Eagles Film Study

2017 film shows Mike Wallace is still a burner

2017 film shows Mike Wallace is still a burner

Remember the offseason before the 2016 season?

Howie Roseman was making major moves, among them moving up to pick Carson Wentz, but he was also trying to find some cheap speed at the receiver position. The Eagles drafted Nelson Agholor the year before, but Agholor had a disappointing rookie season and the Eagles simply needed to get faster at the position. They really missed DeSean Jackson after Chip Kelly released him. 

So Roseman went out that offseason and signed T.J. Graham and Chris Givens. Two cheap and fast veterans. But neither had anything to give. Neither made the team. Then Roseman traded for Dorial Green-Beckham and claimed Bryce Treggs. Both spent the 2016 season on the roster but never really gave the Eagles that deep threat. It appeared the Eagles would have to pay a little more for their speed. 

Last offseason, Roseman did that, when he signed Torrey Smith to a little heftier contract (the Eagles also signed Alshon Jeffery, who offered more than speed). Smith was just alright and certainly wasn’t worth a $5 million cap hit in 2018, so he’s gone. The good news for the Eagles is that Agholor has grown into an important player who offers speed from the slot, but they still wanted some more outside, which explains the signing of Mike Wallace. Wallace is 31 but might still have something left in the tank. 

Since he entered the NFL, Wallace has 26 catches of 50-plus yards, second during that span to the 36 put up by Jackson, whose absence sent the Eagles looking for speed this whole time (see 10 random Wallace stats).

And if you’re worried that Wallace will be 32 by the start of the season, it’s a valid fear. But in 2017 with the Ravens, he still had the burners working. Wallace had three catches of 50-plus yards; the Eagles as a team had seven. 

Here’s a look at Wallace’s speed with Baltimore last year. We’ll look at all three 50-yard catches: 

There really isn’t much to this. This is the first play of the game from the Ravens-Raiders game in Oakland on Oct. 8. This is the first play from scrimmage; Doug Pederson isn’t the only coach who likes to take his shots. 

Just after the snap, Wallace uses a little stutter step. All he needs is for the corner to hesitate for a split second or get off balance and then he has him where he wants him. Now it’s off to the races. 

After 12 yards, Wallace has more than a step on the DB and Joe Flacco is letting it rip. The safety notices this, but he’s going to be too late getting over. This one goes for a gain of 52 yards down the sideline. 

-- -- --  

This next play actually happens later in the Raiders game. Wallace is circled. He’s not going to do anything fancy on this; just gonna turn on the burners. 

At this point, the Raiders’ DB picks up Wallace after he bursts off the line. But the corner gets turned sideways and Wallace goes right past him. The defender thought he had help, but the safety gets caught looking upfield, ready to drive on a short play. Not much help. 

By the time the safety realizes he needs to help, he's caught flat-footed and looking upfield. Wallace burns both defensive backs on this play for a 54-yarder. 

If Flacco hits Wallace in stride, this is an easy touchdown. But the ball is a tad underthrown and Wallace has to wait for it. 

This next play came in early December against the Lions. It’s a little different from the other two because Wallace is lined up in the slot. The Eagles probably won’t ask him to go in the slot a ton because that’s Nelson Agholor’s spot, but Pederson isn’t averse to moving his receivers around. So if Wallace ever finds himself in the slot, we know what he can do. 

 

The Ravens use a play action, which freezes the linebacker nearest Wallace. The safety doesn't seem to bite, but it doesn’t matter. Wallace simply splits the center of the field, which leaves the deep safety as the only man to beat. He doesn’t have much trouble. 

This play doesn’t finish in the end zone, but it is a 66-yard gain that gets the Ravens down to the 1-yard line. They punch it in on the next play. 

Wallace might have been 31 last year, but he still had his speed. He averaged 14.4 yards per catch and still was a threat to catch the deep ball. This signing works if he can still do that in 2018. 

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. 

Eagles' underrated blocking machine vs. Falcons

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Eagles' underrated blocking machine vs. Falcons

Toward the end of the regular season, the Eagles' offensive line just didn't seem to be hitting its stride. 

That all changed on Saturday against the Falcons. 

The Eagles' O-line dominated in the trenches and helped guide the Birds to a 15-10 win to advance to the NFC Championship Game. What was the line missing down the stretch? Stefen Wisniewski. 

The starting left guard missed a couple games with an ankle sprain but returned for the regular-season finale. Then, he just happened to have his best game as an Eagle in the divisional round game. It also happened to be the very first playoff game of his career. 

The 27-year-old Wisniewski had played in 107 regular-season games without getting to the postseason — more than any other player on the active roster. When he got his first shot, he certainly made it count. 

Because Wisniewski didn't just do his job against the Falcons. He was dominant and made things happen all afternoon. 

Here's a closer look at some of his impressive plays against Atlanta: 

This first play came on the Eagles' second drive of the game. It's 2nd-and-3 and Jay Ajayi is about to break off an 11-yard gain right behind the hole Wiz opens up. Wisniewski is about to get to the second level after the snap and find linebacker Deion Jones, who is a dynamic player but is also just 222 pounds. 

At the mesh point, Trey Burton has come across to take care of the defensive lineman while Wiz is getting out in front on Jones. He doesn't just block him, he's about to push him back. 

Ajayi finishes the run strong, picking up 11 yards. He rode on the back of Wisniewski the whole way. 

Here's a different angle on the block to get an idea of how far Wisniewski drove Jones back. 

 

•••

These next three plays happened on consecutive downs. They were the last two plays of the first quarter and the first play of the second. Wiz got in a zone. 

On this one, Wiz is about to take on big Ahtyba Rubin, who weighs 310 pounds. 


On this zone read play, Ajayi sweeps left, so the entire defensive line shifts that way. Rubin goes with the play, but you can see where Wisniewski opens the hole. He makes it pretty easy on Ajayi. 

•••

The very next play is a screen, which has been a big part of the Eagles' offense when it gets clicking. 

"The screen game has been something we've worked on the last couple of weeks," head coach Doug Pederson said, "and it had to get better as the season wore on for us." 

On this play, Nelson Agholor is at the bottom of the screen. He's about to come in motion to create some space at the bottom of the screen. That's where Wisniewski is going to get out in front to clear a path for Ajayi. 

Ajayi is working through the line and is about to settle in his spot to catch the pass from Nick Foles. Meanwhile, Wisniewski gets to the second level to find a hat to block. 

Then, Wiz just bullies Jones again. He really used that size and strength edge to his advantage and didn't let the quicker Jones get around him. 

This was an important play because it showed just how big of a key the screen game could be. A little later, you'll get to see Wiz's most impressive play. It came on a screen later in the game. 

This is the first play of the second quarter. After Ajayi picked up nearly 50 yards in the first quarter, he's on the sideline getting a breather so LeGarrette Blount is on the field. He's gonna run right behind Wiz. 

Just after the snap, Wiz lends some help to Jason Kelce, who is blocking big 346-pound tackle Dontari Poe. He then turns his attention to Jones, who has become his whipping boy at this point in the game. 

At this point, Wisniewski has picked up his second block on the play and you can see where Blount is going to find the room to sneak ahead for an 8-yard gain. 

••• 

This next play comes about a minute later in the second quarter. The Eagles were running all over the Falcons but Foles was having trouble getting into a rhythm. Pederson is going to find a way to get the ball into one of his playmaker's hands anyway. Agholor will take the ball on an end-around and Wisniewski is going to make it happen.

Lane Johnson swings around to get out in front of Agholor to provide a lead block, but it's Wisniewski who opens the hole. 

The Eagles gained 21 yards on this play to get them down to the 3-yard line. This led to their only touchdown of the game. 

We went in chronological order, which allowed us to save the best for last. Wiz was incredible on this 32-yard screen pass in the fourth quarter. He actually blocks three guys on one play and forces one away from a tackle. 

Pederson caught the Falcons off guard by running a screen pass to the same side on two consecutive plays. He knew they wouldn't be expecting it. But it was still gutsy to run it on a key 3rd-and-7. 

Just after the snap, Wisniewski gets enough of a block on Adrian Clayborn to give Foles plenty of time to deliver the ball. It's Wiz's job to let Clayborn through, but if he doesn't get a piece of him, the talented pass-rusher might have been able to blow up the play before it ever got a chance to develop. 


After getting the block at the line of scrimmage, Wiz gets out in front and takes care of the two defenders that get in his way. It's hard to see it with the photos, so take a look at his incredible play here: 

Pretty impressive, huh? This 32-yard screen pass got the Eagles across midfield, and they eventually got close enough for Jake Elliott to kick a 21-yard field goal to put them up 15-10. It was a huge score because then the Falcons needed a touchdown instead of a field goal. 

"I'll tell you, it was just set up perfectly for us and well-executed to have Wiz downfield and block one," Pederson said, "but take out two, obviously helps the play."

It took Wisniewski a while to prove himself this season. Even though he signed an extension this offseason, the Eagles seemed hesitant to give him the starting left guard spot. Isaac Seumalo was the starter going into the season and Chance Warmack was given the first shot to replace him when he struggled. 

Eventually, though, Wisniewski got the nod and has been playing at a really high level all season. The Eagles have three Pro Bowl or All-Pro linemen, but without Wisniewski, this line just didn't seem to work. With him, they were dominant on Saturday.