With 3:18 left in the second quarter of Monday night’s game against the Redskins, the Eagles set up at the Washington 14 yard line with a 1st-and-10.
LeSean McCoy had just picked up 12 yards on 3rd-and-2, and the offense was three plays in to their up-tempo, no-huddle drive. As the players retreated to the line of scrimmage, two members of the offensive line set up in unusual places.
That’s 328-pound left tackle Jason Peters at the top of your screen and 310-pound right tackle Lane Johnson at the bottom.
As Chris Brown of Grantland noted during the game, then-Florida head coach Steve Spurrier called this the “Emory & Henry” formation after Emory & Henry College.
So, what’s the point of it?
“Just another trickery play to get the defense to line up in a funky defense and we’ve got the numbers again,” Peters said. “And we’ve got the pass-run option.”
As you can see, there are four options on this play. Vick can throw the screen to DeSean Jackson at the bottom of your screen. He can throw one to the left to Riley Cooper. He can keep it, or he can hand the ball off to McCoy. The Eagles have three offensive linemen up front against four Redskins defenders and leave Ryan Kerrigan unblocked.
Vick makes the wise decision and hands the ball off to McCoy as Kerrigan goes after the QB.
With two deep safeties, that essentially sets up a one-on-one in the open field with McCoy vs. London Fletcher. Even though McCoy’s not yet at the line of scrimmage, you can see how much open space he has because of the formation. The possibility of the screens to the perimeter stretch the defense out.
More than anything, the play confuses the ‘D’ and is now something other opponents will have to be ready for.
“When I say numbers, that’s what I mean,” Peters said. “They don’t know how to line up. We’ve got the numbers on ‘em so [it’s] another play we have as far as trickery and getting the numbers on them.”
Another key here is that the Eagles went to this in the middle of an up-tempo drive. About 12 seconds passed from the time the whistle blew on the previous play to when the offense lined up in this formation. And about 17 seconds passed from whistle to snap.
“I think that we have multiple ways of getting to our plays,” Jason Kelce said. “And I think that everything we do is designed to put the defense in an uncomfortable position with our tempo, with our formations, with our personnel, everything.”
In case you’re wondering, the offensive tackles can’t catch the ball on this play.
“I’m not eligible,” Johnson said. “Just blocking out there. What that does is just catch the defense off-guard and see what they’re gonna do with it.”
Asked about the prospect of being lined up opposite a 170-pound cornerback on a screen, Peters said: “I’m just gonna have to block him.”