One of the most talked about themes of the 2014 offseason has been about how much Chip Kelly values versatility in his personnel. The line of thinking is that he wants verstaile players who can be lined up in multiple spots to make the offense and defense more dynamic. The word versatility has been used to herald the Malcolm Jenkins, Marcus Smith, Jordan Matthews, Darren Sproles and Jaylen Watkins acquisitions. I'll be honest and say I've never quite liked the "versatility" argument when it comes to pro football. While versatility is an asset, at this level, most players need an elite trait to really stand out in Pro Football. While there are some exceptions to the rule, my overall philosophy is that when the key driver behind a player is his "versatility" it usually means he's not great at one thing, and thus ends up being an average player. One player I want to highlight at #17 of the Chip Wagon Top 25 is a second year player I am expecting big things from in 2014. Zach Ertz:
We've heard a lot about Ertz's "versatility since he's been drafted out of Stanford, and Chip Kelly showcased that a little in his rookie year by moving Ertz all over the formation as a TE, in the slot, and outside as a WR. But speaking of Ertz, while he does have great size and speed combo, I don't think either of those traits set him apart from today's new generation of tight ends. However, the one thing that does set Ertz apart is his route running. It is very polished and very impressive for a tight end.
Now for the play. We spread out the Cardinals defense with 4 wides including Zach Ertz on the bottom of the screen:
A number of things to point out on this play.
First and foremost is the obvious mismatch that Foles picks up on very quickly. With Ertz motioned to the bottom of the screen, the Cardinals are in man coverage and Daryl Washington gets single covered on him pre-snap. This accomplishes a couple of things. A nice mismatch for Ertz in coverage, but it also takes the Cardinals best pass rusher out of the box. One safety creeps up to blitz, leaving only one deep safety:
After the snap, the Cardinals blitz and send 6. Foles having already identified his key mismatch pre-snap, works to get the ball out quickly. Ertz makes a nice cut to the inside and does a nice job using his big body to shield the defender:
Washington actually ends up with pretty decent coverage on this play, but the ball placement from Foles is terrific. He puts it where only his player can make a play on the ball, and Zach flashes great hands to haul this one in:
Here's one more of Ertz beating the Cover 2 defense down the seam with a really nice route, and nice execution from Foles.
Again the Eagles spread the Cardinals out and Ertz is lined up on the bottom of the screen:
Ertz will run past the first zone and is faced with coverage against the safety, he makes a slight hesitation to the outside forcing the safety to protect to the sidelines. This is all he needs to open up the space up the seam:
You can see the separation he creates once he goes back inside and more notable is the fact that Foles has let the ball go before Ertz is even looking back for the ball. Great anticipation throw by Foles, good separation by Ertz, easy TD:
Looking ahead, I guess the exciting thing about the offense moving forward, despite losing Desean Jackson, is that we have a number of versatile players that have elite traits when matched up in a mismatch. Seems with a combination of the no-huddle and a collection of versatile playmakers, Chip Kelly does a good job of getting his players in favorable positions. Ertz is going to beat a LB in coverage frequently, we've shown how Sproles excels with his short area quickness to get separation against LBs in a short area, we've got a nice set of RBs who can get open downfield when they draw LBs in coverage, and Jordan Matthews adds a new size dynamic to the slot receiver role. With this collection of players Kelly has the option to go both big and fast in 2014. Looking forward to watching how it all comes together.