Three Eagles Numbers That Matter

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Ranging from Darren Sproles’ role to Nick Foles’ future, here are three Eagles numbers that matter.

4.3 – The number of rushing attempts per game Sproles has averaged in the past three seasons. Back in March, we took an All-22 look at what Sproles brings to the table. The conclusion was that he would have a far greater impact as a receiver than as a ball-carrier.




But Chip Kelly seems to have an issue with that assertion. Last week, a reporter started off a question to Kelly by pointing out that the team essentially was bringing on four new receivers (Jeremy Maclin, Jordan MatthewsJosh Huff and Sproles) from a year ago. The head coach interrupted.

"Sproles is not a receiver," he said.

A receiving option then?

"All of our running backs are all receiving options," Kelly said. "I just clarified that. Everyone thinks Darren Sproles is a receiver. He's a running back and a really, really talented running back."

Sproles will turn 31 in June and averaged 4.2 yards per carry last season, the second-worst mark of his career. But during the two OTAs that were open to the media, he took almost all the reps with the second team at running back. He's yet to take reps as a slot receiver (from what we've seen).

With the Bryce Brown trade, the question of what the Eagles' plan will be should LeSean McCoy go down needs an answer this summer. Given his frame and age, Sproles doesn't seem like a viable option to carry the load; he's never had more than 93 carries in a season. Chris Polk's shoulder injury caused him to go undrafted, and he's had a total of 11 carries in two seasons.

Maybe an unknown like Matthew Tucker, Henry Josey or David Fluellen will emerge this summer. Maybe the Eagles will add another running back in the coming months. But one way or another, they need to find an insurance plan for McCoy.

One more note: Last year, backup Eagles running backs averaged 5.4 carries per game. Expect the bulk of those touches to go to Sproles. But don't expect McCoy's workload to be lightened much.

11.95 - The number (in millions) of McCoy's cap hit in 2015, according to OverTheCap.com.

Given that he saw the Eagles unexpectedly release DeSean Jackson this offseason, McCoy was asked if he's thought about the team doing the same to him after 2014.

"Not really. I know it's a business," McCoy said. "I feel like if I do my job as far as being a productive player and just being positive, just being everything that I am, I'm not nervous at all. That's something that we'll work on when that time comes. As long as I'm productive, stay healthy and doing the right things, I should be fine. I think in this offense I'm the best fit around the league and anywhere, so just gotta have that type of confidence. I feel like I've been good to this team, and the team, they've been good to me. I've got a deal done going into my fourth year, which they didn't have to do that. So it's all a business, and I think they'll take care of it when that time comes."

Chase Stuart of Football Perspective took a look at some numbers and concluded that running backs tend to peak at age 26 and then steadily decline. McCoy turns 26 in July.

The guess here is that he's not going anywhere. Kelly still employs a spread-to-run offense. That means he's likely to be willing to invest significant resources in the primary ball-carrier and the offensive line. McCoy is durable, productive, explosive and versatile. In other words, he has everything that Kelly is looking for.

If the Eagles had a backup running back with high upside and a lower price tag, maybe this would be more of a relevant discussion. But for now, I don't think McCoy has anything to worry about.

Update: Good point here from friend of the blog Sam Lynch.

13.073 - The amount (in millions) of real guaranteed money for Colin Kaepernick. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk did an excellent job of breaking down all the details. Here's the important part:

For 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and part of 2018, the base salaries are guaranteed only for injury. On April 1 of each year, the guarantees convert from injury only to fully guaranteed. That gives the 49ers the ability to decide, in any given year, to move on from Kaepernick. And with the deadline for the conversion of the guarantee coming on April 1, the 49ers can squat on his rights until several weeks after the start of free agency, making it harder for him to get paid elsewhere.

Kaepernick's camp spread numbers like $126 million and $61 million guaranteed, but the reality is this is actually a team-friendly deal. The 49ers are essentially paying year-by-year and have the ability to cut Kaepernick whenever they want after 2014.

T-Mac did a good job this morning of breaking down how the deal might affect Nick Foles.

From my perspective, it's tough to predict with any confidence what the Eagles' plan of action will be next offseason when Foles is eligible for an extension. On one hand, we know Kelly values accuracy, decision-making and toughness - all qualities Foles exhibited in 2013. And as we saw with the Kaepernick deal, there are creative ways to structure contracts that make the player happy while still providing outs for the team.

However, we don't have a complete picture about Kelly's philosophy in terms of team-building. Having a cheap quarterback (often on a rookie contract) is a huge advantage because it allows teams to invest resources elsewhere. Having an expensive quarterback who eats up cap space can cripple a team's ability to add talent in other areas. It's possible Kelly really likes Foles, but believes he can find someone else to be productive at a reduced price. It's also possible he doesn't want to take that risk.

For now, we get to sit back and see what Foles has planned for an encore. But next offseason is going to tell us a lot about the long-term vision of Kelly and this franchise.

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  • UncleCarm

    It will also tell us a lot about Foles. I like the kid, his work ethic, his decision making which has to be fast twitch in this offense. The only thing I noticed is there were multiple times when he was out of the pocket and had a free opportunity to intentionally ground the ball and he held on too long and took the sack. He had an incredible year last year and while it seems unlikely that he can improve on that… what if he does? He would have to be up there in the discussions with the elite quarterbacks.

    • Brandon Boykin, LOL

      Probably not. And that’s not a slight to FOles in the least. The national media won’t recognize him. Even in the middle of that great season it was a passing “wow! Look at this season Nick Foles is having… Can we talk more about Brady, Manning, and how good Luck could be if he were as good as we want him to be?” Ya know? Chippah even said it. He’ll never arrive in their eyes.

      • PhillySean

        RE: arrive, arrived
        Chip was talking about becoming complacent, not media recognition.

        • Brandon Boykin, LOL

          Ah you are correct. Context matters.

          Either way, I’m still going with the gist of what I was saying. As good as he may be/is, he won’t receive such recognition. He’ll probably be fourth mentioned/cared about in his own class.

          ESPN and EA LOVE Luck (he’s got a 90 rating on Madden. A 90. You f-in serious?)
          RG3 is the media’s dream. They can tarnish or build him up as much as they want (see: season 1 and then season 2).
          Wilson has a ring and QBs the best team in the NFL. I go off the “until someone beats them” standard if you want to argue the best team thing.
          FOles.
          Tannehill… Depends on what he does this year.

          • PhillySean

            I agree with you on Foles being overlooked by the media.

  • Oli Richford

    One word. MARIOTA

    • SuM

      If Foles has a big year and a move for Mariota emerges as a possibility in next years draft (maybe including a trade of Foles for picks/position) it wouldn’t surprise me. It’s unfortunate, but I think the hefty paychecks top QB’s get make it a viable strategy to go with a younger, cheaper option.

      • myeaglescantwin

        yeah, but we would be talking an RG3 type of deal in order for the Eagles to move up.

        no thanks.

        • anon

          Assuming Mariota looks good – I didn’t think he did last year. And unless you’re the next Peyton Manning people aren’t taking QBs like they used to.

          • Oli Richford

            Fair point – I guess he might go top 10 in which case there’s no way we will get him.

            It all depends on what Chip feels is winning them the games, either Foles or the system, and how much percentage can be allocated to each.

          • anon

            We could have taken Tajh Boyd late this year — mobile QB project (not sure about intagibles) but we didn’t.

            Side note, must be demoralizing having them put Sanchez in front of you.

          • myeaglescantwin

            I think the QB’s on this roster are indicative of exactly what Chipper is looking for at this level.
            I don’t mean pro-failed players from USC
            I mean more pocket passers with just enough ‘escapabiliy’ to pick up a few yrds on the zone read option.

            you would have to believe that if Chipper was looking for a scrambling/running QB, he would have drafted a later round project player to groom into his system. Like that kid from VT.

            we didn’t see that, he chose a veteran pocket QB.

          • Amar

            Damn, that means the Cowboys have a great shot at him,being #4 in the 2015 draft.

          • paul from nc

            Again, if Foles plays well, don’t you think we could get a top 5 or 10 pick for him? If not, we could also package our 1st with him and get as much as the first pick.
            Thoughts?

          • OregonEagle

            Mariota is to College QB’s as CK is to coaches. He has size, speed, and smarts, and team first attitude. His question marks are pin-point accuracy and the long ball because they really weren’t featured in the Oregon offense. He didn’t look great last year because he was wearing a knee brace for half the season that killed his mobile game. To get a snapshot of his air game look at Josh Huff’s 2013 highlights. Mariotta is on the other end of everything Huff caught.

            That said, I don’t believe Chip would chase Mariotta. Nick Foles is no fluke. It’s hard to see how he has better numbers than he did last year but Chip will make him a better QB this year. Nick will be the Eagles QB for a while.

      • Kev_H

        I don’t think that will ever be a viable strategy. Been reading some 49er fan comments and many of them feel that Kaepernick’s “read one and run” has held them back the last two years. Realize that they were an overtime loss away from the Super Bowl the previous year with Alex Smith, so there is some merit to the idea that QB is what is keeping them from a title during this run of success. If you can legitimately make the case that Kaepernick is holding you back, what happens if you don’t hit on your pick and end up with Kevin Kolb instead?

        • dnabrice

          Read one and run works when you still get the first down/lots of yardage anyway.

      • paul from nc

        Agreed. It’s a win/win or lose/lose depending how you look at it.
        The better Foles does this year,the more money it will take to resign him or the better picks you might get.if you trade him.
        The worse he does, the less to resign, or lower picks.
        I’m not saying we should trade him or not, but the Eagles are not known for record breaking spending. Getting a top pick and taking Mariota or another top QB, means 4 more years of a cheap rookie contract at the most expensive position.
        I wouldn’t discount the possibility of it happening.

    • Richard Colton

      It’s actually two words, although why anyone would want to marry Hoda is beyond me. Kathy Lee totally carries that show. If you’re talking about the Eagles and the Oregon QB, you’re just being silly.

      As it turns out, “harass” is one word, as human resources continues to inform me.

      • Neanderthal

        maybe why you would marioto, harass.

      • paul from nc

        I remember my working days and the good old HR dept. memos and classes. Glad that’s over.

  • Dominik

    “Having a cheap quarterback (often on a rookie contract) is a huge
    advantage because it allows teams to invest resources elsewhere. Having
    an expensive quarterback who eats up cap space can cripple a team’s
    ability to add talent in other areas. It’s possible Kelly really likes
    Foles, but believes he can find someone else to be productive at a
    reduced price. It’s also possible he doesn’t want to take that risk.”

    If Chip choses to go this way – the D-Jax release will be kindergarten compared to that shitstorm he would earn.

    I don’t think he will, though, even though his nickname in Oregon was Big Balls Chip. I think Chip saw how Barkley struggled. There are excuses for Barkley, but I don’t think Chip will risk to lose a season (and maybe even his whole NFL career) due to sloppy QB play.

    I only hope the deal will be as team friendly as Kaeps apparently is. Pay the man as long as he plays great, but don’t put the entire health of the Franchise on risk due to his contract. If Foles plays on Dalton level, you have to be able to cut him. If you found a QB you love and is much cheaper, cut him. Until then, pay the man. Could be fair to both sides.

    • DirtyWaters

      I am so curious how the FOles thing will plays out. I will not be surprised whatever happens.

      • BigHappyMan

        What if he quits football?

        • Andy124

          The I will not be a BigHappyMan.

        • DirtyWaters

          A la Barry Sanders? Like I said, nothing surprises me anymore, even Djax.

      • Dominik

        The second time I read FOles today on 24/7. Is this a sign from god that GEagle will make a comeback?

        • Jerry Pomroy

          No it’s his ghost taking over the soul of the writer for that comment. He’s over at Igglesblitz.com still holding down.

          • Dominik

            I know, I know. I’m over there, too.

          • Jerry Pomroy

            Yes you are. :-)

          • Dominik

            You too?

            I’m here, at Jimmy K and IB, with reading the comment section regulary here and at IB, so it’s no offense to you if I don’t remember you being on one board in particular. ;)

        • DirtyWaters

          I was on my off season hiatus from comments when this GEagle thing happened. What got him banned? (Just so I don’t make the same mistake…)

          • Warhound

            His crazy rants became filled with personal attacks.

          • DirtyWaters

            I heard it was because of his gang relations.

      • paul from nc

        With the Eagles and money you’re totally correct.
        The only real surprise would be if they signed Foles and/or McCoy to a record contract. That would be out of character.

  • Josh

    Just fyi, B. Brown wasn’t released, he was traded. Probably just a silly mistake.

    • sdk152

      Fixed… thanks! -SK

  • Mark F

    Once again we have the dead horse of Nick Foles ain’t a Chip Kelly QB rearing it’s decomposing head…ok so Chip’s just going to keep taking a mid round QB every 3 years to keep cutting costs? That’s an asinine idea.

    • JosephR2225

      Don’t be silly. Anyone can do it! That’s why Barkley looked so awesome in the Eagles offense last year. It’s user-proof!

      • Jerry Pomroy

        Fool proof or user friendly. Or were you morphing the two expressions?… lol.

        • Andy124

          Where I come from, user and fool are interchangeable.

          • Jerry Pomroy

            Yes we know… lol.

        • JosephR2225

          Lol. No user-proof. It pretty much means idiot-proof, as in it runs automatically so no user can screw it up.

          Or maybe I just made that up. Who knows? I’m going to go get some coffee.

      • Kev_H

        Yeah, I know. LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson have been playing for years and Cooper has been around awhile as well. All three had career years with Foles at QB, but the knee jerk reaction among many is that those guys made Foles, when they couldn’t make Kolb or Vick. Isn’t it just as likely that Foles made them all better? He clearly was a good fit for Cooper and made him a competent, dangerous receiver, which opened things up more for the other guys to have career years as well. So just kick that to the curb for a crack at a Christian Ponder or Geno Smith?

        • Jerry Pomroy

          I just threw up in my mouth over that last thought. Yuck!

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    • Jerry Pomroy

      In the NFL that’s not playing with fire, it’s playing with an atom bomb.

      Plus, looking at the Kaep deal there is one thing that really stands out. The fact that they were very cautious in the possibility of injury to their “mobile QB”.

      • anon

        That contract is crazy – Kap should give those $ socks to his agent b/c that’s the only person coming out well in this deal.

        • Adam G

          You mean his agent who is being universally ridiculed for negotiating an awful contract?

          • anon

            Can’t ridicule his bank account. Honestly, looking at this deal i would have said f— it let’s go Flacco on ‘em.

          • Adam G

            His agent gets 3% of his salary. His agent’s returns are in lock step with Kaep’s and his reputation has been damaged. In fact, nobody came out worse than his agent.

        • Jerry Pomroy

          Have you looked at the details? It’s not quite as lucrative as it looks on the surface. If Kaep doesn’t rise to the challenge, the 49ers hold ALL of the cards. His agent is gonna be pushing him like crazy but also watching every single step he makes.

      • paul from nc

        The first 5 years are “guaranteed only for injury”.
        If he plays badly, they can cut him. but, if he gets hurt, he still gets paid.

        • Jerry Pomroy

          Yes, but they’re also requiring him to carry a $20M disability insurance policy if he sustains a career ending injury, payable to the 49ers.

    • Burberry Manning

      They keep doubting foles. Who says Mariotta can win on this level. In a up tempo offense if the qb is not accurate you will have a lot of stalled drives. If he has a solid year who would want to restart with a young qb ?

      • Reasonableeaglefan

        I wonder about the Bridgewater effect. When a QB is seemingly a lock to be the first QB off the board, then they get picked apart a fall. If Mariotta falls into the Eagles range next year like Manziel did, am I going to hear another round of fans clamoring for a mobile QB?

        • paul from nc

          Yes you will.
          Chip knows Mariota better than anyone. If he picks him, like a lot say, “In Chip we trust”
          I personally never liked Manziel and doubt he will ever be special in the NFL. Mariota is accurate, fast thinker, fast of foot and seems to have his head on straight. The only knock I’ve seen is that his long ball is not the best.

      • JCinVA

        Mariotta is VERY accurate boss, I’m not saying I don’t like Nick, but if Mariotta falls to us somehow, I don’t see how Chip/Howie could pass him up…

        • JCinVA

          *Mariota

        • Reasonableeaglefan

          This year we created a hole at WR this year and forced ourselves into using a premium pick to replace DJax(not a comment on the move, just a fact). Now we are going to use our top pick next year on another position that’s not a top priority need? If Foles falls flat that’s one thing, but can you really say we take Mariotta if he falls regardless?

          • paul from nc

            Think like the Eagles.
            Pay a huge contract with big guaranteed money
            or
            Trade him for good pick/picks, and have Mariota for 3 years on a cheap rookie contract.

            I’m not saying it will happen, but I don’t discount the possibility.

          • Reasonableeaglefan

            That’s not a sustainable plan. How many, serviceable even, QBs in their prime get traded? What teams hit on a QB every time they draft one?

          • paul from nc

            I’m not saying it is. Only offering a scenario based on Eagles history of cap room.

  • Kev_H

    I don’t agree with SK here, but we’ll see how it plays out. So far, Chip Kelly and the current Eagles regime has given zero indication that they are willing to invest major dollars or picks in a “feature” back. One could read into the lack of apparent depth or concern at RB that it indicates that Kelly figures he can plug and play anyone who can pass block and hang on to the ball and have success. The fact that McCoy’s yards per carry in his sensational season last year were actually lower than the team’s overall supports that type of thinking.

    The inference from this post is that the Eagles going forward would be willing to spend big bucks and cap space for a feature running back, but cleverly try to cut corners at QB. That’s backwards and not supported by any evidence in the NFL. Running back careers are short and unpredictable, while running backs seem to be easily replaceable.

    A good QB can be a rock on which to build for 10 or more years. Wouldn’t it make sense to invest your money there and use 3rd/4th round picks on RBs, use them for 4-6 years, if they are successful, and get out before the decline?

    I guess the demand for daily blogposts sometimes causes these guys to think themselves upside down. There are often league trends that are inefficient, but investing resources in quarterbacks and not in running backs isn’t one of them.

    • Jerry Pomroy

      I don’t agree with that premise at all. History has shown (and there are tons of studies to support it) that a QB’s success translates to more wins on average than any other defining factor. A running “game” does need to be “efficient” for the QB to maintain success. But the key words are running game & efficient. Not special. Shady is a special back in my eyes. But I think that the current regime is willing to ride McCoy for as long as they can and until they find a viable replacement. That replacement doesn’t need to be as supremely talented, but needs to be effective in running the ball.

    • JosephR2225

      I’m not seeing that. They expended resources to get Sproles, which they didn’t have to do. And the fact that Shady barely got taken off the field last season certainly implies that they value his skill set over the other “plug and play” guys.

      • Kev_H

        The Sproles deal is the kind of deal one would expect from a team who normally valued running backs- spend some later draft picks, have some bodies and low cost veterans. The two NFL coaches Kelly is most compared to are Payton and Belichek. It wouldn’t surprise me if he modeled the RB position close to what they have done. Last year the Patriots top 4 runners gained 2,024 yards at a 4.7 yard per carry clip and scored 18 TDs and they were all minimum salary guys. It’s clear which is better (sorry if you invested in a McCoy jersey), getting that production out of $2 million and four guys so if any any one guy goes down it isn’t a huge deal trumps taking an $11-$12 million cap hit to count on one guy who is approaching the expiration date for RBs.

        Kelly inherited McCoy without any options for 2013 or 2014 since releasing him would have been a big cap hit for either of those years. For 2015 and beyond releasing him would be big cap savings, so we will see after this year. I have a hard time seeing them devoting $12 million in cap space to McCoy in 2015 but a lot of it will depend on how the season plays out. At the time the deal was signed, it didn’t look like 2015 and beyond was a strong possibility. If you look at previous rushing leaders over the last 15 years or so, they usually come back with down seasons. So if McCoy does the same (like AP, Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson et al before him) you might see some drama or at least a pay cut.

        • JosephR2225

          Well as soon as releasing any player represents a cap savings they are in danger of being released, and McCoy is no exception to that. I agree that there is nothing to indicate they would pay a RB at the expense of the QB position, but I don’t see McCoy as a replaceable commodity. Particularly with the RBs they have on the roster.

    • Javi Echie

      I completely disagree with your assessment. The eagles haven’t shown that they’d cut corners at QB because Kelly inherited Vick and Foles and Foles still isn’t up for an extension so we have yet to find out how much he would invest in a QB. Also he inherited McCoy and his contract so we still don’t know if he would invest a high pick or big bucks on a RB

      • Kev_H

        I think we are in agreement. The blog post I’m commenting on implies they might cut corners at QB, while also implying that Kelly would be willing to invest in a feature back. Nothing has happened at either position that gives an indication of what they might do or how they value the positions. This offseason all will probably be answered since they will be in a position to extend Foles and will have a decision on the running back position. Although Kaepernick’s cap number for this year is only $3.7 million in his new deal, if they can swing a deal like that with Foles, they might be able to ride Shady at his current contract for another year in 2015.

    • paul from nc

      I agree that RB’s are easier to replace than QB’s. But is will take a lot more money to resign Foles than it will to resign Shady. Will the Eagles be willing to invest Kaepernick type money in hm? From recent history, you’d have to think, maybe not. I could see them trading Foles for draft picks (cheaper) and maybe signing McCoy. Or maybe not sign either.
      Remember Chip’s history of replacing QB’s without missing a beat. That, along with Roseman’s love of cap space, could mean it’s a strong possibility.

  • Cam in Eugene

    Foles has a 20 and 8 season he’s the quarterback of the future. That could realistically mean an 8-8 season which means regression. Doesn’t matter, look at franchises like the Vikings…the bills…etc. you got anything above serviceable in the nfl you pay the man.

    • paul from nc

      Except, I don’t think the Eagles mantra is “pay the man”

      • Art Vandelay

        They paid Mcnabb and Vick sizable sums. Let’s not forget.

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