West Coast Offense Flying East Coast: Eagles Flying High

Andrew ChampiContributor IMay 18, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS - JANUARY 04:   Brian Westbrook #36 of the Philadelphia Eagles carries the ball for a 71 yard touchdown as Fred Evans #90 and Chad Greenway #52 of the Minnesota Vikings defend during the NFC Wild Card playoff game on January 4, 2009 at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Eagles defeated the Vikings 26-14.(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

For teams who like to pound the ball on the ground the "I" formation is seen posted all over the playbook. Fullbacks and tight ends are found more often than candy canes during Christmas season.

However, with the offensive weapons that the Philadelphia Eagles possess, you will most likely see a backfield empty or split up around a quarterback who can toss a deadly shovel pass between rushing defenders and with a running back who can break apart any team's defense once he catches the ball.

It doesn't take a quarterback with the arm strength of John Elway or Brett Favre, or even one with the accuracy of Peyton Manning. This kind of offense can perform just fine with a director that has just enough touch to go along with a solid head on his shoulders.

Now lets take a look at the five best plays Andy Reid, Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, and the rest of the Eagles offense run so well out of the West Coast system:


1. Screen Pass

If you have watched the Eagles at all since the acquisition of running back Brian Westbrook, you can easily point out the one play that gives teams all over the NFL nightmares.

Lined up in a splitback formation, Brian Westbrook (an excellent pass rush blocker) slows out of the gate to bump off the pass rush and then leaks into the open field along with the offensive line leading the way.

McNabb looks downfield drawing the attention of the linebackers and secondaries, and then after eating up as much time as possible, floats it a couple yard up field to Westbrook accompanied by his entourage of 300-pound linemen.

Sounds easy only because it is executed perfectly.


2. Goaline Shovel Pass

When you have running backs who can catch the ball and are not afraid to run in traffic, and a quarterback who can stand in the pocket and take a hit, the goaline shovel pass will work nine out of 10 times.

The Eagles' favorite short yardage play is set up with McNabb in the shotgun and accompanied by either Westbrook or Correll Buckhalter, and is almost unstoppable inside the five-yard line.

When the ball is snapped the pass rush is forced to the outside along with the wide receivers opening the red sea for the Westbrook or Buckhalter to catch the quick pitch and sneak their way into the endzone.

When done wrong, it can be disastrous. When done right, it's a quick six.


3. Wide Receiver Out Route

The Eagles aren't blessed with a Randy Moss or Plaxico Burress who can go up and catch a short fade well over the defender's head.

However, they do have the benefit of quick and tight route runners that can get separation in short routes and use their strong hands to grab the quick pass and turn up field.

Kevin Curtis, Desean Jackson, and Jason Avant have used this play multiple times per game to turn up field and create big plays, even when it looked like nothing was there.

Also, don't forget Brian Westbrook lining up as a wideout and running the same simple route for an easy first down. More often than not with the Eagles, plays that get the most yardage do not require a throw 40 yards downfield.


4. Third Down Tight End Shallow Cross

For years now, the Eagles have seen third down as the tight end's down. In fact, the reason they keep producing more than capable tight ends is most likely due to this simple play.

Pro-bowler L.J. Smith mastered the play for years before leaving. Now it is Brent Celek's turn to turn into a pro-bowl tight end with the Eagles.

With defenses tightening on the outside on third downs, the tight end is often given space off the line. With a few steps down field and then a turn to the sideline, third down can quickly turn into first down for the wily Eagle offense.


5. Long Yardage Stop and Go

Donovan McNabb loves a strong pump fake, and when it works the way it's supposed to, look for a smile on his face that would make even the Grinch jealous.

Using those speedy, undersized wide receivers, McNabb will throw a hard pump fake freezing the secondary and watching Desean Jackson and Kevin Curtis coast downfield and most likely into the endzone.

Assuming that Jackson holds the celebratory ball drop until he crosses the finish line.


Andy Reid can run these five plays, and only these five plays, continuously and still cause havoc for opposing defenses.

Like McNabb on the sidelines after a scoring drive, the West Coast visits the East Coast during the Fall and Winter months and still leaves with a smile.