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A Play From Chicago: Wham Concepts and Zone Footwork

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I want to write about this play.

Now, a ton of work by minds smarter than I–Fran Duffy of the Philadelphia Eagles (@fduffy3) and Chris B. Brown of the Smart Football series (@smartfootball)–have already worked on it. According to Fran, who drops a film room with an Eagles coach every week, Doug Pederson will be breaking down this play specifically.

As such, we’ll wait to learn the hows, whats, and whys from Coach. I’d like to go over what it is about this play that makes it so interesting to break down.

As you can see in the Tweet and when watching the rep, what caught my eye was the massive overreaction of the NT and DE (4-tech) in response to Wisniewski’s and Kelce’s initial movements. As you can see, the NT (lined up opposite Kelce) immediately begins slanting to his left (the offense’s right). He was originally lined up close to Wiz, but has since shifted to be over Kelce. Now, if he is schematically assigned to shoot the A-gap to Kelce’s right, then the Eagles were just fortunate to catch the Bears in a bad look against this running play.

But it would seem that this NT is reacting to Kelce’s initial movement. Kelce steps to his right laterally, which would appear to a defender reading him that Kelce is beginning a path that typifies a zone run.

Philadelphia ran a solid amount of zone against Chicago to start of the game, with varying success (Akiem Hicks blew up a play or two). Jay Ajayi, particularly, is a dangerous zone runner, especially to the outside–but Corey Clement has shown excellent wiggle on outside zone concepts recently, and Blount runs a mean inside zone. Zone running concepts are traditionally the building blocks of West Coast Offenses (see: Mike Shanahan), and while the Eagles’ offense looks more college/spread by the day, it’s important to note that Doug Pederson descends from a West Coast lineage.

So, back to our feature play:

This time, check out Wisniewski. That first step couldn’t be more “Zone-esque,” though he stays thick off the line, chops the wood as he climbs vertically, and squares up the LB in space.

In the breakdowns done by Fran, we’ve learned that this play is actually a read/variation on the Wham concept we’ve seen so often from Philadelphia.

From what Fran and Coach Pederson have told us so far, we can understand now that Kelce was looking to climb past the first level, and once the NT slants into his way, Kelce takes that defender. Celek reads that Kelce has remained on the first level and now climbs up to the second level, to take the back side linebacker for which Kelce would have been responsible.

That being said, Wisniewski’s assignment is no different–but he still comes off the line thick and with initially lateral footwork. I’m left wondering if Philadelphia’s offensive linemen are coached (by Jeff Stoutland) to use zone style tells/footwork on power plays in an effort to manipulate defensive linemen.

It’s a thought–just as likely I’m wrong than right. But this play exemplifies how understanding basic concepts (zone blocking; wham concept) helps filmheads identify aberrations like this play, which provides us with these excellent insights.

Listen to the latest Locked On Eagles podcast here!

Ben Solak has been a football fan and film junkie for all of his life, and has the pleasure of serving as a National Scout for NDT Scouting. He also covers the Philadelphia Eagles for Bleeding Green Nation and co-hosts the Locked On Eagles podcast. Ben takes many things far too seriously, including fishing, Captain America, grammar, and Game Of Thrones.

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