WE’VE been told that WR Quez Watkins is going to be working in the Slot, a lot more this year. In an earlier article, I said that we should use Watkins and RB Kenneth Gainwell as a one-two punch in the Slot. Picture it: We pound teams with 12 Personnel, then we make them chase either raw speed, or short area shiftiness. Nasty! Just plain nasty!
When the Eagles won the Super Bowl following the 2017 season, they did it behind WR Torrey Smith taking the top off of defenses, and allowing room for TE Zach Ertz to work underneath. Having to keep a Safety over Ertz, made it easier to get balls downfield, into WR Alshon Jeffrey’s insane catch radius. Having to cover all of that, is what opened up the room for the run game to pile up 2115 yards (132 ypg).
For the next couple of years, the Eagles tried to replicate that formula, first replacing Smith with WR Mike Wallace (2018), who was hurt two games into the season; and then re-uniting with WR DeSean Jackson (2019), who was hurt three games into the season. (Note: It’s not that the formula didn’t work, it’s that we didn’t have the horses to run it.)
Well, now we have a new formula, and I personally LOVE it! I’ve been saying since DJax was here, that we should put our burner in the Slot, not on the Outside. This one move does more than the old formula does, and it does it much more simply.
Watkins in the Slot running “Go” and clear-out routes right down the middle, means that a defense in Single-high coverage, can offer no help to their CB’s. That frequently puts WR Devonta Smith and WR A.J. Brown in one-on-one coverage, on opposite sides of the field. Imagine a CB alone in space with Brown, after the catch. Damned near animal cruelty, right?
Watkins in the Slot running “Go” and clear-out routes right down the middle, means that a defense in Cover Two, has to squeeze the Safeties together, instead of letting them drift out to help the CB’s. (See above result.) This means committing extra resources to coverage. So now instead of four back deep, they have five back deep.
Five back deep, means a six man front. It means they’re in Nickel. Ladies and gentlemen, have you met our run game? Give a hand to RB Miles Sanders! And playing the part of Charlie Mack, I give you LT Jordan Mailata, and LG Landon Dickerson!
Oh wait! We haven’t even started on TE Dallas Goedert on 15 yard Outs, after play-action. Watkins in the Slot will also force teams to declare more coverages, making pre-snap reads easier for QB Jalen Hurts. (This is where spreading the Offense really gets it’s mojo workin’.) All of which is done easily with Watkins being a speed merchant.
I hear you ask: How dangerous can a speed merchant really be? I mentioned Torrey Smith earlier. In 2017 he played in all 16 games, catching just 36 balls for 430 yards (11.9) and just 2 TD’s. Small numbers, right? However, it was his presence that made him the catalyst for the entire Offense. The loss of that, was 75% of why the Eagles looked so disjointed in 2018 and 2019.
Folks, people are predicting us to win the East, but I… I might already be looking past that. I’m telling you, if Hurts can read defenses better in 2022, the entire NFC (not just the East), is on notice. Rams, Bucs, Green Bay AT Lambeau. All of that. We want ALL the smoke.