Is Jalen Hurts an RPO Mirage?

Philadelphia Eagles RB Miles Sanders and QB Jalen Hurts
Philadelphia Eagles RB Miles Sanders and QB Jalen Hurts
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Week 10 - Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles offense are enjoying success thanks to the run-pass option (RPO).

The Eagles use the tactic more than any other team in the NFL. They get more production from it, both in their passing and running games, than any other team. They integrate the RPO with the read-option to strain opposing defenses in innovative ways. Opponents have not come close to figuring out how to stop them. Yet.

You probably have strong feelings about the long-range viability of the RPO as an NFL strategy. Walkthrough does too. The Eagles may be over-relying on a tactic that's often used as a set of training wheels for an inexperienced or limited quarterback.

The results so far, however, suggest that the Eagles have reinvigorated the strategy that enjoyed a brief vogue after it helped them win Super Bowl LII.

A Very Brief History of the Eagles and the RPO

The run-pass option is precisely what it claims to be on the label. The quarterback and running back mesh for a handoff. The quarterback makes a relatively simple post-snap read: typically the number of defenders in the box and/or the behavior of a slot defender in coverage. If the box is light, the quarterback hands off. If it's stacked, or if the slot defender is blitzing, crashing the run, or 15 yards off the line of scrimmage, the quarterback keeps the ball and delivers a quick slant or flat pass.

There's more to it than that, but that's the gist of it. Here's Steven Ruiz writing for USA Today in September of 2018, the height of the RPO fad, with an easy-to-understand breakdown.

The modern iteration of the RPO was introduced to the NFL in 2013 by Chip Kelly's Eagles; Kelly and other coaches cribbed it from college innovator Rich Rodriguez at the turn of the 21st century. Nick Foles enjoyed success with the RPO under Kelly and asked Doug Pederson and Frank Reich to re-introduce and re-emphasize it when he was thrust into the Eagles lineup in 2017. The Eagles won the Super Bowl, of course, and zillions of words were written about the exciting new concept.

The RPO is not designed to generate explosive plays. Defenses can minimize its impact just by executing properly: runs are runs, and short play-action passes will net minimal gains if defenders mind their assignments and tackle well. Offensive coaches were well aware of the RPO's limitations; it was always more of a media meme than a strategy destined to take the NFL by storm. Most of the teams that adopted it used it five or six times per game, usually on early downs to stay ahead of the sticks.

Over the last few years, over-reliance on the RPO has begun to look like a possible symptom of an unhealthy offense. The Dolphins and Steelers led the NFL in RPO passes last season, and both teams were clearly trying to hide the limitations of their quarterbacks. The Chiefs and Packers also used the tactic frequently, however, so there's clearly more to the RPO than just scheming up easy reads and short throws for shaky or creaky quarterbacks.

Now we just need to figure out whether the 2022 Eagles are more like the 2021 Dolphins or the 2021 Chiefs.

The Eagles and the RPO: Passing

Here are the Eagles RPO passing numbers and rankings, per Sports Info Solutions:

  • Dropbacks: 44, 1st
  • Attempts: 42, T-1st
  • Completions: 35, 1st
  • Yards: 293, 1st
  • Touchdowns: 3, 2nd
  • Interceptions: 0
  • Sacks: 2
  • Comp%: 83.3%
  • Y/A: 7.0
  • Yards Per Game: 37.1, 1st

The Packers are tied with the Eagles with 42 attempts, second with 32 completions, and third with 220 yards. The Dolphins have gained 229 yards and scored an NFL-high four touchdowns on 19-of-26 RPO passing.

The Eagles have the second-highest completion rate among teams that have attempted 20-plus RPO passes; the Ravens are precisely 17-of-20 on RPOs. The Dolphins, Ravens, and Bills all average more yards per attempt than the Eagles on RPOs, but they use them less frequently.

The Dolphins may represent the RPO ideal: they use it sparingly but effectively as a way to get the ball to their playmakers quickly. The Packers represent the RPO parody: tons of grimy little short passes that make Aaron Rodgers' completion rate look spiffy but produce just 5.2 yards per attempt.

The Eagles? They're somewhere in between, but leaning toward the Dolphins.

A quick rundown on the Eagles RPO receivers before we continue: Dallas Goedert: 8-of-8 for 91 yards and five first downs. AJ Brown: 6-of-11 for 56 yards, three first downs and two drops. All of the other Eagles RPO targets have stat lines in the four-catch, 26-yard range.

Watch an Eagles game and you will invariably see Goedert catch a quick play-action pass in the slot and rumble for meaningful yardage. Here's a fine example of a Goedert RPO which was imported all the way from Brazil, where they love the RPO:

The Eagles and the RPO: Rushing

If the Eagles' RPO success consisted exclusively of flat passes to Dallas Goedert, the message would be: small sample size, easy adjustment for defense, low sustainability. But the "R" in RPO stands for "run," and the Eagles are running exceptionally well using the tactic.

A quick note: there is some obvious guesswork involved with classifying RPOs based on film study, especially when dealing with handoffs. Some of the plays listed as RPO runs in the Sports Info Solutions Datahub could just be outside zone runs where Jalen Hurts pretends to stare down a receiver after the handoff! But there are other RPO tells, such as receivers running short routes and the offensive line's reluctance to work downfield. And like it or not, the S.S. Subjectivity in Analytics set sail many years ago.

So here are the Eagles' RPO rushing stats and rankings:

  • Attempts: 74, 3rd
  • Yards: 391, 1st
  • YPA: 5.3
  • Touchdowns: 7, 1st
  • Yards After Contact/Attempt: 2.1, 20th

The Chiefs and Packers have attempted more RPO rushes than the Eagles, averaging 4.1 and 4.8 yards per carry. (The Packers, remember, have played one more game.)

The Ravens average a whopping 8.3 yards per carry on RPO runs, the Bills 5.9 yards per carry on 48, and the Cardinals 5.6 yards per carry on 52. The Eagles are therefore fourth in yards per attempt among teams that use the tactic regularly. The Ravens' RPO success comes mostly from a few long Kenyan Drake runs; we must remain mindful of sample sizes when handling this data.

The Eagles' low YAC/attempt rate above illustrates that Miles Sanders and the others aren't breaking tons of tackles to generate yardage. They're often running through huge gaps. Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, and company have a lot to do with that. But so does a scheme that makes sure they don't face many stacked boxes.

Here are the Eagles' rushing numbers against boxes of six defenders or less, RPO or non-RPO:

  • Attempts: 116, T-2nd
  • Yards: 634, 3rd
  • YPA: 5.5, 14th
  • Touchdowns: 5, T-1st

The Cardinals lead the NFL with 136 rushes against light boxes. The Cardinals and Bears have rushed for more yards than the Eagles against light boxes. All three teams benefit from some scrambles in the data: 323 yards (!) for the Bears, 182 for the Cardinals, 106 yards for the Eagles. The Eagles are in roughly the same range as the Chiefs, Bills, and Seahawks when it comes to scramble yardage against light boxes. The Eagles' YPA rate is middle-of-the-pack, but averaging 5.5 yards per carry on a frequently used running play is a good thing.

Setting the Bears aside as a Justin Fields-caused anomaly, the Cardinals are probably the best team in the NFL at manipulating boxes for the running game, but a) they cannot do anything else; and b) their offensive line is substandard. The Eagles are second-best in that category.

It's worth noting that the Eagles have led in the fourth quarter all season and should therefore face many heavy boxes. Opponents want to stop their running game. So why all the light boxes? You guessed it, the RPO. The Eagles have executed RPO rushes 46 times for 252 yards against light boxes. They are using the tactic precisely the way it is supposed to be used: not as a cheesy completion-rate booster but a way of making sure any choice the defense makes is wrong.

The Eagles and the Read-Option

The read-option and run-pass option are two different play concepts, but they share some DNA. Both give the quarterback a quick post-snap read. Both begin with a handoff mesh in the backfield. In the RPO, the quarterback can hand off or throw. In the read-option, he can hand off or run. It's all slightly more complicated than that, but the two concepts are actually meant to work in harmony. They rarely do at the NFL level, however, for complicated reasons. (They arrived in the NFL at different times; the RPO became associated with Nick Foles types; Aaron Rodgers ain't running any read-options; etc.)

The Eagles are an effective read-option team as well as a prolific RPO team. Here are their read-option stats and rankings:

  • Attempts: 78, 2nd
  • Yards: 315, 2nd
  • Touchdowns: 4, T-2nd
  • First Downs: 21, 2nd
  • Yards Per Attempt: 4.0

The NFL leader in all read-option categories is, of course, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. KIDDING. It's the Ravens, naturally. No other team but the Ravens and Eagles rushed more than 50 times using the read-option; the Bears are third with 47 carries.

The Eagles' 4.0 yards per read-option rush isn't all that impressive, but there are some distortions at play. The Eagles have run the read-option in the red zone a league-high 20 times for 60 yards. They have used it with less than 2 yards to go for a first down 15 times for 23 yards. The Eagles use read-options as part of their short-yardage package more often than most teams, and that naturally nerfs their YPA a bit. There's also a surprise in the data coming in two paragraphs.

Miles Sanders leads the NFL with 45 read-option rushes; Lamar Jackson is second with 41. Sanders is second to Jackson with 210 yards, 4.7 yards per carry; Jackson has rushed for 432 read-option yards, which is crazytown.

Hurts has just 17 carries for 36 yards on read-option runs! The Hurts keeper is the least effective play in the Eagles' RPO/read-option arsenal. Eight tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage are the primary reason why.

There is one final play to consider: the "read-option pass." That's where the quarterback fakes a handoff, starts to run, then floats a short pass. It's like a read-option/RPO surf-'n'-turf. Here's one:

Here's another:

The Eagles have attempted the "read-option pass" nine times, according to Sports Info Solutions. The Bears have used such plays four times, the Dolphins and Ravens three times. Hurts is 8-of-8 for 75 yards and three touchdowns on such plays, with one sack. A.J. Brown is 3-for-3 for 28 yards on such plays, Zach Pascal 3-of-3 for 38 yards, DeVonta Smith and Goedert have the plays you see above.

So the Eagles have a play they can use about once per game that works 89% of the time and averages nearly 10 yards per pop that few other teams even dare to attempt. And that play flows naturally from an offense built around lots of play-action meshes by a dual-threat quarterback.

The Eagles and the RPO: Conclusions

Let's try to process all the data above with an aggressively critical eye.

The Eagles are running NCAA bullsh*t that defenses will soon figure out.

Maybe. How long have you been saying that about the Ravens offense? Which part will be "figured out"? Why?

This junk won't work against great defenses.

Little works against great defenses. That's what makes them great. What the Eagles are doing makes as much sense as sending Jimmy Garoppolo out for more dink-and-dunkage or watching Kirk Cousins throw in front of the sticks on third-and-long for the 34th consecutive year.

The RPO won't work when the Eagles are playing from behind.

This is almost certainly true. All of the Eagles' run-pass and read-option packages are designed for situations when defenses must respect the run threat. When down by two scores, the Eagles might look like the Packers looked against the Bills on Sunday night two weeks ago: running the ball for 6 yards per clip while the clock ticks away.

Not many teams are built to come back from a two-score deficit late in the game. The Eagles don't have Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, pre-2022 Rodgers/Brady/Wilson or Tyreek Hill/Jaylen Waddle. That's not so much a weakness as the lack of a relatively rare strength.

The Eagles use the RPO to hide Hurts' limitations.

That's also true to some degree. Hurts has trouble seeing the middle of the field and throws some floaters beyond 25 yards, much like his college chums.

The Eagles rank 29th in the NFL in non-RPO pass attempts. Take away the RPO, and they are down in Falcons/Titans passing territory.

But guess what? The Eagles lead the NFL with 8.9 yards per pass attempt on non-RPOs! The Dolphins rank second in the NFL with 8.5 yards per attempt on non-RPOs, the Chiefs and Bills are tied for third. Whatever Nick Sirianni and Shane Steichen are doing to protect Hurts is clearly working.

Every competently coached offense is designed to maximize strengths and hide weaknesses. If Hurts were putting up Aaron Rodgers' RPO numbers, it would be a sign that the Eagles are desperately trying to manufacture completions. He's not, and everything from Hurts' non-RPO stats to the Eagles' rushing rates against stacked boxes suggests that the Eagles aren't using the RPO as a set of training wheels for their quarterback (or, in the Packers' case, to hide an awful receiving corps).

Weak defenses! Easy schedule!

Yes and yes. Now do the same thing for every quarterback in the league but poor Kenny Pickett. At some point, "adjusting" just becomes "naysaying."

What the Eagles are doing is not sustainable long-term.

Maybe. But there are some indicators that it may be:

  • The RPO, read-option and other tactics are so smoothly integrated that it's hard to imagine some X-and-O solution that the average NFL defense could consistently execute.
  • Hurts' lack of read-option rushing success may actually be a positive sign. The Eagles aren't the Bears, living and dying by their quarterback's mobility, or even the Ravens counting upon Jackson for chunk plays. If defenses really do load up to stop the RPO, Hurts likely has some 20-yard keepers up his sleeve.
  • The Dolphins have now demonstrated that a team can grow from using the RPO in a suboptimal way to incorporating it into the NFL's most explosive offense. The Eagles won't be grabbing Tyreek Hill anytime soon, but Hurts has been consistently developing as a traditional passer for years and could keep doing so given this supporting cast.

"Long-term" is a slippery concept anyway, especially for an 8-0 team. Will the Eagles lose a game eventually? Yep! Will they lose in the playoffs? Our numbers say there's a better than 50% chance that they do. Could they lose to one of the AFC contenders if they do reach the Super Bowl? Certainly. Will the Eagles have trouble remaining a run- and RPO-heavy team when Kelce retires? Maybe. Will the Panthers have the last laugh when they go 9-8 in 2025 while Hurts is making $45 million per year to be the NFL's eighth-best quarterback or something? What exactly are we talking about here?

There is no reason to suspect that the Eagles offense will be "figured out" in 2022. Hurts and company will have off days, and folks will claim they have been "exposed" just as the Ravens have been exposed so many times in the last four years. But systemically, the RPO/read-option offense will be very difficult to stop so long as Hurts and the other key contributors remain healthy.

After that? Kelce retires, Hurts gets a contract, Steichen leaves to coach the Cardinals. It could all lead to Armageddon or just be a minor bump in the road. But none of it is likely to be the result of the Eagles using too much or too little RPO.

Comments

40 comments, Last at 14 Nov 2022, 4:48pm

#1 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 11, 2022 - 11:03am

The Eagles have two cheat-code plays:

The read-zone read-option pass where Hurts reads the crashing DE and can give it to the RB, scramble himself, or toss it to the WR/TE dragging across. This play always works, in part because the offense is playing 11 on 10 due to the QB being a threat and the blocker ignoring the DE.

The non-sneak. The mockery of victory formation. That 32 monstrosity where everyone piles around Hurts and the PA announces what the next play is going to be and where it's going. And no one can stop it from just displacing the LOS backwards one yard and generating a new set of downs. Defenses have even timed it perfectly with an aerial LB or just lined up offsides and failed to stop it. It's such an upraised middle finger of a play. I half expect there is fake version of it somewhere, but the Eagles haven't bothered to use it yet.

Points: 0

#2 by IlluminatusUIUC // Nov 11, 2022 - 11:09am

There is one final play to consider: the "read-option pass." That's where the quarterback fakes a handoff, starts to run, then floats a short pass. It's like a read-option/RPO surf-'n'-turf.

What exactly is the rule on Illegal Man Downfield, because in both of those examples the OL has pushed 2-3 yards downfield before the ball is out.

Points: 0

#7 by colonialbob // Nov 11, 2022 - 12:08pm

That was exactly my question - and both of those throws were downfield, so no "behind the line of scrimmage" shenanigans either. So I looked:

Legally Downfield. An ineligible player is not illegally downfield if, after initiating contact with an opponent within one yard of the line of scrimmage during his initial charge:

a) he moves more than one yard beyond the line while legally blocking or being blocked by an opponent

b) after breaking legal contact with an opponent more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage, he remains stationary until a forward pass is thrown

 So looking at the two plays, the Cowboys play appears to be fine. All the linemen engage and stay engaged throughout the play. In the Cardinals play, though, it looks like the RG comes off his initial block and makes a second block while more than a yard downfield. Based on how I'm reading the rule, that should've been flagged.

Points: 0

#13 by Pat // Nov 11, 2022 - 12:52pm

You mean the Texans play. I know, those uniforms suck. But no, the RG's still fine. You're gauging his position by his upper body: positioning is whole body (note: this is clarified slightly after the section you quoted, and was specifically clarified this year), and the perspective's throwing you off. Look at his feet - he's nowhere near more than a yard beyond when he makes contact, and then after the guy passes him, he stops.

Note the early definition - he has to make contact with an opponent within one yard. When he makes contact with the second defender, he's nowhere near a yard downfield. I mean, his foot's still on the line of scrimmage.

The other thing, of course, is that the refs aren't going to be able to call it based on tiny distinctions. The important part is that he's reasonably close to the line, no one around, but basically not moving. That'll never be called.

Points: 0

#17 by colonialbob // Nov 11, 2022 - 1:28pm

You're right, Texans. In my defense, it's not like there was a large painted area with the team name in the shot...

And yeah, it's a good point on the perspective, too. I think it's probably borderline, but as you say no ref is going to flag that either way unless the NFL decides it's a "point of emphasis" next season or something.

Points: 0

#21 by Pat // Nov 11, 2022 - 2:17pm

You wouldn't make something like this a point of emphasis. Linemen moving downfield due to blocking is just going to happen - he's not cheating or trying to gain an advantage against downfield defenders (or distracting downfield defenders either).

It's the same point as holding and illegal contact. Main thing refs look at is if the penalty's giving the team a material advantage, and that's not happening here.

Points: 0

#22 by colonialbob // Nov 11, 2022 - 2:45pm

We disagree here - allowing the line to functionally run block while still having the option to throw downfield makes it impossible for the defense to read their keys correctly. And not in the interesting, "we're doing something to force this one defender to always be wrong" type of way, but in the "that thing your whole back 7 is trained to instinctively key on will now force them to be wrong" type of way. I'm not saying we're there right now, or even that the NFL *would* choose to make it a point of emphasis given the general trend of favoring offense, but it seems pretty clear to me that plays like the above are, at the very least, stretching the boundaries of the rules. In the way that good, innovative coaches do, by the way; I'm not saying "Philly is cheating!!" or anything like that.

Points: 0

#23 by Pat // Nov 11, 2022 - 3:30pm

We disagree here - allowing the line to functionally run block while still having the option to throw downfield makes it impossible for the defense to read their keys correctly.

That's why you wouldn't disallow it. Screwing with defensive play identification is one of the entire keys to the game - in some sense it'd be like disallowing a QB from throwing a no-look pass or banning a play-fake (or on the defensive side, making neutral zone entry an automatic dead ball - faking aggression is important). Preventing an ineligible man from being downfield isn't intended to make linebackers be able to read keys. That's a side effect.

The main reason you have eligible and ineligible receivers is to limit the offense's ability to flood the downfield area with people on pass plays. So long as a guy is near the line of scrimmage and showing no intention of participating in the play having just interacted with a defender, no ref's gonna call that if he's like, half a yard too deep.

Points: 0

#3 by theslothook // Nov 11, 2022 - 11:41am

Maybe. How long have you been saying that about the Ravens offense? Which part will be "figured out"? 

Do the Ravens still run that type of Offense? At least not in the few games I've watched of them this year. It looks more conventional. 

What the Eagles are doing is not sustainable long-term.

Tactically, and I don't know the answer to this, but do you need a good offensive line to make this effective? Because offensive line strength, much like a strong secondary, is usually hard to maintain long term. Which is why the conventional drop back pass offense is the easiest unit to maintain long term success; it relies on the fewst amount of great players necessary to make it work.

Take the Packers. As long as you have a healthy and effective Rodgers + Adams + competency = great offense. And that can last many years. 

The other part of this is can Hurts improve. Because if he can; then the components I listed above are on this roster already. But it relies on a big IF about Hurts. 

Points: 0

#4 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 11, 2022 - 11:50am

Tactically, and I don't know the answer to this, but do you need a good offensive line to make this effective? Because offensive line strength, much like a strong secondary, is usually hard to maintain long term. Which is why the conventional drop back pass offense is the easiest unit to maintain long term success; it relies on the fewst amount of great players necessary to make it work.

It's hard to make any offense work if you have a legitimately bad line.

The Bucs have fallen apart despite a HOF QB and two HOVG receivers because just their guards suck -- 3 guys on their line are actually pretty good!

The Bengals lost the SB despite their WR1 running wide open for a TD because their RT couldn't even serve as a traffic cone for the DT and Burrow was getting hit basically as he caught the snap.

Points: 0

#5 by KnotMe // Nov 11, 2022 - 12:02pm

Colts would be another example. I've heard Geno's success partly enabled by SEA significantly upgrading their OLine. I've also heard line drop off as a partly cause of Mac Jones drop from OK to "unplayable bad". 

Well, Eagles are probably one of the best teams in the league at drafting and developing lines so it makes sense for them honestly.  

Of course, a good line can't stop the QB still making bad decisions/throws, but usually helps

Points: 0

#6 by theslothook // Nov 11, 2022 - 12:05pm

Well, I should have been clearer. Can you make this offense work the same with an average line or do you need it to be very good? You can make a passing offense mighty with just an average line. Having a great line helps considerably, but its not a necessary condition. 

Basically - if I replace this line with an average one; how much of a drop off does this offense experience compared to say an offense with a great passing game that has its line replaced with an average unit. 

This gets into my pet theory that team's have no choice but to throw resources at a defensive backfield. Because while both the o line and the secondary are very much weakest link units; an offense can compensate for an average to below average line whereas I don't think a pass rush can anywhere to the same degree. 

In fact, I can't really name a defense that had a great pass defense powered exclusively behind a dominant pass rush. Rather, I think of examples like the 2012 Vikings who despite gobs of pass rush from two likely hall of famers(Allen, Williams); they couldn't stop Tim Tebow from looking like Joe Montana. 

Points: 0

#9 by Romodini // Nov 11, 2022 - 12:32pm

My guess would be that you don't need an All-Pro line since the RPO gives them an advantage. The QB only has to make one read, so he doesn't have to stand there and go through a bunch of progressions that require long pass blocking. And as the article pointed out, the line also doesn't have to deal with as many stacked boxes since the pass threat has to be respected.

Having chemistry and discipline is certainly something the line requires, although if that Cardinals play that colonial bob pointed out is any indication, maybe not that much since they can probably cheat or slip up every now and then without anyone noticing.

Points: 0

#14 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 11, 2022 - 1:16pm

The Rams had a stellar CB1, but the rest of the back 7 were median or below.

The Colts *pass* defense was mostly about the rush. They needed Bullet Bob for rush defense, though. There are a bunch of teams who had great defenses but only one good secondary player.

There is a chicken/egg problem here, though, too. A mediocre secondary can look good just because QWBs have to throw fast/blind, resulting in a lot of stops or turnovers, because the rush is just murdering them.

You *can* do a similar offense with a sub-par line. The Ravens have been doing that for awhile. Lamar covers a lot of sins.

Points: 0

#8 by IlluminatusUIUC // Nov 11, 2022 - 12:16pm

The Bengals lost the SB despite their WR1 running wide open for a TD because their RT couldn't even serve as a traffic cone for the DT and Burrow was getting hit basically as he caught the snap.

Put the blame where it belongs: That was the LG Quentin Spain.

Points: 0

#15 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 11, 2022 - 1:17pm

This is true.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKRwrgqyaok

 

Points: 0

#25 by Shylo // Nov 12, 2022 - 4:52am

As agonizing as it was to see the Bengals almost win a Super Bowl, you couldn't have scripted a better ending.

Points: 0

#11 by Pat // Nov 11, 2022 - 12:41pm

but do you need a good offensive line to make this effective? 

No, RPOs/options mainly rely on the strength of the receiver in short coverage and the ability of the RB (or QB) to make a man miss. RPOs that target a rusher, for instance, can help an offensive line (see also Eagles/Cowboys).

Obviously everything works better the better an offensive line you have.

 Because offensive line strength, much like a strong secondary, is usually hard to maintain long term.

For Philly that's not a huge issue, they've got the best offensive line coaching in the entire league. Literally none of the offensive linemen on the Eagles has ever played a regular-season snap for another team. The only thing that really kills them (a la 2020) is injuries.

Points: 0

#18 by theslothook // Nov 11, 2022 - 1:41pm

For Philly that's not a huge issue 

If you really believe that, then the Eagles should consider letting Hurts walk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Points: 0

#19 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 11, 2022 - 1:46pm

For Philly that's not a huge issue 

If you really believe that, then the Eagles should consider letting Hurts walk.

...why?

Just look at Detroit for what just a good line gets you. (Or the post-Brees Saints)

Ideally you'd like both. Brees and Brady played behind good to great lines for most of their careers. Relatively few QBs look good behind objectively bad lines. Even then, they benefitted from good ones.

 

Points: 0

#37 by Pat // Nov 12, 2022 - 6:19pm

It's also silly to argue that because you can develop good OLs, you don't want to pay a QB. Exactly the opposite: because you can develop OLs, you *should* pay a QB because he's more likely to be successful and be less injured as well.

Points: 0

#20 by Pat // Nov 11, 2022 - 2:11pm

If you really believe that, then the Eagles should consider letting Hurts walk.

Nowhere did I say that they have the best quarterback coaching in the league. Philly's OL at full health is almost certain to be above average, but that doesn't make you anywhere close to a Super Bowl contender. 

For one thing, Philly's defense (a huge portion of the strength of the team this year!) is certain to decline next year, and defense is inherently less stable than offense anyway.

Points: 0

#38 by theslothook // Nov 13, 2022 - 1:28am

Nowhere did I say that they have the best quarterback coaching in the league.

Please indulge me. Which teams have the best QB coaching in the league?

 

 

 

 

Points: 0

#10 by Pat // Nov 11, 2022 - 12:35pm

 

If the Eagles' RPO success consisted exclusively of flat passes to Dallas Goedert, the message would be: small sample size, easy adjustment for defense, low sustainability.

Mike, you and I have very different opinions of Goedert. And AJ Brown, for that matter.

The main reason the Dolphins and Eagles are so lethal in RPO games is the same reason any short passing game works: a slant to AJ Brown and a flat pass to Goedert aren't short gains, they're 31-yard pass completions waiting to happen when a linebacker finds out "oh crap, this guy is better than me."

It's way less about strategy and way more about the type of players involved in the game. As soon as you have receivers that can't be covered by linebackers, of course you start targeting guys in the short game.

Points: 0

#12 by serutan // Nov 11, 2022 - 12:51pm

You left out what I think may be the biggest weakness of RPO : when the QB is doing a lot of the running.  Not from a scheme standpoint but from a QB life expectancy standpoint.  If a QB doesn't eventually become primarily a passer one has to think that his career will get truncated - after all I believe RB still has the shortest average career of any position.  As evidence I offer Cam Newton.

Points: 0

#16 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 11, 2022 - 1:25pm

after all I believe RB still has the shortest average career of any position. 

RBs have a weird performance curve relative to basically every other position. Because they are really good early in their career and have really good availability in the draft, teams turn them over young. This is less because of mileage and more because of how the monopoly has artificially-depressed rookie contracts.

There have been a bunch of running/scrambling QBs who had great longevity -- Tarkenton, Elway, Cunningham, Young, Gannon, Wilson.

Hurts seems to have figured out when and how to run. Yeah, he can get hurt, but Manning, Brees, and Brady all took crippling injuries in the pocket, so...

Points: 0

#27 by SandyRiver // Nov 12, 2022 - 9:03am

Tarkenton might be the odd one of the bunch.  How often did he call his own number, other than sneaks?  Mahomes might be the best ever at scrambling to extend plays, but Tark has to be a close 2nd.

Points: 0

#29 by Noahrk // Nov 12, 2022 - 9:59am

I disagree about RBs. Their performance does fall off. Maybe you'd replace a middling RB with a younger one just for salary, but not a star. And precious few stars have long careers.

About running QBs, Wilson already has 100 more rushing attempts than any of the old timers you mention at 871. Meanwhile, Lamar is only about 170 attempts behind him. I don't know what the effect of it all will be, but I'm sure it won't be good.

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#30 by Pat // Nov 12, 2022 - 10:09am

I think the idea that rushing attempts cause wear is a bit silly. It's not like pitching where you're literally damaging a joint with each throw. Yeah, obviously a tackle/collision adds injury risk, and injuries build up, but that's risk, not wear: if a guy has 1000 carries and hasn't had an injury, I don't think the 1000 carries necessarily mean wear (yes, obviously, there are minor injuries and damage we don't see, but I'm talking about things the doctors see).

I think it's all just age. RBs put more "mileage" on joints in practice even if they don't carry a ton, and I think that's probably dominant.

Same thing for QBs, although even more so. Age will slow down Jackson, and injuries might, too. Don't think the volume matters all that much (outside of risk, but that's different than wear).

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#32 by Noahrk // Nov 12, 2022 - 11:04am

The wear aspect I'd be worried about is the brain with all the repeated impacts. Then the injury factor, both of which largely depend on the rushing style of the QB (and even the RB -Walter Payton and Emmit Smith were notorious for being hard to get a good hit on). QBs like Wilson are pretty smart about their runs, while Josh Allen runs like Larry Csonka. And then, yeah, age. The legs go before the arm. At a certain point running QBs have to transition to pocket QBs, and some can't do that very well.

As far as RBs, though, it may be a combination of it all. They certainly get injured more than QBs. Or maybe it's that success hinges so much on the OL. But so many great ones don't seem to last very long.

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#35 by Pat // Nov 12, 2022 - 6:13pm

I don't think that'd limit their career, though. More a long term thing.

"But so many great ones don't seem to last very long."

We already know skill players don't play into their 30s. Running backs aren't much different: I just don't think there's much of a "fallback" for losing agility/speed for RBs, like there is for CBs/WRs. Especially because teams carry fewer RBs than CBs/WRs.

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#33 by Theo // Nov 12, 2022 - 12:21pm

I think you are underestimating practice time. 

You can only run into a wall so many times until your body says "nope".

That is wear. Any time you get hit hard enough thats another bruise that needs energy to heal. 

 

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#34 by Pat // Nov 12, 2022 - 6:05pm

I'm not. In fact, that's my entire point. I'm saying that the wear from a *carry* is unimportant - it's just natural "wear" from playing football. You limit a guy to 100 carries a year, it's not going to make him play longer than a guy who gets twice that, with the exception of injuries.

And I realize saying that might seem like a huge exception, but it's not: having 1000 carries means you're more *likely* to have more injuries than at 100 carries, but not guaranteed (whereas wear would be guaranteed). It's stochastic, not continuous.

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#24 by mehnsrea // Nov 11, 2022 - 6:25pm

The columns and user comments are just excellent. I always learn something.

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#26 by Shylo // Nov 12, 2022 - 4:56am

I shouldn't let AJ Brown's acrimonious departure make me hate the Eagles, although I will never like him as a person and he is hard to enjoy as a player (it is agonizing seeing all the mouthbreathers go "TeNnEeSsEe SuRe CoUlD uSe A rEcEiVeR lIkE tHaT" as if he didn't force his way out barring a comical overpay that would have correctly earned Jon Robinson mockery).

 

I haven't seen too much of them but the offense is probably fun.

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#31 by Theo // Nov 12, 2022 - 10:30am

You probably have strong feelings about the long-range viability of the RPO as an NFL strategy. 

Eh. No. Not really. NFL strategies come and go. Someone will figure out a defense, someone will figure out a way to build on it etc. 

We will see. 

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#36 by Pat // Nov 12, 2022 - 6:16pm

I still think options became viable in the NFL after the rules changes to further protect the QB and WR came about. In decades past you'd just drive hard on the QB and give up the possible slant knowing both the QB and WR would be bracing hard for a hit.

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#39 by BlueStarDude // Nov 13, 2022 - 8:06am

100%. QBs BITD would have just been lit up with this 'am I keeping it or not?' BS.

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