What does DeVonta Smith’s speed do for the Eagles offense?
Speed is the future for the Philadelphia Eagles. Howie Roseman and the Eagles made the right move selecting fan-favorite and Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith with the 10th pick. DeVonta joins a high-speed wideout group, and his presence could be a significant boost to the Eagles’ playbook. Under Doug Pederson, Philly looked to adapt Kansas City’s air raid offense selecting players like Jalen Reagor and John Hightower.
The plan was beautiful in theory but fell apart for numerous reasons, some beyond the Eagles’ control. With that in mind, new head coach Nick Sirianni has a perfect opportunity to adjust this plan and make it work in 2021.
Some of the significant reasons this offense failed last season look to be in the rearview mirror heading into the 2021 season. A main problem for the birds last year was the offensive line’s collapse due to injury. Without a solid group upfront giving the quarterback time to get the ball out, the entire offensive scheme was in shambles. Add in Wentz’s brutal year and your key target being hurt for most of the season, and nothing really worked out for the Eagles offense in 2020.
This year, their offensive line is healthy and depth should no longer be an issue. Jalen Hurts is entering the season as QB1 and Jalen Reagor is healthy with some extra firepower opposite of him on offense. Adding Smith gives the Eagles a second legitimate deep threat and another speedster on the outside. Most of the time, it will likely be Reagor/Smith with Goedert and likely Travis Fulgham, but they can use the following formation to their benefit.
What you’re looking at is a terribly drawn rendition of one of the most basic formations in football. It is called t”Trips Right” because of the three wide receivers on the right side of the football. There is still one wideout on the left side with no tight end and the running back on the left of the QB.
Trips formation isn’t the only one that will work, but it gives a good idea of how the Eagles can use speed to their advantage. Kansas City has been the mastermind behind this in the NFL, and basically, the school of thought is, no secondary can cover four fast receivers that far downfield.
This first play is a basic one. For this formation, Smith will be out wide right with Quez Watkins (16) and John Hightower (82) on the inside and Jalen Reagor out left. Obviously, Travis Fulgham and Goedert will get starting snaps, but these are the Eagles’ four fastest receivers. DeVonta and Hightower run a crossing post pattern that allows for confusion in both man and zone coverages and could work in beating a cover two or cover three secondary.
All cover two or three means for this scenario, is how many defenders are playing back deep. It is usually two safeties in cover two, and in cover three, a cornerback joins them. If the defense runs a cover four, that’s what Watkins’ route is for, cut underneath the defense and still get a good chunk of yardage. Reagor out left going deep allows for a possible one-on-one matchup deep as well.
There are a combination of corners and post routes on this second play whose purpose is to see if the wideouts can break away from their coverage on that step-in or out. Like the play earlier, this would kill a cover two or three, and if they run a cover four, Miles Sanders is underneath the LBs for a few-yard gain.
These are just a few examples of what the Eagles could run but adding Smith provides so much for the Eagles going forward. While he grows, it will be best to keep Smith in these deep situations away from short crossing routes and linebackers. Hopefully, DeVonta Smith will pan out the way he should and be a crucial piece of the Eagles’ core for several years in the wide receiver position for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Mandatory Credit: CBS Sports