The Philadelphia Eagles were the best team in the NFL this season for most of the campaign. The reasons behind their success can be listed by the dozen. But at least one edge they’ve utilized over their opponents belongs in a grayer area than most thanks to some under-the-radar finagling by center Jason Kelce.
They’ve gotten that edge via the quarterback sneak, which they’ve run 32 times this season. The Eagles ran the QB sneak – which is when the quarterback takes the snap and immediately dives forward to get a first down in short yardage situations – more than any other team in this millennium by a wide margin. The next closest total was 21 times.
The Athletic’s Kalyn Kahler ran an excellent piece detailing how they’ve gone next level when it comes to maximizing the sneak with Jalen Hurts, with multiple players being designated to push Hurts into a first down or into the end zone.
Jalen and the endzone meet again🤝#PHIvsAZ | #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/M3HR7n1Xxa
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) October 9, 2022
The pushing stuff is legal though. What isn’t is Jason Kelce oftentimes stealing some yardage by moving the football a little more forward to create the extra space they need. The move, as seen below, is not legal:
2019, Week 5. PHI vs. NYJ. 3Q 12:14
4-1 at NYJ 40 pic.twitter.com/GZtJZMiISM
— Kalyn Kahler (@kalynkahler) January 16, 2023
Via The Athletic:
“At the end of a conversation with the second NFL analytics staffer, he mentioned one last thing: ‘They move the ball forward,’ he said. ‘Kelce moves it forward like half a yard.’
“This wasn’t the first time I’d heard this accusation. Back in Week 9, when the officiating office sent the video to the teams, the first analytics staffer mentioned Kelce’s habit of moving the ball forward in the same sentence as the pushing, linking the two as an evolution of how the Eagles have grown the sneak.
“‘It is something so subtle that everyone always warns them but they don’t call it,’ the second analytics staffer said. ‘It’s like assisting the runner, the officials don’t care.'”
While sentiment is that it’s done by several centers across the league, Jason Kelce executes it “more demonstrably” than most anyone who attempts this. When you’re fighting for inches at times, getting that big of a gain certainly makes the Eagle’s QB sneaks more dangerous than most – something Philly’s opponents in the playoffs must be wary of.