Eagles Starters Offer Sneak Preview of New ‘Explosive’ Offense

Carson Wentz, Zach Ertz

Getty Eagles QB Carson Wentz and TE Zach Ertz combine to form a lethal scoring duo in Philadelphia.

The Eagles methodical approach to scoring isn’t the cup of tea some starters want to drink in 2020. No, let’s stir it up and splash it around the field.

Philadelphia made a habit out of long, plodding offensive drives last season and it wasn’t necessarily fun. Some of it was by design but more came out of necessity following the season-ending injury to DeSean Jackson, their lone speed threat. After investing their entire offseason to getting faster, several starters are champing at the bit. “Explosive” has been the buzz word at training camp.

“As an offense in general, there were times I would joke on the sideline — we would come off the field after a 20-play drive and we were just grinding salt and there’s not a lot of margin for error when you’re going those 20-platy drives,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “If you have a holding penalty, if you have a false start on third down, it’s really tough to win football games when you have to rely on those 17-play drives to score touchdowns.”

Case in point was an exhausting 14-play, 83-yard touchdown drive in Buffalo that chewed up 8 minutes and 17 seconds. Or the 16-play, 69-yard drive in Chicago that resulted in only a field goal. Or the 16-play, 95-yard touchdown drive versus New England that lasted 9 minutes and 33 seconds. Tons of examples, obviously.

The Eagles ranked 16th in the NFL for offensive-drive efficiency in 2019 and averaged 32.42 yards and 2.02 points on 181 offensive drives, according to Football Outsiders. How many plays per drive? 6.20. Not terrible but room for improvement.

“For me, I would also like to see us have more explosive plays,” quarterback Carson Wentz said. “We had a lot of long drives and obviously getting DeSean back, and some of these younger guys can lend itself to some more explosive plays. Maybe we always don’t have to put together 15-play drives, if that’s what we got to do, that’s what we got to do. But I’d love to see more explosive plays.”

Of course, the flip side of that is that exhaustive drives keep the defense fresher and on the sideline longer.

“Obviously, it keeps the defense fresh so there is a time and place for that,” Ertz said, “but at the same time, you don’t want to continually rely on it.”

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New Offensive Coaching Staff Looks to Fix Problems

When the Eagles assembled their “collaborative” coaching staff this offseason, it was met with skepticism around the league. Too many cooks in the kitchen. But the players themselves bought in from day one and are already reaping the rewards.

With no traditional offensive coordinator, the team has entrusted a who’s who of experienced men to guide them, including Rich Scangarello (senior offensive assistant), Press Taylor (passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach), Jeff Stoutland (run game coordinator), Marty Mornhinweg (senior offensive consultant), and Andrew Breiner (pass game analyst).

“Everyone’s got a say, everyone’s got a time to speak,” Ertz said. “I think that’s the best part about Doug is that he’s not someone who’s got to be in front of the room all the time. Doug’s always had this kind of decentralized command — that’s from a book I’m reading and kind of the word I’ll stick to — but Stout’s always going to be in charge of the run game. Press in the pass game. Rich … we have so many great offensive minds on this staff. So much experience and so much proven success in this league and I’m excited about it.”

Wentz is excited, too. The Eagles quarterback hyped up the arrival of speedy new receivers Jalen Reagor, John Hightower, Quez Watkins, along with the return of Jackson. He thinks they can add an explosive “new element” to the offense, with the new coaching staff using that speed threat to open up the play-action game. Wentz mentioned Scangarello by name.

“Coach Rich coming in and adding a new element, just with his ability to marry up the run game with the play action, and the naked [bootleg] game and all those things,” Wentz said. “I think some things will look a little different, but I’m really excited about it and I think it’ll really complement what we do well as an offense and who we identity-wise are. I think the coaches really have a good grasp of who we are and know how to get the most out of me and all the guys.”

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