Will Eagles’ Offense Use More No-Huddle?

Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick.After Michael Vick hit tight end Brent Celek for a 23-yard completion against the Ravens, the Eagles’ offense showed its first wrinkle of the day: the no-huddle.

All week, reporters had questioned Juan Castillo and the team’s defensive players about the challenge of going up against Joe Flacco and the Ravens’ no-huddle offense. But Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg decided it was something they could try with Vick.

“The number one thing is I know Mike is very good at that,” Mornhinweg said. “He’s good at a fast tempo. I do think that some of our other players are excellent at it. So, just simply playing to their strengths, that’s all. That’s all it was. Now, there was a game plan. There were certain things that we certainly wanted to do and that enabled us to do some of those things well.”

Later, when talking about the offense’s execution at the end of games, Mornhinweg added, “The other thing that we mentioned here, our team may very well be built for that type of atmosphere. We’ve got some pretty good skill guys. Our line likes that mode. And I know that our quarterback is very good at it.”

The Eagles didn’t go no-huddle all game, but they used it on their first possession, again in the third quarter and on the game-winning drive in the fourth.

Back in April, Chris Brown of SmartFootball.com wrote about the advantages of running the no-huddle. The obvious is the offense can limit defensive substitutions. From the Eagles’ perspective, that could really help. For example, they could create mismatches with LeSean McCoy or Brent Celek against linebackers who are better suited to play the run.

It can also tire out a defense. For an offense like the Eagles that relies on speed and is young and athletic at the skill positions, that would also seem to be an advantage. The no-huddle limits some of what defenses can do pre-snap, as Brown explains:

Modern defenses want to match offenses in terms of strength and speed via personnel substitutions. They also want to confuse offenses with movement and disguise. The up-tempo no-huddle stymies those defensive options. The defense doesn’t have time to substitute, and it’s also forced to show its hand: It can’t disguise or shift because the quarterback can snap the ball and take advantage of some obvious, structural weakness.

When discussing the Ravens’ no-huddle, here’s what Greg Cosell of NFL Films had to say to Yahoo Sports:

“You get the defensive personnel on the field you want, and you stay with that. Defenses can’t really substitute in a speed no-huddle. So, they’re looking at this as, ‘We have some pretty good weapons now, and we have some advantages here.'”

In terms of putting offensive players in positions to succeed, the no-huddle seems to make sense for the Eagles. They can get more reps in practice. They can keep the defense off-balance, while limiting substitutions. And they can take advantage of their speed. Perhaps most importantly, the quarterback seems to like it.

“It’s fun. It’s great to go no huddle. It just pushes the pace,” Vick said after last week’s game. “Everybody saw how sometimes they couldn’t even get lined up. Nobody has ever seen us do it before. It’s something that we added into our arsenal. I don’t know how much we’re going to use it. That’s up to the coaches but it paid dividends for us today.”

We’ll find out if Reid and Mornhinweg had the no-huddle pegged as a one-week wrinkle – showing it early in the season so that defenses will have to be prepared for it the rest of the way, or whether the Eagles are going to be one of a growing number of teams who use it regularly.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.