Here To Stay
RPOs Staple Of Birds Offense
If we’ve learned anything about the NFL over time it’s that Week 1 can be a gigantic con job.
The Packers and Titans were both No. 1 seeds in their respective conferences last year. Both teams had their doors blown off in Week 1 last year; the Packers losing by 35 to the Saints, the Titans by 25 to Seattle.
The Houston Texans scored the NFL’s third-fewest points last year — even after a 37-point Week 1 eruption against the Jags.
Two years ago, the Jags went 1-15. Their lone win? Week 1 against the Colts.
We’ve learned this, but that doesn’t stop some from bellyaching over things that didn’t go as anticipated, or being overly enthusiastic about anything that worked.
Putting outcomes aside, there are some truths can be discerned from Week 1, and those who were surprised by the complexion of the Eagles’ offense Sunday against the Lions must come to grips with the reality that the Eagles are – and will be – an RPO-centric offense.
We’ve been discussing this on ITB for months.
The quarterback will be a frequent ball-carrier, and the play calls will be more non-traditional, because that’s the kind of offense suited to Jalen Hurts’ strengths.
And by the way, the Eagles scored 31 points on the road at Ford Field against a defense that relentlessly attacked them.
Did Hurts need to run 17 times? Absolutely not.
Could the coaches have called more downhill, under-center runs to ease the pressure off Hurts? Absolutely.
Is there room from improvement in areas of blocking, defense reading, and spreading the ball? You bet.
There usually are kinks to iron out from Week 1.
And we haven’t even mentioned the defense.
But those who harbored visions of Hurts and the Eagles morphing into something resembling the 2004 offense led by Donovan McNabb, the 2017 offense under Carson Wentz or the 2010 offense led by Michael Vick – explosive West Coast schemes spearheaded by an athletic quarterback – or those who keep claiming that with a little more improvement Hurts can become Josh Allen just aren’t seeing this clearly.
Hurts isn’t 6-foot-5 and he doesn’t have a laser arm.
Hanging around the pocket as the defense closes in, waiting until the last second to throw-open a receiver in a tight window, isn’t what he’s built to do best.
He’s ideally tailored for a system that has keeps the defense guessing by mixing runs from the running back and quarterback and has the flexibility to offer quick options in the passing or the luxury of getting outta Dodge before the bullets start to fly.
“I really felt like there were really a lot of moments in that game where he was throwing on rhythm and ripping the ball where it was supposed to be on time,” coach Nick Sirianni said Monday, a day after Hurt racked up 243 passing yards and 90 yards, and after his team rushed for more than 200 yards and passed for more than 200 yards.
“That’s a lot of offense. I think that teams that are typically in the top half of the league in running the football have an element of their quarterback that can run.”
The decision to predicate the offense around RPOs was made this offseason, when the Eagles were given no alternatives at the quarterback position and then decided to build the best possible 53-man roster around him.
The Steelers, Ravens, Saints and 49ers have taken the approach.
The 49ers made the Super Bowl with Jimmy Garoppolo. The Ravens won 14 games with Lamar Jackson. The Steelers made the postseason last year despite Ben Roethlisberger’s inability to drive the ball past 10 yards.
That’s not to suggest the Eagles don’t believe they can win with Hurts. They’ll take 31 offensive points any day of the week.
The NFC is wide open. If the Eagles can work out their kinks on defense and take some hits off Hurts, they should be able to compete with any team.
It’s hard to make any long-term judgments after Sunday’s win over the Lions, because it’s just one week.
But don’t expect the offense to look much different conceptually as the weeks pile up.
– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the “Inside the Birds” podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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