epitome of the hatred of the phrase "do it because I say so." He believes that players today want to know "why" they are doing things and if you show them the why then you get buy-in.

His over all philosophy is like the details in his philosophy in that it is very simple and forward thinking.

"If (the defense) puts in little guys, we run and smash you. If the defense puts in big guys, we throw. It's simple."

And another one that is my favorite because I have been saying for years that max protection and heavy Jumbo is just the opposite of what you should do, (I call it "bunching" and have decried it for years on BTB and other places because it clogs up the running lanes for runs, and puts skill players right where the defense wants to go on passing plays and that is near the quarterback):

"We spread the defense so they will declare their defensive look for the offensive linemen, the more offensive personnel we put in the box, the more defenders the defense will put in there, and it becomes a cluttered mess."

"Playbook Confidential: Let's Talk About Chip Kelly" Bolts From The Blue

What is clear is that the Eagles want to run the ball first and foremost. The spread actually makes it easier to run the ball because there are less defenders per square yard where the linemen are.

Whether they run or pass the ball, they often line up in "mirror" sets and run the same routes on both sides. Many defenses can get trends from the formations or sets that the offense shows, while the Chip Kelly offensive concept in that area is to run multiple plays from the same formation so the defense will not be able to decode what the play is from the formation.

These are called "package plays" and another advantage that running multiple plays from the same set is that you will often get the same defensive sets from that formation and it makes the up-tempo offense easier to run because the keys of the defense are set as well. If the defense does change up it's look, then in many sets there can be up to four options based upon what the defense shows.

In this article at a site called Birds 24/7 we have a couple of good screenshots of the "mirror" concept:



Here we see that Foles, (Early game before he got hurt), has the option to hand the ball to the running back, or throw a screen to either side.

Let's look at one of Kellys' in game play chart from earlier this year to see the "mirror" concept  courtesy of a post by Kyle Scott in the Crossing Broad blog.


The first play on this chart is "LOAD 13 BREES, ROCK 12 BLOW" A good explanation by a fan is given in the comments section of the post this is taken from:

"All teams will you [use] different terminology but the keys are the "L" and "R" words. That designates the formation. So "Load/Rock" represent a particular position/player/ or groups of players. If the formation is "Load" whoever "Load" is lines up on the left side. If the call is "Rock" that person player lines up on the right. "Lou/Roy" represent another player/groups of players and operates under the same left/right principle.

The gaps are numbered even on the right side (it can start at 0 so 0,2,4,6) and odd on the left (1,3,5,7). Notice how the first play has 13 on the left and 12 on the right. Load 13 and Rock 12 are the same play (one is a right formation and running right, one is a left formation running left). The plays both have "B" words so I assume that’s a RB blast.

"Pickle" is run 6/7 so that’s a play to the outside. "P" might stand for pitch so "6 pickle" is a pitch to the right. The play also might be called pickle because the path of the run is long and loopy (like a pickle).

"Tony" is probably the tight end, so "Tony Hash" probably means that the TE probably lines up on the short side of the field (where the Hash is). "Z" is the receiver who lines up opposite the tight end. In 142, one of the numbers represents the drop of the QB (maybe 1 is a 3 step drop 2 is a 5 step drop), the second # possible indicates the lines blocking, and the final # represents the route Z will run. Notice it’s 142 or 143. If it’s on the left side it’s a 2 route (which might be a post since he’s one the same side as the tight end and would have move field space to work with) and 3 is probably a corner (it’s the same route as a post but in the opposite direction)."

And finally instead of having a wrist band with complex plays, Kelly will have the play signaled in with cards that are easy for all to see. Keep in mind that the uptempo can be varied to not let the defense get into a rhythm, and once the play is called the quarterback will have plenty of time for the pre-snap read.


"Kelly told ESPN that the placards communicate formation, play and snap count, and that each image means something."

Some interesting stats:

Eagles Cowboys
Points Per Game 3rd 7th
3rd Down Percentage 13th 2nd
Time of Possession 30th 4th

Well, there you have it, if you look at some stats above about this offense you can see that there is at least one disadvantage to the uptempo offense and that has to do with your defense being on the field a lot longer than your offense much of the time and most games unless your defense gets a lot of three-and-outs.

We seem to have the personnel to do a good job against this offense, and hopefully we can take advantage of their defense as will be shown in the second article on this series about the "Game Plan" for the current opponent.

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