Let's Appreciate the Eagles' "Angry" Offensive Line
Carson Wentz summed up why the Eagles ran the ball so well in the second half on Sunday night:
“The big boys up front kind of came out angry.”
Yep. They really did.
There are plenty of good things to talk about after the 37-9 win in Dallas. The defense was stellar. Doug Pederson made some smart adjustments.
But it never feels like the offensive line gets enough credit, and they really deserve it after that performance. They were the main reason for the second-half turnaround in what would eventually become a blowout road win against a divisional rival.
The pass protection was good enough on the night, but it was run blocking where the unit really shined.
He looked like a Pro Bowler out there and had a nice opening drive.
The Birds got a chunk of yardage on a Jay Ajayi screen pass where we saw vintage Kelce, rumbling downfield and throwing a block in open space:
That’s what Kelce does best, standing his ground against Maliek Collins, then peeling off to lay a big block on Justin Durant, turning a six yard gain into 10.
He’s still one of the most athletic linemen in the league. You obviously see that when he pulls and operates in space:
You never hear his name called, do you?
Brooks has quietly had a very solid and stable season at right guard. Whatever illness issues affected him last year have long been put in the rear-view mirror.
The Eagles went 8 plays for 75 yards on the opening drive of the third quarter. They started with an eight-yard gain on the strength of Brooks pulling and locking up Durant here:
Brooks is hard to shed.
You try to break free from a 6’5″, 346 pounder. Go ahead, try.
It’s a bit of a different design here, with Halipoulivaati Vaitai actually lining up to the right of Lane Johnson and blocking down on Taco Charlton. He almost whiffs, but gets enough on Charlton to allow Ajayi to skirt the tackle and hit the end for a big gain.
Brooks gobbles up Durant:
The left guard rotation feels like it happened eons ago. Wis has been incredibly consistent since taking over the starting role on a full-time basis.
I went to the Corey Clement touchdown run for a Wisniewski blocking example, but, truthfully, you could hand it to the entire left side of the line on this play.
The scheme is excellent, with Brooks blocking down on the defensive tackle, David Irving:
Wisniewski and Vaitai leave Benson Mayowa unblocked and simply move to the second level to lock up the linebackers.
That creates a huge lane for Clement to hit, with Zach Ertz doing a nice job on Byron Jones to let his running back dive for the goal line:
He’s been serviceable as Jason Peters’ replacement and he’s even making plays out there. Doug Pederson said post-game that he’s starting to take off the training wheels:
“He’s another one who is incrementally getting better and better and better. I’m calling less protection help to his side. He’s just really coming into his own. He’s trusting his instinct, trusting his skill, trusting his coaching. (Offensive line coach Jeff) Stoutland and (assistant offensive line coach Eugene Chung) do a great job getting him ready and all the guys ready each week. He has done a really nice job.”
You saw Vaitai’s contribution on the Clement touchdown run above.
He also had a key block on the Ajayi 71 yarder:
He pulls right and eats up Jaylon Smith, providing just enough of a lane for Ajayi to burst through.
Again, another great block by Kelce on this play. He ignores Richard Ash, who is sealed off by Lane Johnson’s down-block. Kelce moves up to Anthony Hitchens and engages him, leaving Jones as the only unblocked defender.
But Jones (#31) takes himself completely out of the play with a horrendous read/angle/delayed blitz or something along those lines:
On paper, he had the toughest matchup of the night, going against Demarcus Lawrence. Pro Football Focus credited Lawrence with just one QB pressure on 32 pass block snaps, though he did have a few other disruptive moments in the backfield. I specifically remember an atrocious LeGarrette Blount draw play where Johnson was shoved backwards in a blown up rushing attempt.
That’s about it. Johnson was mostly sound on the night and continues to play at a Pro Bowl level against rushers like Lawrence and Von Miller.
On the Blount gasher, it was his block that created the hole:
Similar concept to the Clement touchdown scheme here.
Johnson skirts Irving to engage the linebacker. Lawrence is complete ignored and Wisniewski is pulling to block down on the tackle, Irving.
Lawrence over-pursues, tries an arm tackle, and we’re rolling that Blount for 30 yards:
Overall, just an exhibition in run blocking during that second half, tight-ends included. I didn’t forget about them, I just figured we’ve gotta cap this thing at like five videos and five images.
Statistically, the Birds are now top-ten or top-half in a number line/rushing stats:
- 4.6 yards per carry (tied for 4th in the NFL)
- 1,446 rushing yards (2nd)
- 9 rushing touchdowns (tied for 6th)
- 22 rushing 1st downs (tied for 11th)
- 15 “rush center” gains of 10+ yards (1st)
They’re top 15 in 10+ yard gains going left and right as well, but the central number obviously pops and speaks well to the downhill strength this team possesses.
So they went for 215 rushing yards in Dallas using four running backs behind a schematically sound offensive line.
And that’s without Jason Peters and Darren Sproles.