Even With Foles, Zone Read Here To Stay

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Minnesota Vikings
Funny to think how significantly the dynamics of the quarterback situation have shifted over the course of a year.

This time last offseason Michael Vick was splitting first-team reps with Nick Foles. And given the little that we knew about Chip Kelly‘s offense, you couldn’t help but think Vick had the leg up. Day after day we saw the Eagles practice the zone read, over and over. The QB would cross paths with the running back and, depending on how the defense responded, would either complete the handoff or keep it and head for the edge. This didn’t seem to be a particularly good sign for Foles, who once said: “If I can adapt I want to, but I’m not a zone read quarterback. Some people are gifted with different things, that’s just not one of my skill sets.”

Kelly phrased it this way at the beginning of training camp last season: “To be honest with you, if I called 20 read options with Nick Foles in the game, you should fire me.  We’re talking about practice right now.  I think we’ve got to figure out who our quarterback is before we understand the direction of where our offense is going.”




It took some time to get the QB position settled, but it eventually blossomed in the hands of Foles. And while Foles never kept it 20 times in a game (the most rushes he had in a single outing was nine), the zone read didn't go away. According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Eagles ran the zone read 304 times during the regular season -- 135 times more than the next highest team. About 60 percent of those came when Vick was out of the lineup.

Foles obviously doesn't pose the same threat as a runner and there were challenges that came with that, namely that the unblocked defender would crash down on the running back with more frequency instead of staying home in case the QB pulled it. Kelly added some wrinkles to adjust to the way defenses were playing it. LeSean McCoy, after an initial dip with Vick out of the lineup, went over 130 yards rushing four times in the final seven games with Foles under center.

And we learned that there were more branches to this concept. The Eagles ran packaged plays that included passing options as part of the read process. The zone read proved to be a great set-up for the play action with Foles at quarterback, as the Eagles had nine plays of 30 yards or more and racked up 12 touchdowns off play-action over the second half of the season.

Vick is now in New York and the quarterback room consists of three non-running signal-callers in Foles, Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley, but the zone read remains.

“The vast majority of our runs are read runs,” said Jason Kelce after Monday's practice. “All the plays that were in last year with Mike are still in there with Nick. Things evolve throughout the whole season so we are doing some new things and there is some stuff that we are doing differently, obviously, but for the most part the vast majority of the playbook is exactly the same.”

Added Kelly: "We're going to run the same offense we ran when Nick was in there last year."

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  • JofreyRice

    this is a weird picture.

    • Tikkit

      The title should read “Foles Blows Out Knee”

      • JAMIN67

        Bite your tongue.

        • Tikkit

          “Foles Blows Out Knee but Chip Kelly’s Sport Science Immediately Reconstructs.”
          Better?

        • Mark

          The Six Million Dollar Man staring Nick Foles.

      • Andy124

        Nah, he does yoga. That’s nothing for him.

        • knighn

          You mean:
          “He’s a young newlywed. That’s nothing for him!”

    • Ben

      I think it should read “Foles, the new and improved Stretch Armstrong”.

    • paul from nc

      Murderlegs

    • UKEagle99

      Makes me think of Bambi.

      • JofreyRice

        yeah! me too. That knock-kneed awkwardness of a fawn. Weird thing to write about your 6’5 franchise QB, but I’m being honest.

  • JosephR2225

    Schefter reporting Kaepernick’s deal is 6 years, over $110M with record guarantees.

    Nick, next offseason, when it’s time to re-do your deal, please tell your agent to be gentle.

    • JofreyRice

      18 mil per, just like the dude Joel Correy said. Gotta be in the neighborhood for what the Eagles are expect.

      • JosephR2225

        Indeed. It’s the record guarantees that are more concerning.

        • cliff henny

          61m, ouch. but with dead money/cap hits, pretty hard to sign a 100m contract without at least 3yrs more likely 4 being locked in

      • paul from nc

        Howie lining up trade partners right now

    • cliff henny

      18m, about right. plus 9ers don’t have anything behind him, not that Eagles have much, but Kelly making qbs > Harbaugh making qbs. I’d take 7yr 110m for Foles if he shows ’13 wasn’t fluke

      • travis papa

        It’s more like a 7yr 100-110 mil for kaepernick. The agent isn’t counting this yr just the new yrs and money. I’ve seen it called a 6yr 126mil with over 60 guaranteed but that’s just agent exaggerated numbers. Realistically 7yrs 100-110 that could max out at 7yrs 126mil with all the incentives and escalators. I could live with Foles signing an identical deal.

    • JAMIN67

      That’s an awful lot of coin for a QB who tucks it and runs if his first read isn’t open. SMH.

      • JosephR2225

        And has no touch on his throws, just throws a fastball in every circumstance…

    • Tikkit

      Yeah but unless St. Nick goes all SB 50 on us, he won’t have Kaep’s leverage.
      But if he does…give him the deal and the keys to the city.

  • cliff henny

    same offense as last year…well, that part I doubt. guess he means within degrees. might be one of those, similar but a lot different type deals.

    • damrvrhunter

      I felt the same way too when I read that part. It better not be true because it would be foolhardy to underestimate DCs who have spent a lot of time this offseason dissecting Chip’s offense.

      • JAMIN67

        I doubt he is going to run the exact same offense. We’ll see new wrinkles and counters for how the defense will try to play us. One impression I get from Chip is that he’s always 3 moves ahead…

  • JAMIN67

    I may be in the vast minority here, but I don’t think Foles is the concrete statue the media makes him out to be. Does he have Mike Vick-in-his-prime blazing speed? Hell no. But I think he sells/executes the zone read very well, gets effective yardage when he does keep the ball and most importantly, he knows when to get down to not get injured. Last year, on 56 rushes he got 225 yards (4.0 yards per rush). To put that in perspective, last year Cam Newton averaged 5.3; RG3 and Kap averaged 5.5; and Russell Wilson averaged 5.6. So it’s not like he’s scootin’ along in a wheelchair back there.

    • JosephR2225

      I think it’s his functional mobility that is really underrated. He can move in the pocket to get himself a throwing lane or room to throw, or he can roll out and make a play when he needs to. And he picked up 15 first downs with his legs last season, which is tremendous value when the pass isn’t there on third and short. That’s what Roethlisberger used to be so good at. He’s not going to outrun anybody, but he can rumble for 5 yards on 3rd and 4.

      • JAMIN67

        Exactly. And Roethlisberger is a good QB to use as a comparison for Foles. They’re both big QB (in terms of height and weight) and both aren’t going to outrun anyone. But they can both pick up tough yards when needed.

        • JofreyRice

          now, see I think Roethlisberger is a bit tougher to bring down, and even a bit more mobile, on the hoof. I look at Foles more like a Matt Cassel: can surprise you and take off for a few yards when you’re not ready, but doesn’t look particularly comfortable or fluid doing it.

          • Andy124

            Well, he used to be. Not so sure about that these days.

          • JofreyRice

            yah, he has slowed down a bit. Banged and broken from abuse.

          • macadood

            like a giraffe on skates!

      • tommy_the_k

        I was talking to a guy who knows Foles’ personal trainer. His 30 yard dash has decreased from 5.2 down to 4.8 seconds.

        • GEAGLE

          I was actually reading about a guy who was talking to another guy who knows Foles’ personal trainer who says that his 40 yard dash went from infinity to 4.5 seconds.
          I’m really pumped up……

    • JofreyRice

      yeah, he was productive, by the numbers. As long as he’s a threat to take off for 5 yards (and a slide), that’s about all we need.

      • JAMIN67

        If he does that AND keeps his accuracy and poise in the pocket, I’m a happy, happy camper.

    • Joe from Easton

      I wouldn’t dare call Foles fast, but I’m in 100% agreement with you. People make Foles out to be slow, and by NFL standards he probably is, but he’s got huge strides. All he needs to do to keep the defense honest is get 4 or so yards when he tucks. All he needs to do to get 4 or so yards is take about 3 steps (including the first step to get from the backfield to the LOS). Tall guys never look as fast as they are or as fast as shorter guys of the same speed look.

  • Addicted2MAmula

    I hope they add more of CK plays on the new Madden

    • Brandon Boykin, LOL

      Seriously! I also hated the conventional play call option. I used to score so quick when I could no huddle and have basically the whole playbook at my discretion.

      • Addicted2MAmula

        I want to see the WRs stack and option plays where u can bail out and throw.

        • Brandon Boykin, LOL

          Oh man that would be awesome.

          • George

            yeah but you know if that happened, cam rgknee and kap would be even more OP. great phys attriuted, but theyr dumba$$edness doesnt matter whan youre qbing

          • Addicted2MAmula

            What!? If they add that the Eagles playbook will be the best. And I also wonder what success the Eagles could have in the pistol formation.

          • Brandon Boykin, LOL

            You’re in my head man! I kept wondering if/when Chippah would incorporate it. It would be filth.

  • myeaglescantwin

    is it weird that i’m excited to watch 40 runs a game?

    i don’t care.

    • damrvrhunter

      I will take that over watching a 100 passes a game. No we are not missing Andy’s offense if that’s what you are getting at.

      • myeaglescantwin

        haha

        it’s like,
        if you’re a running team, the pass is always an option.
        When you’re a passing team, it’s not always as easy to change gears.

    • JosephR2225

      I love it. Just think of all the Shady .gifs.

  • NickS1

    Excited to see the structuring of Kaep’s deal. I’m wondering if Baalke structured a Howie-esque deal. Schefty said only 12mil in signing bonus, which means 4.8mil in dead money after 3yrs from signing bonus, so I’m thinking so. Depending on how the rest of the 49mil in guarantees are dispersed, the 9ers may be able to walk away after 3yrs for less than 10mil in dead money when the salary cap should be over 150, pushing 160. Can definitely be out after 4 for nothing.

  • Ben

    There are so many things you can do off the zone read, it makes you wonder why other teams aren’t running it like we have been. Maybe it’s pride or maybe it’s stupidity but when you see how successful it has been for the Eagles, how can you not run it?
    Anyway, I am looking forward to all kinds of plays off the zone read this season. Screens, play action deep throws to Maclin and Coop and to an extent Ertz and Matthews and sprinkle in a few plays for Huff, Celek and even Brad Smith.
    I know it’s asking too much but can’t Momah make a huge jump this season and be a poor mans Megatron?

    • JofreyRice

      how poor is the man? Like he’s considering selling his organs, poor?

    • knighn

      Even with his size and speed the guy couldn’t even make a practice squad last season. A big jump means making a practice squad. A huge jump just means actually making an NFL team.

    • PhillySean

      The NFL has a lot of that rather-fail-conventionally mentality.

    • anon

      I don’t think people are as good at running it as ck. Most of these guys grew up on smash mouth or west coast schemes. Defenses worked hard last year to prevent read option. Kap and rgiii were markedly less successful running it.

    • DoctorRick

      One strong point about the Zone Read is not that QB runs the ball but that he CAN run the ball. This keeps the LB and OL honest. And you are right about the package play side of things, Foles is smart enough and quick enough to make the right reads with the net effect that he can run this offense just fine.
      .
      And don’t be surprised (as in, I predict) that we will see many more teams work with package plays and read plays as their OCs play with the concepts, which are sound, basic football concepts of creating space and getting the ball to players in space.
      .
      While I too wish we had more depth at safety, OL, DL and especially kicker, we have definitely made big improvements overall on both sides of the ball with available draftees and FAs and I am excited about our prospects.
      Really nice article, Tim. Thank you.

    • http://www.corcommunity.com/ theycallmerob

      zone read requires:
      (1) good-to-great OL, with excellent interior run-blockers
      (2) receivers committed to blocking downfield, and TEs able to both block and release if needed for the pass-options
      (3) good-to-great coaching, with a productive zone-blocking system installed
      (4) excellent decision-making QB
      (5) average-to-above average QB mobility
      **this doesn’t factor in the additional stressors on the defense due to Kelly’s tempo (and corresponding player conditioning), as well as a deep and varied passing game with multiple targets (2 good TEs, 2 great pass-catching RBs)

  • Jay Grace

    Foles stinks

    • George

      you’re right. chip needs a mobile qb. we should tank and get mariota this year

      • EaglefaninAZ

        Yup. And with two posts in as many minutes, things just got dumb as a sack of rocks here.

      • anon

        Why even respond to trolls?

    • James

      Jay Grace is stinky like Sanchez stinky, you can decide specifically which Sanchez you stink like.. the dirty one or the one that plays football

  • Jay Grace

    Fff

  • TripSquadMonopoly

    I really hope Foles takes a nice leap going into this year, especially in his 2nd year in Chip’s offense. He now has many weapons.

  • daggolden

    The only problem is people are saying Foles gets 5 yards a carry. The problem is those 5 yards are probably 20-40 yard runs for most other qb. He has so much space but physically cant get the yards that are there. It is what it is.

  • daggolden

    He runs a 5.0 forty. He is as fast as a offensive lineman. I take that back. I would say every Eagles olineman is faster than him besides maybe Herrimans. He does other things well. So it is what it is.

  • Neanderthal

    Maybe Chippah can come up with a butt fumbleruski play with Lane picking it up and running with it, or maybe a run/pass option.

  • Sconces

    I may be in the vast minority here, but I don’t think Eagles are a bad team.