The bye week is a reward for regular season success that allows the No. 1 overall seed to regroup, while also getting much-needed rest and rehabilitation for key starters on both sides of the football.
The postseason is also about conforming, and we’re looking at six key adjustments Philadelphia must make entering the divisional round.
1. Flip the Switch back to 2021
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The Eagles ended the 2021 regular season with the NFL’s best running game, averaging 160 yards per game. Over the last ten games of 2021, Philadelphia averaged 190 yards per game.
The playoffs are about running the football and with the NFL’s best offensive line, Shane Steichen can help his team by inserting a run-first, punishing style of football that’ll give Dallas, San Francisco, or any other team something to ponder.
2. Target the top dawgs
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With the regular season in the rearview mirror, the postseason is a one-and-done affair that should feature the top dawgs on offense.
Stars are made for January-February, and with Jalen Hurts reduced to the role of a passer, A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert should be the primaries on 85% of the obvious passing downs.
This roster is stacked with offensive playmakers and Philadelphia has to refocus on putting skilled players in the best position to be successful.
3. Confuse, wear down opposing defenses
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One major adjustment involves Philadelphia doing more to confuse opposing defenses, while also using the motion, 3 wide receivers sets, and a powerful running game to wear opponents down.
Whether it be jet motion, fly across motion, glide motion, in motion, over motion, or several others, it’s imperative that Sirianni gets his athletes on the move.
Jalen Hurts isn’t close to 100%, but the Eagles’ success can still come from the efficient usage of their RPOs and three-headed monster at running back. When Hurts can’t keep it on the RPO, he needs to punish defenses with quick slants in the passing game. When the edge rushers come up the field, Hurts needs to feed Miles Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell, and Boston Scott in space.
4. Avoid negative trends
The Eagles had moments where they underutilized Miles Sanders and such a recipe could prove disastrous in the playoffs.
An efficient run-pass ratio is important in the NFL and Sirianni’s intelligence rating among league experts has risen significantly after Philadelphia became the NFL’s most run-heavy team in 2021.
In the playoffs with home-field advantage, the Eagles’ early-down pass rate should hover around 40%, with Shane Steichen and Nick Sirianni trending towards using the run to set up a dynamic passing game.
If Philadelphia has any chance of winning a Super Bowl, they’ll need to run potential opponents out of their building and they’ll need to completely buy into running the football to set up the play-action pass, and an RPO game that makes the Birds even more difficult to defend.
5. Give Kenneth Gainwell work in the slot
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If the Eagles aren’t going to play Zach Pascal more then Shane Steichen should look at featuring dual-threat running back Kenneth Gainwell from the slot.
The former Memphis star should see his share of snaps as the slot wide receiver in the red zone or third-down areas.
Gainwell is a dynamic second-year player when utilized and if Nick Sirianni won’t give Pascal opportunities, then why not turn the former Memphis running back into a slot weapon on key downs and in open space?
The RPO game can be lethal and just imagine Jalen Hurts pulling opposing linebackers in with play fake, before hitting Gainwell streaking across the middle, down the sidelines, or simply dictating a one-on-one matchup with a less athletic linebacker.
6. Dallas Goedert needs to re-emerge