Eagles Continue to Lean on Tiger Personnel Out of Necessity
PHILADELPHIA - The Eagles' reliance on what they call Tiger personnel (12 - one running back, two tight ends, two wide receivers) is understandable.
Philadelphia has arguably the best tight end duo in the NFL in Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. Meanwhile, the revamped receiver position is still a work in progress and was further dinged when the news broke Wednesday that rookie first-round pick Jalen Reagor will likely undergo surgery for a torn UCL in his thumb, an injury that will keep the TCU product sidelined for the foreseeable future.
A visit to injured reserve is coming for Reagor and if everything goes correctly the Eagles are targeting Week 10 after their bye week as a potential return, the Nov. 15 game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium, a source told SI's EagleMaven.
In between that time frame, Philadelphia is likely to get back veteran Alshon Jeffery, which could calm things down a bit at WR but it remains to be seen how a 30-year-old player never known for his speed to begin with can regain his explosion from a Lisfranc injury.
Doug Pederson would love to play more 11 personnel (three receivers) but his personnel dictates the path and Ertz and Goedert are simply too good to take off the field for pedestrian WRs just to get a little more speed in play.
That said it's fair to point out that the modern NFL game is not conducive for anything other than the spread-and-shred mentality that has overtaken the league, something the Eagles' 0-2 start seems to validate.
In 2020, Philadelphia used 12 personnel a league-high 49 percent of the time per Sports Info Solutions, far ahead of No. 2, the Minnesota Vikings at 35 percent.
Through two games the Eagles' use of Tiger personnel has spiked to a ridiculous 74 percent per Sharp Football Stats and was up over 80 percent in a 37-19 drubbing at the hands of the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday.
As a comparison, No. 2 in the NFL in "12" this season is Arizona at 33 percent. The league average is just 19 percent.
“We are comfortable in 12 personnel,” said Doug Pederson. “We feel like we have some matchup advantages with our tight ends."
The issue becomes the lack of big plays and that's why Howie Roseman spent the offseason assembling a track team.
To date, however, the WRs simply haven't performed. Of the 116 wideouts graded by ProFootballFocus.com through two weeks, the Eagles have only one in the top 80, veteran DeSean Jackson.
From there it's Reagor at No. 106, Greg Ward (107), and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (115). John Hightower would be No. 114 had he plated enough snaps to be ranked.
The moral to that story is while Carson Wentz has struggled mightily his receivers aren't helping.
And that's why it's understandable Pederson keeps defaulting back to 12 more and more. After all, would you take Ertz or Goedert off the field to get an extra body from that group on it?
The key is generating explosive plays moving forward because grinding out with 15-play drives opens up the possibility for more mistakes whether it's something as mundane as a pre-snap penalty or increasing the odds of say a bad holding call from an official.
Against the Rams, the presence of Aaron Donald loomed as well resulting in a game plan that featured quick throws.
"They were trying to filter everything, they weren’t going to let anything get over," Goedert said of LA. "They were gonna make it as put together 12-15 play drive and just take away the big shot and let us just keep getting four yards, five yards here, three yards, you know, and when that happens we just have to grind through it, take what the defense gives us and just keep going."
Goedert believes the Eagles can generate more X plays with him and Ertz on the field, however.
"We're gonna have long drives when we're in 12 personnel sometimes, but at the same time, I think we can make plays, explosive plays," he said. "We just got to get them called at the right time and take advantage of those opportunities.”
Pederson, meanwhile, is just playing the hand he was dealt from Roseman.
“There are some things we can do to get a little bit more production out of that personnel group," said the coach. "It helps you to maybe maximize the protection a little bit to allow the ball to go down the field. So there are some opportunities there that we can take a look at.”
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Monday and Friday on SIRIUSXM and every Monday and Thursday with Eytan Shander on SportsMap Radio. He’s also the host of Extending the Play on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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