What formations did the Eagles run against the Pittsburgh Steelers?
During Thursday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Nick Sirianni and the Philadelphia Eagles debuted their new-look offense under Jalen Hurts. On the other side of the football, new defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon implemented his own schemes with the Eagles defense and shook things up from the Jim Schwartz era.
There wasn’t much to see, primarily due to Sirianni and Gannon likely wanting to keep their game plan under wraps and the roster still learning the playbook. Despite that, Philly did reveal some intriguing parts of their schemes for this upcoming season, and some sneak peeks into what they want to implement going forward.
The one upsetting thing was that there was no look at the 21 speed or what some know to be the Pony formation the other night. Nick Sirianni kept it relatively basic but showed some intriguing ideas for the Philly offense.
Heavy right 12 personnel:
Almost immediately, the Eagles went to 12 personnel. Now usually, when 12 personnel is displayed in a passing package, the two tight ends are on opposite sides of the line to balance out the offense. Instead, we saw what could be called a power or diesel right formation up-front, meaning both tight ends were on the right side of the line.
Usually, you see this formation on the goal line or short-yardage situations, so it was interesting to see it used in a first-down look very early into the drive. While Hurts has to get creative after the pocket collapsed, Ertz was open right over the middle for a short-yardage gain. The remaining looks from the offense were pretty basic, with many double formations, single back shotgun, and other things not out of the ordinary.
On defense is where things get a bit more interesting. Going into this season, Jonathan Gannon discussed how he would run numerous schemes for the Eagles’ defense based on what they were going up against. Philadelphia displayed a 3-4 look during training camp, but unfortunately, there was no sign of that against the Steelers last night.
Eagles stick with the 4-3:
Primarily, Philly stuck with a 4-3 defense like they have for the last several years. It worked well, especially with Eric Wilson in the mix, allowing Alex Singleton to focus on the run game and not be as exposed in the pass. Wilson and Singleton look to be locked up as the mike and backer, with the starting Sam spot in contention amongst several linebackers.
Alongside the 4-3, the Eagles displayed a nickel package but had some of their own modifications to the look. In this situation, I deemed it a 4-2 hybrid from the brief glimpses seen. Now yes, in the grand scheme of things, this is a nickel defense, and they showed a lot of pure nickel defense against Pittsburgh.
A unique Nickel defense?
Where things get interesting is where Avonte Maddox lined up on certain plays. In the nickel defense, Maddox is the slot cornerback, but in this hybrid, he looks to be even more inside than usual, literally in a 50 position right behind Derek Barnett on the line. Avonte has his eyes locked in the backfield before the snap, head turned completely away from Chase Claypool, who would be his responsibility in coverage.
One could argue he is just adjusting and guessing a run is incoming but based on how he doesn’t even look at Claypool whatsoever when any cornerback would line up on him makes me think this is something different.
This is pure speculation here, but it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if Philly had this in-the-box LB/Safety hybrid. The Eagles drafted one in JaCoby Stevens, and Maddox is a former safety, so there’s a chance this is something Jonathan Gannon could have up his sleeve.
The last significant note would be that it looks like Eagles fans no longer have to worry about the sticks coverage Jim Schwartz consistently used. Alongside that, Gannon seems to blitz even less than Schwartz, agreeing that their four defensive linemen is more than enough pressure. Granted, Pittsburgh had a weak offensive line, so it could change against a team that is better in pass pro.
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