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Spartan Scoop

Spartan Scoop

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Spartan Scoop


Seemingly unbeatable play raising concerns and praises from around the NFL
Jalen Hurts when he wore #2 on his jersey
Wikimedia Commons
Jalen Hurts when he wore #2 on his jersey

In 2006, the National Football League permitted players to push their teammates forward for extra yardage. Since then, we have often seen swarms of players pushing on either side of the ball carrier, with the offense trying to push their runner further into the defense. This rule was a large change, but it didn’t change the way the game is played in a major way. What the Eagles are doing with this rule is doing just that, changing the game.

The Eagles have taken advantage of this rule by running a traditional QB sneak but with a little modification. Two Eagles players will be in the backfield, and as soon as the ball is snapped, they will push Jalen Hurts forward to get the short yardage needed. 

Last year, on the Eagles Super Bowl run, the team attempted this play 13 times and was successful for 12 of them. The play takes the guesswork out of 3rd or 4th and short situations. It is all but guaranteed to get the short yardage needed. Not only does it work to get a new set of downs, but it is a very effective scoring play also. 

The Yale Undergraduate Sports Analytics Group found that from the ‘95-’96 season to the 2015-2016 NFL season, the average success rate on 4th down and 1 yard to go was 65.7 percent. Sure this is relatively high, and statistically it is reasonable to attempt the 4th down conversion in most situations. But if a team is deep in their own territory, they risk turning the ball over and letting the other team have the ball close to their endzone. For the Eagles though, there is close to no risk of this, because of how effective this play is. 

This innovation has led the Eagles to great success, not only all of last year but this year so far as well. At the time this article was written, the Eagles were undefeated, and they had been trouncing their opponents. 

Plays like this have been run in the past, but mostly at the college level. For college football, pushing teammates forward was made legal in 2015. The same year, Kansas State football designed a play that is extremely similar to the modern “brotherly shove”, as a Reddit user has coined it. Kansas State also had great success with this play, although some of the players had injury concerns.

A play this unstoppable has prompted other teams to attempt it. A notable attempt was by the Giants on October 2nd against the Seahawks. They lined up in the familiar formation, but not with the familiar success. On the play, two players on the Giants were injured, and they did not convert the 4th down. Other teams have also tried to use the play, but usually with little success.

The results of other teams attempting the brotherly shove begs this question; is it the play, or the players? The Eagles have one of the best offensive lines in the league and a very athletic, 223-pound QB under center. 

Nick Sirianni, the Eagles head coach, does not attribute the success of the play to the design of it, but to the execution of it by his players. When asked about other teams trying the play, and having little success, Nick Sirianni was quite frank. He said that other teams just don’t have the personnel for the play to be successful for them.

Sirianni has faith in his team to run the play successfully, and there is no doubt that it is a play they worked on extensively. The Eagles’ offensive line is consistently rated as the best in the league, as it was by Sharp Football Analysis. Nick Sirianni is right about the Eagles personnel being superior for this play. The average player on the current starting five on the Eagles offensive line weighs 319.2 pounds. Jordan Mailata, the Eagles left tackle also stands at a whopping 6 ‘8’’, and weighs 366 lbs. The Eagles’ offensive line weighs 1596 lbs altogether. 

On this play, all 1596 pounds of offensive lineman, plus the weight of the tight ends, players in the backfield (usually Dallas Goedert and a running back), and Jalen Hurts are being thrust forward. This is a lot of the reason for the success because over 1 ton of football players can drive back the defense almost every time. But with this much manpower on each side of the ball, there are naturally some concerns for injuries in this formation. 

We saw the injuries to the Giants players when they attempted to run this play, but what about the Eagles players?

Why aren’t they getting hurt?

That was part of the practice of play, teaching players how to keep themselves safe among the chaos of the play. The play may not look methodical when it’s run, but it’s more complex than meets the eye. 

The players that push the quarterback forward are also on fumble duty, making sure that any loose balls are accounted for. The play is often credited to the players in the backfield pushing the quarterback over the pile of linemen, but the linemen are just as much to credit. The linemen go as low as they can and clash with the defensive linemen, pushing them back, or rather holding them off while Jalen Hurts awaits the push from his teammates. 

This play is one of the many reasons that the Eagles are one of the best teams in the NFL, if not the best. They only have one loss, which was to the Jets in week 6. Jalen Hurts had a rough time against the Jets secondary, throwing 3 picks and largely contributing to the loss. But when Jalen Hurts is on point (which is most of the time), the Eagles are bound for success. Their main competition in the NFC is the 49ers, which they will play on Dec. 3.

There has been talk about banning the Brotherly Shove altogether though. The concerns about injuries presented may be masking the real fear that it is truly an unstoppable play. Many players have said that it should not be banned because no one gets hurt when it’s run correctly. 

It does take some of the competition out of 3rd or 4th and short situations, but defenses will just have to adapt to the play. It may be gone next year, or it may stay in the league indefinitely.

About the Contributor
Sam Maney
"Sports is life" -Sam