ATLANTA — For months, we waited eagerly to see Nick Sirianni’s offense in the season opener. It didn’t disappoint.
The Eagles cruised to a 32-6 win over the Falcons on Sunday, putting up 434 total yards behind the strength of a spectacular performance by starting quarterback Jalen Hurts.
But Sirianni says you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
"That was just Game 1,” Sirianni said. “We got a lot more left, a lot more.”
Perhaps that’s just Sirianni clinging to what he perceives as the great advantage of the unknown. Or maybe he’s telling the truth. Maybe the multiple-looking offense he showed at Mercedes Benz Stadium against the Falcons is just the beginning.
Because now that he’s put that — all of that — on tape, he knows defenses will work from it. He can use that to his advantage and likely will.
After watching the Eagles’ stale offense for the entire miserable 2020 season, Sunday’s offensive showing was like a breath of fresh air. No more trying to cram square pegs into round holes. Sirianni’s offense is all about being whatever it needs to be.
It was actually defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon who said during his introductory press conference that he had no defensive scheme, but the sentiment carries over to the offensive side of the ball. That showed in the opener.
The Eagles varied their formations, their personnel groupings, their play types.
There were RPOs, read-options, a multitude of screens, 11 personnel, 12 personnel, 13 personnel, 21 personnel. Tight ends were lined up tight and out wide. Same with running backs. There were some empty formations. It was, rather ambitiously, a bit of everything.
So what is Nick Sirianni’s offense?
Damned if I know. And that’s the point.
The most positive sign from Sirianni’s debut was the performance of Hurts, who had the best showing of his young career. He competed over 77 percent of his passes for 264 yards and ran for another 62.
Sirianni championed the idea of building an offense around his quarterback like the Colts did the last three years with Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett and Philip Rivers.
That’s exactly what it appears he’s done with this RPO-heavy offense for Hurts.
“There are options,” Sirianni said. “I like to give our quarterbacks options on plays and give Jalen options on plays, and you just react off the defense, so sometimes on run plays like that, and then sometimes on pass plays it's like that. So you built-in everywhere around the field and just trying to teach a quarterback where to go with the ball versus different looks, and Jalen did a great job of executing and start the game off with that.”
Sirianni previously said he didn’t have much experience with RPOs before his time with Frank Reich in Indianapolis. But during those three years, he gained a lot of knowledge about those plays and some of it — ironically enough — came from the Eagles’ Super Bowl season with Reich and Nick Foles in 2017.
The Eagles obviously wanted Hurts to work on the passing portion of his game this offseason because his running ability will always be there. His legs are still going to be a big part of the Eagles’ offense. It’s just about striking that balance.
So what was the Eagles’ offensive plan on Sunday?
“To try to run the ball down their throat,” Miles Sanders said. "We have like an an RPO (scheme), so there’s a lot of different reads that goes into each run play, but every play is a run (to begin), to be honest. Just trying to be aggressive and attack the defense in as many different ways as possible.”
Sirianni’s plan on Sunday worked. But based on what we know about him, that plan won’t be exactly the same in six days when the Eagles host the 49ers.
Let’s see what he has left in his back of tricks.
Subscribe to the Eagle Eye podcast: