The Philadelphia Eagles special teams unit may be the best in the NFL this year. They have been racking up touchdowns and dominating the league. Rookie receiver Josh Huff recorded his first score this past Sunday when he took a kickoff back 107 yards (an Eagles record). Huff was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week by the NFL for his big return. So let’s look at how the Eagles unit made it possible for Huff to earn this accolade.
First let’s look at the teams’ schemes. Tennessee is in a basic middle kick, sending 5 players down each side of the field. he Eagles are in a 6-1-2-1-1 formation and are trying to get a return to (their) right side, in between the Titans L3 and L4 defenders. Philadelphia’s key block is a double team kickout on the L3. Brandon Graham and Bryan Braman bth peel back for this block. Nate Allen drops to kick out the L1, while Zach Ertz comes across the field to block the L2. James Casey, Trey Burton, Chris Maragos, and Emmanuel Acho’s blocks are just as important, as they are building the wall on the inside. The goal is to create a hole for Huff to run through in between the “wall” at the L4 defender and the kick out blocks, starting at the L3. Brad Smith is the lead blocker for Huff who will pick up any unblocked defenders.The blocks were already beginning to develop when Huff caught the ball. You can see the Eagles blockers are in great position to form the lane for Huff. The “wall” blockers are all in position to seal their defenders inside, while Ertz and Allen are setting up their kickout blocks. Braman and Graham are in position to make their double team block.
By the time Huff got to the 5, the running lane was wide open. Allen, Braman, and Graham had driven their defenders halfway to the sideline. Casey, Burton, Maragos, and Acho all kept their defenders on the inside.
Huff hit the running lane and exploded into open field, untouched. This screenshot is a perfect picture of the Eagles blockers, as every block has been completed and the running lane is wide open.The only thing missing from that shot is Braman and Graham are no longer on the screen. Perhaps the most impressive block on the play was on their double team, which sent their man all the way into the Eagles bench before Huff even got to the 25. The kicker was the only unblocked man for Huff to beat, and Huff gave him a stiff arm and went down the sideline for a 107 yard kickoff return score.Huff deserves a lot of credit for finding the running lane and finishing the return, but even more credit goes to the blockers. Every single player executed their assignment and the result was a wide open return for Huff. Until the kicker arrived, no defender even came close to Huff.
Special teams coordinator Dave Fipp also deserves credit. Fipp saw a weakness in the Titans coverage unit and drew up a play that would enable the players to succeed. Burton said following the game, “We saw that a lot of teams tried to run that return [against the Titans] and they’ve been just like one block or something didn’t go their way from breaking it, and Coach Fipp had a great plan for us, and we executed it.”
Great job by everyone involved.