Oct 12, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly during the second half of a game against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles defeated the Giants 27-0. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Much like that famous pizza maker extraordinaire (and Peyton Manning BFF), Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly has a simple secret to the success of his offense. I like to categorize it as the “Three S’s to Offensive Effectiveness” for the Eagles. Remember the three S’s when it comes to Chip Kelly’s offense:
SPACING – Stretch the defense laterally as well as vertically
SPEED – Up tempo offense prevents defensive sets and substitutions
SHOTGUN – Mesh point runs make the defense account for the quarterback
The three S’s were in full display Sunday night during the Eagles 27-0 blowout victory over their division rival New York Giants.
How many NFL coaches actually know the exact width of a football field (it’s 53 1/3 yards, by the way)? Chip Kelly does. He knows every square inch of the field, and how to use it to maximum effectiveness. Many of the exotic formations the Eagles have used are specifically designed to spread out the defense laterally.
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The spread offense works in conjunction with the up tempo speed of the offense. While stretching the field, the defense has more area to cover. Quick snaps make it harder for a defense to set properly and disallows defensive substitutions. The two go hand in hand to produce a significant advantage for the offense.
Lastly, the shotgun formation is the base set of the Eagles offense, and enables the quarterback to execute those mesh point option plays that have been so very successful for the Eagles offense. Since the quarterback can fake the handoff and keep the ball, the defense has to honor the QB as an offensive player, and assign someone to account for him.
All of this leads to the desired impact of the three S’s:
Lightening The Box
When a defense has eight men in the box, it’s much more difficult for the offense to determine who to block. By stretching the field laterally, the Eagles force defenses to spread out to cover their offensive personnel. In doing so the defense can keep only 5 or 6 defenders inside the box. When the box is lighter it’s easier for the offense to identify who they need to block. In addition, angles of attack for the blockers are much better. In short, when there are only 5 or 6 defenders in the box, it’s much easier for the offensive linemen to be decisive with their movements, angles and assignments.
“If the defense has one high safety and six defenders in the box, the quarterback has to be involved in the play. He has to read one of the defenders, in effect blocking him. We can block five defenders and read the sixth one.” – Chip Kelly while at Oregon
The Real Secret
What I’ve just laid out for you shows how the Eagles runners should benefit tremendously from their offensive scheme. This does not at all diminish what a fantastic runner like LeSean McCoy has accomplished in this offense. Indeed, it only helps to explain it. And Darren Sproles would heartily agree, as well.
The real secret is, however, not what the Eagles offensive scheme does for the running back, but what it does for the offensive linemen. Without a doubt the Eagles offensive scheme provides Eagles blockers with a significant tactical advantage vis a vis the defenders. So when you see the Eagles linemen block at the point of attack, and then seamlessly peel off to their second level assignments, you’ll know why they are so successful.
At least one other NFL team has ordered up the Eagles “secret” formula in 2014, the Miami Dolphins, with the hiring of former Eagles assistant Bill Lazor as their offensive coordinator. Expect that trend to continue a wider distribution in 2015.
You just can’t order it up online.