HomeDa Birds NewsEagles Employing Tighter Target Distribution in Passing Game: Here's How

Eagles Employing Tighter Target Distribution in Passing Game: Here’s How

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The Philadelphia Eagles (10-3) are one of the best teams in the NFL according to their record. But after dropping two in a row, many are wondering if it’s real or not. 

Only four players got targets in the passing game and only three got looks from Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts in the team’s 33-13 Week 14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys (10-3).

Of those four, Philadelphia receiver Olamide Zaccheaus had just one off a fake punt conversion, leaving 13 to receiver A.J. Brown, 10 to receiver DeVonta Smith, and four to tight end Dallas Goedert.

It’s something coach Nick Sirianni said was by design. 

“Our passing game runs through three guys,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we don’t want to get the ball to some other guys here and there, but the main passing game goes through those guys…We wanted to get A.J. going. We wanted to get DeVonta and Dallas the ball. Every plan is thought of through that…That was by design to throw those guys the football, and that’s why the football went there.”

Some have been a little – or a lot – confused by this. Isolating your own offense to just three targets in the passing game seems counter-productive, and in fact only produced 196 passing yards on the 27 targets that trio received.

The previous week, seven Eagles received targets, and while the team still lost, the offense produced better results against a better San Francisco 49ers (10-3) defense.

It makes sense then that offensive coordinator Brian Johnson was asked about the strategy as well.

“I think just based on the type of defensive structure that we got, with how they’re playing, it’s going to create a lot of one-on-ones on the perimeter,” Johnson said. “We feel really, really good about those matchups on the perimeter. That’s just how it kind of goes. So, some weeks it’ll be like that. Some weeks it won’t.

“I think for us, in particular just in that particular game in terms of how we were getting played defensively, there were a lot of opportunities for one-on-one matchups with two great options.”

We don’t know if many people would call less than 200 yards passing in a key divisional matchup game from ‘two great options’ as Johnson said, but we certainly can’t say Philadelphia didn’t think outside the box with that strategy.

Or perhaps, it thought too far in the box. What we do know is there aren’t many games where teams look to get the ball to one of just three different players, instead opting to use the whole field and as many playmakers as they can scheme open. 

It was a bold strategy. One that clearly leans on the Eagles’ stars. But Philly will need to keep its options open on Monday night against the Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field.

DeVonta and A.J.

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

At the same time, less predictable targeting can play into the Eagles’ favor. It can force opponents to focus on stopping just these three players, allowing for other players to emerge unexpectedly.

However, the Eagles will need to be cautious with this approach. In the coming games, especially in the playoffs, they will need to show diversity in their passing game. Relying too heavily on a few players makes it easier for defensive coordinators to strategize against them.

The Philadelphia Eagles are undoubtedly a strong team, but establishing a more balanced passing attack will be essential for their continued success. Sirianni and his coaching staff must find ways to involve more players in the passing game to keep opposing defenses on their toes. This will require strategic play-calling, extensive route-running, and adaptability from all players on the offensive unit.

Moving forward, the Eagles will need to demonstrate their ability to pivot and make necessary adjustments to their game plan. They have the talent and potential to execute a multifaceted, dynamic offense. By capitalizing on the skills of their entire roster, they can keep adversaries off-guard and maintain a competitive edge.

In the final stretch of the season and into the postseason, the Eagles will need to showcase their versatility and depth to progress. Balance and flexibility in their passing game will be crucial to achieving their ultimate goal of securing a championship title, and it all starts with expanding their offensive options.

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