The Philadelphia Eagles got off to a great start in the debut season of Chip Kelly finishing 10-6 and winning the NFC East. Kelly proved that his offensive prowess could translate from the college to the pro game. In this article I’m going to breakdown the Eagles pin & pull zone concept. The Eagles run two different versions of it, one out of an unbalanced deuce formation and a packaged play version out of a traditional deuce formation. Here is the unbalanced version of the Eagles pin & pull zone.
The Eagles are using their 11 personnel package, but lining up their Y at left tackle. Left tackle Jason Peters lines up on the right side where the tight end (Y) would typically be located in this formation. This is outstanding strategy by Kelly to create an unbalanced formation. The personnel package does not indicate an unbalanced formation is coming like it would be if you added an extra lineman. It also forces the defense to respect the Y lined up at left tackle as a pass threat because he is still eligible. Most importantly it shifts your best offensive lineman to the right side at the point of attack.
Here is the blocking scheme from the end zone.
The Eagles use their best offensive lineman in Peters to gain the edge. The right guard works to hook the 3 tech, the right tackle pulls to block the sam linebacker and the uncovered center pulls around to account for the mike linebacker. The key blocks to get McCoy on the perimeter are the down block of Peters and the pull from the right tackle on the sam linebacker. Because the sam steps up to the line of scrimmage with outside leverage, the right tackle uses more of a trap technique. Both blocks are illustrated below:
With McCoy to the edge, the last block necessary for creating an explosive play is the center cutting off the back side pursuit of the mike linebacker.
It’s a well designed play that maximizes the advantages of the Eagles 11 personnel grouping, McCoy picks up 16 yards.
Here is another unbalanced pin & pull zone versus the Packers in week 10.
The blocking scheme to the play side remains the same.
The over shifted tackle picks up an inside spike by the linebacker and washes him down inside.
With no defensive presence outside the down block of the tackle like the previous play, both the right tackle and center must turn inside and pick up the first opposite color that shows. Due to the tight pursuit angle by the play side inside linebacker, the right tackle and center end up inverting their blocking assignments. The center picks up the play side backer.
The right tackle is now responsible for cutting off the pursuit from the back side linebacker.
This time McCoy picks up 30 yards after catching Green Bay in a stunt and some nice adjustments by the pulling lineman.
Now onto the packaged version of the pin & pull zone.
The pin & pull blocking scheme is consistent with the packaged version of this play, but it is now combined with a read element. If the cornerback covering the Z receiver follows the orbit motion then the QB will hand the ball off. If the cornerback covering the Z does not follow the motion, the QB will throw the bubble screen to the Z where the offense will have a numbers advantage. The Eagles used this concept effectively versus the Bears in their week 16 matchup. Here is the initial alignment and then the Z motion.
With the cornerback following the motion across the formation the Eagles have a favorable look to run the football. The strong safety who has force responsibility is now the only defender on the edge, there is no secondary force player.
The Eagles get the matchup of their right guard kicking out the Bears strong safety & force defender, a big advantage for the offense.
The center pulls around and seals the will linebacker opening a huge hole for McCoy to pick up 19 yards.
On the next drive Chip Kelly dialed up the same play. You get to see the read on this play as the Bears react to the motion differently. It’s the exact same personnel and formation.
The cornerback aligned over the Z receiver does not travel across the formation with the motion this time.
The cornerback’s response to the motion lets the QB know to throw the ball to the Z running the bubble. The Eagles now get their best athlete on the edge in space with 2 blockers to account for the 2 defenders.
The play results in a solid 8 yard pickup on first down. You also see the series philosophy to some of Kelly’s concepts. With the defense leaving the cornerback to the weak side for run support versus the pin & pull zone that went for 19 yards on the previous drive, it opened up the bubble screen to the field.
The Eagles multi faceted pin & pull zone concept is tough on defenses in multiple ways, whether creating favorable blocking situations through personnel & formation adjustments or putting defenders into conflicts of assignment with packaged options.