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2018 opponent scouting report: Week 3 Eagles offense, there is reason for optimism

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports


On September 23, 2018 the Indianapolis Colts will make the trip to take on the Philadelphia Eagles. In this week three match-up I sought to understand our opponent and get a better idea of how they may attack our new look Colts.

The Eagles, as you may have heard finished last season by beating the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. As happy as I am the Patriots lost and Frank Reich is now the head coach of the Colts, I don’t want to give the defending champs anything they don’t earn. The last time these two teams played was September 15, 2014. The Eagles came out victorious four years ago but neither team is remotely similar to their 2014 counterparts. Hopefully our Colts can pull off an improbable win.

Let’s figure out what we can expect in week three.

Offensive Scheme:

Nailing down what Doug Pederson’s offense should be called is difficult. I’ve seen other writers describe it as a marriage of the west coast and spread offensive systems, and that’s probably as good of a way to describe it as any. The ball gets out of the quarterbacks hand quick with high percentage throws, most of the time. He works in a lot of spread elements and has an answer for seemingly every possible situation.

Pederson loves a good screen. He calls screen passes early and often as a way to get the ball in the hands of play makers in space and allow them to make plays. Pederson doesn’t seem to have a preference between zone and gap run concepts.

Frank Reich, without a doubt, will know what to expect from his old boss. I took a look at the film from week one of 2018 to see what the Eagles were drawing up and if I’m being honest, they aren’t a recognizable version of the Eagles from last season, at least from a scheme standpoint. 2017 saw such hope, such creativity, and it didn’t matter who was playing quarterback, they were going to figure out how to make plays happen. That hasn’t happened yet this year, but it is early and the team will no doubt improve.


After writing this and scheduling it for the morning Doug Pederson decided to get cute and declare Carson Wentz the starting quarterback. Wentz will be playing in his first game in more than 10 months on Sunday. If I’m being completely honest, I have no idea what the Eagles and Pederson are going to roll out this week. It could be more of the same, it could be things they were doing in week 10 last season that had Wentz looking like the league’s MVP. Time will tell.

So far this year, plays like this one are what the Colts should be most concerned with. The Eagles come out with in an unbalanced set to the left. If you notice the player lined up at right tackle, isn’t a right tackle at all. Instead there are three linemen left of the center and the Eagles run a zone run to the heavy side. The inner most guard pulls left and takes on a flowing linebacker, meanwhile the center works his way to the second level and gets a hat on another linebacker. Had Zach Ertz made a better block on the backside of the play, this run could have gone for more yards.

The Eagles had few interesting play designs from week one but this was the exception to the rule. The unbalanced set combined with a pulling guard and to top it off the offensive line executing this concept so well, it’s just a matter of time before the Eagles hit on a couple long runs.

I saw a lot of plays like this from week one. The routes at the top of the GIF are designed to stress zone coverage, and they work, at the bottom of the screen Zach Ertz goes in motion and makes a nice play to bring in an inaccurate pass.

Nick Foles had options on this play and it was one of the rare instances that seemed to give Foles schemed open receiving options. A lot of what I saw included isolation routes and ineffective route combinations.

Ultimately this is tape from week one, this Eagles offense is going to improve with time. Doug Pederson will figure out how to use his team going forward, but this far, I haven’t seen anything to suggest the Colts will be out coached in this one and amazingly this is the first time in a very long time I’ve typed something like that and it hasn’t been sarcasm.


If you don’t know Nick Foles story, it is a wild one. He went from contemplating retirement to backup for a possible regular season MVP in Carson Wentz. Then injury propelled him into the starting lineup of a playoff bound team, only to struggle mightily before finally getting into a groove and leading the Philadelphia Eagles to their first Super Bowl win in franchise history and being named MVP of the game.

If you didn’t know that before, welcome to your first year as a fan of professional football, this may not be the best article for you to start your fandom with, but I commend your enthusiasm.

For everyone else, this position isn’t interesting to Colts fans because of last year, it’s interesting because we don’t know what’s going to happen. At the time of this writing it wasn’t believed that Wentz would be available after tearing his ACL in week 14 of 2017, with that said, crazier things have happened.


Even if Wentz can’t suit up, what version of Nick Foles are we getting? Are we getting the Super Bowl MVP Foles or are we going to see the version that has recently shown up, one that misses throws while looking nothing like the hero Philly grew to love.

Either way the defense needs to be on its toes for plays like this from week one:

I’m late to the show and because I’m typing this hours before it is ripped apart by savage Eagles fans here are some clips I found on Twitter of Carson Wentz:

One thing I will say about that highlight video is that the majority of Wentz’s special plays came due to his mobility. Will he still have the same mobility? Will he be rusty? This game just got a lot more interesting.

Running Back:

The Eagles will use a true running back by committee. The early down duties will likely be handled by Jay Ajayi while 74-year old Darren Sproles and Corey Clement will be used in favorable situations if any of them are healthy. Ajayi came to the Eagles via a trade with the Dolphins and has proven to be the best back on the roster ever since.

Ajayi has excelled in both zone and gap schemes and has rare physical ability and vision.

Ajayi has the power to grind out short yardage situations as well as the speed to get the ball around the edge when needed:

Sproles and Clement are both nice players but Jay Ajayi is the guy that will make the ground game work for the Eagles on Sunday, but all three have found themselves in the training room recently. It’s the third week in a row the Colts will face a very talented running back but it’s the first time they have faced a team this hurt at the position.


A year ago Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Zach Ertz and Torrey Smith made up a potent pass catching group. Thus far only Agholor and Ertz have had an impact for the Eagles as Smith was traded and Jeffery is working his way back from injury. In their place no one has really stepped up to fill the void yet. Rookie tight end Dallas Goedert and DeAndre Carter have both caught passes and Goedert has shown tremendous potential, but Jeffery’s absence has been felt.

He’s pretty good. The good news for Colts fans is that he probably won’t play. The bad news is, he might:

If he can’t go what exactly are the Colts looking at? Oh you know, just concepts designed to get Zach Ertz open:

If Jeffery plays, we can’t know if he’s going to be anywhere near the top of his game. If he is, we’re going to have trouble keeping him covered, but I don’t think that’s likely. Instead Goedert and Ertz are going to do their best to win against Indy’s young linebackers. Mike Wallace was acquired in the off season but is likely to miss the game due to injury. The only other pass catchers available are Selton Gibson and Kamar Aiken. Without Jeffery and Wallace this receiver group is hardly one to lose sleep over.

Offensive Line:

Jason Peters, Stefen Wisniewski, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson make up a very good, very consistent offensive line. Last week before the Colts played the Redskins I thought there was a chance the Indy defense could generate pressure against the right tackle, this week I don’t think that’s realistic.

If you watch those two clips above you see pretty standard play from this line. Solid from top to bottom. Given the backs and this line I expect to see a lot of running in this one. One thing to note; Jason Peters is dealing with a quad injury and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game. I would be very surprised if the two-time all pro left tackle didn’t suit up.

What To Expect From The Colts Defense:

More of what they did last week. I expect to see more stunts, more zone and more speed. Something to note about my first watch of the Colts win against the Redskins was how good of a job the defense did filling their assigned gaps. If that continues this week we can expect to see more good things from the defense. If they get undisciplined, it could be a long day.

I don’t know what to expect out of a Carson Wentz-led team. There are simply too many variables. I do think he could get surprised by Malik Hooker in his first game back, or he may avoid his side of the field completely, I can’t say. It should be a fun week.