Matt Nagy Has Schemed Trubisky from Rookie Disaster to Second-Year Surprise
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Two of the sturdiest branches on the Andy Reid-coaching tree will meet in the wild-card round on Sunday when Doug Pederson's Eagles visit Matt Nagy and the 12-4 Chicago Bears on Sunday.
Pederson, Reid's offensive coordinator in Kansas City before returning to Philadelphia as the head coach for the 2016 season, is already a made man in NFL circles after winning Super Bowl LII and somehow getting the Eagles back to the postseason as a sequel despite a disappointing 4-6 start.
Nagy, meanwhile, replaced Pederson as the OC in K.C. before getting the top job in the Windy City where he schemed Mitchell Trubisky from first-year disaster to second-year surprise, a development that has put Nagy on the inside track to Coach of the Year honors.
Trubisky probably had his worst game as a professional against the Eagles in Philadelphia during his rookie season, passing for just 147 yards and being intercepted on two occasions en route to an unspeakable 38.3 passer during a 31-3 drubbing at the hands of Jim Schwartz's defense.
The difference is a defensive-minded head coach in John Fox with a run-of-the-mill OC in Dowell Loggains versus Nagy, who has baffled defenses with pre-snap movement designed to test the discipline and communications of the opposing defense, as well as generate easy completions for what essentially remains a one-read QB who is best when the ball is out of his hands quickly en route to an open receiver.
"You're just seeing it a lot more [motion] from people," Schwartz assessed earlier this week when discussing the Chicago offense. "Motion has been a part of the NFL and shifting and stuff like that for a long time.
"You're seeing double motions [from the Bears]; motion one guy stop, go back, motion the other way; guys motioning into the backfield, out of the backfield. I think it does put a lot more emphasis on communication and things like that. It's nothing we haven't seen from half a dozen teams this year. They're not doing anything unique. They just have really good players doing it and they do a nice job in their scheme of putting you in positions that you have to communicate, and you also have to watch your keys. You can't get distracted by other things."
The eyewash, though, can be difficult and when you add in a unique playmaker like Tarik Cohen, there is always a concern that changing responsibilities during the pre-snap routine could result in breakdowns.
"I mean, like literally, they use him all over the place," Schwartz said of Cohen, who is second on the Bears in rushing with 444 yards on 99 carries and No. 1 in receiving with 71 catches for 725 yards. "Line him up in the backfield, line him up as a wide receiver, wide receiver motion into the backfield, in the backfield motion out, jet sweep, inside runs, outside runs, deep passes, short passes.
"He's a really important part of their offense. We saw that a little bit last year. We knew how talented he was last year. He's in the same vein this year, and they're finding ways to get him the ball."
The second part of Nagy's wizardry has been the RPO game to take advantage of Trubisky's greatest strength as a player, his athleticism.
"A lot of different layers to it," Schwartz said when discussing the Nagy offense. "There is obviously some Kansas City influence to it and also some Rams influence to it. There is a lot of sort of new-age offense to it, like zone reads and RPOs and using running backs as wide receivers, jet motion, all that different stuff."
According to Schwartz, though, most of the Trubisky improvement stems from scaling back responsibility. In fact, much like Eagles veteran starter Nick Foles, Trubisky is about distributing the football now.
"He's sort of a point guard out there moving the ball around to a lot of different guys," Schwartz said. "He does a really good job of executing what they're doing in their run game with all their layers of zone reads and RPOs. They run a lot of the different RPOs: three-by-one, two-by-two, slants, slant-flats, stick-outs, hitches, speed-outs. I mean, all of those.
"Just because it's a run doesn't mean it's not going to be a pass. He makes the right reads, puts the ball in good position. He's also a really good athlete and can extend plays. Throws really well on the run. All those things will be challenges for us."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen