Switching things up: What formations did the Eagles run against the Falcons in Week 1?
Nick Sirianni and Jonathan Gannon lived up to their word this weekend against the Atlanta Falcons. After months of discussing different schemes and formations, the Eagles displayed a style of football this city hasn’t seen in a long time. Some were nervous after Philly held their cards close to their chest during the preseason, but it paid off huge during Sunday’s 32-6 win.
On offense, there were some new schemes with Sirianni showing some of the things he often discussed during training camp, like 12 personnel and the 21-speed backfield. For Gannon and the defense, the defensive front was changing consistently.
Throughout Jim Schwartz’s tenure, the Eagles almost always stuck with a four-man front no matter what, with some rare changes based on blitz packages. Jonathan Gannon showed the same thing during the preseason, but to start week one, the Eagles went out in a bear front and stayed there for most of the game.
Bear front with two standup edges:
A bear front is five defensive linemen on the line of scrimmage, but the difference here is that it wasn’t a pure bear front. On the edges, Derek Barnett and Genard Avery were standing up with three linemen in a three-point stance. What was so confusing with this defense is there was no need for Derek Barnett to be a stand-up edge rusher. Barnett rarely dropped back into coverage which is the main reason why a DE would line up like that to start.
Atlanta was a ground-and-pound offense so having five defenders up front made sense, but the Falcons exposed it a bit. One of the biggest concerns with the Falcons going into Sunday was their TEs against the Eagles’ LBs. Matt Ryan attacked the backers over the top a lot early. To adjust, Gannon went back to a four-man front occasionally to allow Avery to help against the pass.
There was much talk about a 3-4 hybrid defense being adapted by Philadelphia, and we finally saw it on display a bit during week one. While Derek Barnett wasn’t used in coverage often, when he was it was one of the biggest plays early for the Eagles. Philly ran a four-man front with Barnett standing up, but Barnett dropped into coverage and helped shut down a pass to Mike Davis on the goal line.
Another big wish from Eagles fans was more blitzes in the playbook, and although Jonathan Gannon didn’t lean on them a lot, he did show a few blitzes against the Falcons. The one blitz shown was a B gap linebacker blitz with a four-man front, but they also sent five defenders from that bear front shown earlier.
Looking at the offense, there wasn’t as much switching as the defense did, but they were just as effective. Nick Sirianni stayed true to his Frank Reich roots and ran a lot of 12 personnel throughout the game. Sirianni liked to lean on a trips formation with a tight end left throughout the entire game.
The Eagles also used 13 personnel in the run late in yesterday’s game to expand upon the multiple tight end sets. Sirianni lined up two tight ends on the right, sending the third in motion over there, but the scheme wasn’t very effective.
The first personnel that Sirianni was vocal about in training camp was 21-speed, which is a two running back backfield. It was seen briefly in the preseason and again on Sunday, with Miles Sanders and Kenny Gainwell lining up opposite Jalen Hurts in the backfield.
The last interesting formation was a double-wing backfield that was used on an RPO in the first quarter. Jalen hurts had Dallas Godert and Quez Watkins as wings, with Goedert coming down on a block to free up Watkins on the outside.
It’s always exciting to see what a new coach will run during the first week, especially when they have no history as a play-caller in years past. Still, Sirianni and Gannon did a tremendous job against Atlanta and look to do it again at home against the San Francisco 49ers. The difficult challenge ahead is how the Eagles will adapt now that most of their playbook is now visible after months of being able to hide it.
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