Eagles

Looking at film of the Philly Special and its origins

Looking at film of the Philly Special and its origins

By now you've heard just about everything there is to hear about the "Philly Special," the one play that you'll probably never forget from the Eagles' 41-33 win in Super Bowl LII. 

You've heard how the Eagles came across it while watching Bears-Vikings film from the previous year. You've heard that the Bears actually called it "Clemson Special" from when the Tigers used to run it with Tajh Boyd. 

You've seen the video where Nick Foles comes to the sideline and suggests the play by saying "Philly Philly" and Doug Pederson still knew what he meant. Pederson, after a brief pause, responded, "Yeah, let's do it!" 

Yeah, let's just call the gutsiest call in Super Bowl history. Let's call a trick play on fourth down in the Super Bowl against Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Let's do it. 

Of course, it worked. The Eagles sold it beautifully. Everyone did their jobs on the play and the Eagles walked away with a touchdown and a 22-12 lead heading into halftime. 

Let's take a look: 

OK, so it's 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line with 38 seconds left in the second quarter of Super Bowl LII and the Eagles are really going to do this. This is just after Foles motions Corey Clement behind him. Clement is going to need to be there when the snap eventually comes his way. 

Trey Burton is lined up behind Torrey Smith. He's going to come across the back of the formation to get the pitch from Clement and then throw the ball to Foles in the end zone. The former quarterback is going to throw a touchdown in the Super Bowl. 

At the top of the screen, it's going to be Alshon Jeffery's job to just clear out some space. He's a complete decoy on the play. 

Then there's Smith, who is going to sneak across the line of scrimmage and get wide open in the end zone. He's Burton's second read on the play, but the Eagles never need to go to him. 

The Eagles won the Lombardi Trophy, but Clement deserves an Academy Award too. It's very subtle, but as Foles begins to walk up to the line to say something to Lane Johnson at right tackle, Clement tosses his hand out as if to say, "Nick, what are you doing?" 

Here's the point of the snap. Clement is now going to start running toward the bottom of the screen, while Burton comes up toward the top. Jeffery is going to drag his defender out of the play, Smith is going to sneak behind the coverage, and Foles is going to be wide open in the end zone. 

Foles (circled) does a great job of selling it. He doesn't do anything for a second. 


Once Burton gets the ball in his hands, it's over. The Patriots have completely forgotten about Foles, while Jeffery is simply taking his cornerback away from the play. By the time Burton throws this ball, Foles might actually be too wide open. He had some time to think about it, but he snags the catch. Meanwhile, Burton's second read, Smith, was open in the end zone too. 

Yeah, it was a beauty. And the Bears ran it to perfection a little over a year earlier in the same exact end zone of U.S. Bank Stadium. Really. 

That's, of course, how the Eagles saw the play. They were studying for their NFC Championship Game against the Vikings and saw the Bears' play. Wide receivers coach Mike Groh, who was with the Bears last year, helped the Eagles install the play for themselves. 

They liked it so much they actually thought about using it against the Vikings and had to question if they would get fooled by it twice in two seasons. But then that game ended up being a blowout, so the Philly Special was put back into Pederson's sleeve. 

Here's what the Eagles saw on tape when they watched the Bears run it: 

OK, so the stakes aren't as high for the Bears here. They're down 17-0 in the last game of the 2016 season and they're going to finish with just three wins. But a good play is a good play. There's 1:52 left in the second quarter and it's 3rd-and-goal from the 2-yard line. 

Our old friend Matt Barkley brings Jeremy Langford in motion all the way from the top sideline. Langford lines up behind Barkley and gets ready for the snap. 

Same thing. What is the quarterback doing? Oh, he's talking to the right tackle. Oh, here comes the football. 

In the Bears' play, the role of Clement is played by Langford. Burton is Cameron Meredith, who is about to come across the formation and get the pitch. Deonte Thompson is Smith; he's going to sneak across the line and be the second read. Daniel Brown is Ertz, blocking to give just a little extra time. 

And at the top of the screen, Alshon Jeffery is ... Alshon Jeffery. Yup, for both plays, Jeffery is just a decoy. His job is to take his cornerback completely out of the play. He runs a different route, but the job is the same. 

 

Too easy. The linebacker looks like he's on to something here, but he's not. Barkley is wide open for a touchdown. 

Here's the full look: 

And if you're wondering where the Bears got the play, well, they used to call it the Clemson Special. Not hard to figure out why. 

It's kind of crazy this play that has been passed through the ranks has become one of the biggest plays in Philadelphia sports history, but it did. This is a copycat sport and if the Eagles see something they like, they're going to see if it works for them. 

They really pulled it off. 

Greg Ward still learning wide receiver position after great college career at quarterback

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Greg Ward still learning wide receiver position after great college career at quarterback

Greg Ward threw more touchdown passes in college than Carson Wentz and had a higher career passer rating than Nick Foles. 

These days, his job is catching passes, not throwing them. 

It’s quite a transition from big-time NCAA Division 1 quarterback to NFL wide receiver, but at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, the former Houston Cougar knows where his future is.

Ward spent all of last year on the Eagles’ practice squad, learning the nuances of a new position and figuring out how to think like a receiver instead of a quarterback. 

He looked surprisingly polished at wide out in training camp, caught nine passes for 63 yards in the preseason and then spent the season focusing on getting better.

“I still haven’t 100 percent gotten the position,” Ward said after a recent rookie camp practice. “I always feel like I can get better, always feel like I can learn something new, feel like there’ll always be something to improve on. 

“Last year was a big year for me. Just learning a new position, learning football period, learning from Alshon (Jeffery), Torrey (Smith) and Nelson (Agholor), it was a very important year for me.

“Just gathering every bit of information I could watching those guys practice and watching them in games and then learning how to apply what you’ve learned to your game.”

Ward never did get a chance to play, but he said he felt himself getting better as the year went along.

“Everybody wants to play,” said Ward, who led Houston to a Peach Bowl win over No. 9 Florida State in Atlanta at the end of his junior year. 

“You’re a competitor, that’s why we all do this. But I was humbled and thankful just to be on a Super Bowl team. Just to be in the NFL period. Some guys aren’t able to play football at all. I’m just grateful to be on a football team. 

“But this is not the end of my story. I am going to get out there and I am going to play.”

Ward was with the Eagles during their postseason run and he was there in Minneapolis for the Super Bowl.

He used every moment, every day, as an opportunity to improve. Even if nobody could see it happening.

“The biggest thing I learned was just being patient, just being humble,” he said. “Our team last year, there was nobody that was selfish. Nobody who thought they were bigger than anybody else. I learned patience and the importance of doing extra. Getting extra work, studying more, watching more film. That’s what it takes to win a championship.”

The Eagles have quite a crowd at wide receiver, with Jeffery, Agholor and Mack Hollins back, Wallace and Markus Wheaton in the fold and guys like Bryce Treggs, Shelton Gibson and Rashard Davis all also in the mix.

But Ward doesn’t concern himself with the numbers.

“The next step for me is to separate myself,” he said. "As a competitor, especially coming from being undrafted, you have to separate yourself. You have to be different. 

“You have to catch whoever’s eye it is, head coach, position coach, catch everybody’s eyes. They have to see value in you. That’s where I am right now. Trying to separate myself.”

How long will it take?

“I’m leaving that up to God,” he said. “I know I’m putting in the hard work and I know one day it will pay off. I know that day will come.”

Jay Ajayi's publicist denies Eagles' RB trashed an L.A. mansion

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Jay Ajayi's publicist denies Eagles' RB trashed an L.A. mansion

Eagles running back Jay Ajayi is strongly denying accusations made in a lawsuit that he trashed a Los Angeles house after the Super Bowl (see story)

The lawsuit, as reported by TMZ earlier this week, accuses Ajayi of throwing three parties at the L.A. mansion he was renting even after the owner told him not to. Ajayi is being charged $25,000 by the owner. 

Shortly after the story broke on Monday, a representative for Ajayi claimed the lawsuit was bogus. 

Now, we have an even stronger detail from Ajayi’s camp. 

Ajayi’s publicist Melanie Wadden told the Miami Herald that Ajayi didn’t throw any parties and caused no damage to the property. 

Additionally, Wadden denied the home owner’s claim that Ajayi pushed him in a menacing manner after confronting him.

“Jay was not involved in any physical altercations,” she said. 

Ajayi’s publicist also told the Herald that Ajayi was a guest and not the renter and the owner wanted the group to pay cash instead of through Airbnb. 

"The entire group voluntarily left the property several days early — no security or police were ever involved or on-site," Wadden said. "They filed a complaint against the owner through Airbnb back in February that included screenshots of the owner asking for cash and trying to communicate outside of their platform [against Airbnb policy]."

Ajayi, who came to the Eagles in the middle of last season in a trade, has one year left on his current contract.