Eagles All-22 Wake-Up Call: The Texas Concept

How could Doug Pederson incorporate Zach Ertz into his offense?
Doug Pederson. (Jeff Fusco)

Doug Pederson. (Jeff Fusco)

Sitting at a table full of Eagles beat reporters at the owners meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., Doug Pederson‘s voice heightened more than an hour into the session when he was asked if he’d use Zach Ertz similar to how the Chiefs deployed Travis Kelce.

“Yeah, I do. And I’m glad you brought that up, because I like our tight ends. I like our athleticism there. It’s a good group — great group,” Pederson said three months ago. “The primary tight end, Zach, is athletic [and] young. He’s like Brent [Celek] was when he first came in and a lot like Travis Kelce that way.”

When Pederson called plays for Kansas City last season, he often attempted to get Kelce the ball down the middle of the field on seam-type routes. One West Coast offense staple he liked to use was the Texas concept, which accounted for a few of the Chiefs’ big plays.

“Nowadays with tight ends having the athleticism to get down the field, the landmarks you want to hit are the seam throws,” Ertz said. “It’s really prevalent across the league right now.”

Ertz’s teammates have referred to him as a “major focal point” in Pederson’s offense, and the Eagles paid him like one when they signed him to a five-year deal worth $42.5 million — including $21 million guaranteed — in January. After three seasons of continued growth in receptions and yards, the Eagles not only expect Ertz to have a breakout season this year, but they need him to if they want any shot at contending for a division title.

A ‘PURE PROGRESSION’

The Texas concept isn’t actually designed to get the tight end the ball first, says J.T. O’Sullivan, a former NFL quarterback who played in the West Coast offense — or a variation thereof — three times and was Pederson’s teammate in Green Bay in 2004.

Although teams use Texas out of various formations and personnel groupings, the Chiefs seemed to like calling it out of 21 personnel with a receiver on each side and the tight end to the right while the running backs were on either side of the quarterback, who was in shotgun.

The first read is the running back on a short angle route, while the tight end runs a post route — or something similar. Third is the outside receiver on the right, who runs a 12-yard button hook, while the fourth read is the receiver split out to the left, who runs some type of option or clear-out route. The second running back sometimes stays in for pass protection, but he may also be used as a check down.

Texas Concept

“It’s an easy throw, easy read and it gets the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quickly,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s one of the first concepts you learn. You can build off of it. It’s a simple read. It doesn’t stress the line with any pass protection. There’s literally not a shorter throw in football — maybe a check down.”

Against Baltimore in Week 15 last year, Kansas City used this play to pick up 29 yards in the third quarter, calling on the Texas concept for the second time in three snaps.

According to O’Sullivan, the play is a “pure progression”, meaning it — in theory — should work against either man or zone coverage. However, he noted the tight end is a great option on this play when the middle of the field is open — against Cover 2, for example — or simply when your tight end is your best receiving option.

The play is a high-low read for the quarterback, so he can easily dump the ball off for several yards to the running back if the linebacker he’s reading drops back, or find the tight end if the linebacker sticks closer to the line of scrimmage against the angle route, as the Ravens did on this play.

VARIATIONS

It’s unclear when the Texas concept was introduced to the NFL, but O’Sullivan said he learned it from Mike McCarthy. Green Bay’s head coach learned it from Paul Hackett, who got it from Bill Walsh.

“There are all sorts of variations off of it. It’s an easy way to isolate a guy,” O’Sullivan said. “I’d guess you’re going to see [the Eagles run] a lot of Texas Y Out, so that means you’ll see the running back run an angle, but the tight end runs a 12-yard out, while the outside receiver to the right runs a clear or post.”

O’Sullivan mentioned another variation when a running back pretends to do an angle route, but instead breaks back outside, a route he says Darren Sproles has probably done “a number of times” in his career.

Traditionally, the bigger of the two running backs typically runs the angle route, but O’Sullivan said it’d make more sense for the Eagles to use Sproles in that role. He added that the post route over the middle of the field could be run from the slot instead, which the Eagles could do to utilize Jordan Matthews.

Regardless of which variation may work best, O’Sullivan said to keep a close eye on seam-type throws with Carson Wentz and that he could really rely on receivers over the middle of the field early on.

“This is just my opinion, but I feel like sometimes younger quarterbacks see the seam better,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s easier because you almost know you’ll have a chance at it pre-snap; it’s not one of those things where you need to identify a lot of things when you’re dropping back and you get to rip it. It’s a natural throw — it’s not like throwing a comeback to the field which is a monster throw in the league, or it’s not a go route to a guy you don’t know. I feel like it’s an easier throw for a guy coming into the league.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

“[Byron] Marshall projects as a younger version of Kenjon Barner, so it makes more sense for the Eagles to keep him.” What They’re Saying.

If the regular season began today, who would make the 53-man roster?

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Howie Roseman is looking more towards the long-term future rather than the short-term, writes Jimmy Kempski of PhillyVoice.

When asked point blank on WIP’s Morning Show with Angelo Cataldi on Monday if he thought the Eagles’ roster right now is a “playoff team,” Howie Roseman offered very little in the way of short-term optimism. Rather, his focus was on building a consistent winner over the long haul.

“I don’t know,” said Roseman. “I think we have to get into training camp. We have to get into the season. Injuries play a huge role in what we’re doing. I think this is going to be an extremely competitive camp. I think we have some talented pieces, but I can’t tell you that I’ve sat here and evaluated and gone through the schedule and gone, ‘We’re gonna win this game, we’re gonna lose this game.’ When you’re in the offseason, you’re in building mode, and right now that’s what we’ve been in, is building and trying to get some building blocks in place so that we can have a team going forward that’s competing every year.”

Certainly, when presented with a question like that, most coaches and executives will be careful with their words, but Roseman clearly prioritized the future over the present.

Jon Dorenbos and his magic appeared on America’s Got Talent last night and was a fan favorite.

COMING UP

We’ll keep you updated on any news and notes.

Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.