Option Routes Signal Change For Jackson, Eagles’ WRs

As soon as the whistle blows, Eagles wide receivers are asked to shift their attention to the next play.

That doesn’t mean jogging back behind the line of scrimmage and huddling up – not anymore, anyway. Instead, it means turning their attention to the sidelines, identifying the hand signals and hustling to the right spot in the formation.

However, that’s just the beginning of the process. It’s not only the quarterback’s job to make decisions based on the look of the defense. In Chip Kelly’s offense, wide receivers will have option routes – plays where they are asked to assess the coverage and adjust their path accordingly.

“For sure. I think that’s the freedom that we’re capable to have out there,” said DeSean Jackson. “Depending on the defense, if the defender’s way back, if we can beat ‘em on the go, then that’s the point. But if not, we’re able to still within the route have the option to stop if the cornerback is bailing for his life to not get beat deep. So it’s really a win for the receiver. Going out there, it’s like you have a double route. So if he’s playing on this route, then I can go to something else.”

Chris Brown of SmartFootball.com has written about the importance of option routes in the original single-back spread offense. He also discussed it in relation to the Giants and Victor Cruz.

Meanwhile, Doug Farrar of Yahoo Sports wrote about option routes last year.

The philosophy goes hand in hand with Kelly’s desire to take advantage of every inch on the field. But it requires that the quarterback and wide receivers are on the same page. Mistakes can lead to sacks, turnovers and disaster.

“At times, there are four decisions that a receiver needs to make after the snap the way our offense is,” Patriots wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea told The Boston Globe last June. “That’s one of the advantages of our offense, that we give players a lot of flexibility within the system to take what the defense gives us. And that’s definitely something that’s unique about our offense.”

Jackson said that in the past, for the most part, he stuck with the route that was called and “never really had the flexibility” to make changes. Now, he’s being asked to learn all the different wide receiver positions because he doesn’t know where he might be lined up on any given play.

“It’s definitely tough, honestly, because I’ve never had to learn everybody’s position,” Jackson said. “I only really had to know one position which was the Z wide receiver. Now it’s like I’m learning the X, the A, the Y, and really just knowing the concepts of the offense. Right now, it’s at a very comfortable level where I’m able to go out there and see the signals and go out there and get my job done.”

The sixth-year wide receiver expects the new concepts to provide more opportunities for him to get the ball in his hands.

“A lot of times, they open up and try to not let me get back deep, but they’re going to have to play honest,” Jackson said. “I don’t mind taking underneath passes and trying to get 15, 20 yards a catch. As long as I’m able to move the chains and keep that going, I think we’ll be alright.”

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