Three Eagles Numbers That Matter

Here are three Eagles-related numbers that matter:

74 – Oregon’s red-zone efficiency (touchdowns scored) from 2010 to 2012. That was second-best in the nation, behind only Wisconsin (78 percent), according to CoachingSearch.com.

Obviously, there will be adjustments to be made in the NFL, but that’s a promising number for the Eagles. Last year, the Birds ranked 28th in the league in red-zone efficiency, and they haven’t been in the top-10 since the Super Bowl year in 2004. Take a look:

 
Percentage TDs
Rank
201244%28th
201151.52%14th
201052.46%16th
200949.06%21st
200847.89%25th
200745.10%25th
200654%12th
200553.66%12th

I’m intrigued by how Kelly will use his personnel in the red zone. For example, we know by now that DeSean Jackson is not a productive red-zone receiver. And it’s not just about size. His skill set does not include making tough, physical catches in traffic. With Jackson, it’s about stretching the field, and that’s negated when the defense can use the back of the end zone as an extra defender.

Jackson has four catches in the red zone in the past two seasons combined. There’s not really a reason for him to be on the field down there, unless he’s being used as a decoy. Perhaps Kelly will use someone like Arrelious Benn to replace him. Or maybe the Eagles will go to 2-TE or 3-TE sets now that they have Brent Celek, James Casey and Zach Ertz in the fold.

If the team practices red zone during one of the practice sessions we’re allowed to attend, I’ll keep an eye on this.

And thanks to friend of the blog Sam Lynch for the CoachingSearch.com link.

8.5 – The percentage of plays in which the Eagles’ defense missed a tackle in 2012, according to Football Outsiders. That was the highest mark in the league. In 2011, the Eagles’ number was 8.1 percent, which was second-to-last.

The numbers are broken down by individual players too. For example, rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks missed 15.1 percent of his tackle attempts, the worst mark among linebackers.

And the numbers in the secondary back up what you saw with your eyes on a weekly basis. Dominique Rodgers Cromartie, Nnamdi Asomugha and Nate Allen were among the 10 worst tackling defensive backs in the NFL (no other team had more than one DB listed).

Rodgers-Cromartie missed 20.7 percent of his tackles, third-worst. Allen missed 16.4 percent, fifth-worst. And Asomugha missed 13.8 percent, 10th-worst.

The good news? Free-agent signee Cary Williams was among the best tacklers. He missed just 2.7 percent of his attempts, tied for third-best.

We spend plenty of time talking about scheme, but the basic fundamentals of blocking and tackling simply have to get better with this team.

26.5 – The number of seconds in between plays for the Eagles last year. Chase Stuart of Football Perspective did the leg-work, using time of possession and total number of plays to come up with a metric for tempo. And surprisingly, the Eagles ran the fourth-fastest offense in the league in 2012, behind only the Patriots (24.9 seconds), Saints (26.1) and Ravens (26.4).

Part of the Eagles’ tempo relates to the fact that they were often trailing in the second half. But there were weeks when the no-huddle was a part of the game-plan. Sometimes, it was a very slow-moving no-huddle, while other times the Eagles pushed tempo.

Chip Kelly has been quick to point out that the Eagles might not always go at a fast pace, but they want to have that option in their back pocket.

“I think the game is about making quick decisions,” Kelly said. “It’s a game of 60 to 70 to 80 four‑second plays. So once the ball is snapped, it happens at that tempo. We’re just trying to force them to – everything we do has to kind of be ‑ reflect what the mission is, and the mission is to be prepared to play a four‑second play.  You need to have that kind of (snapping fingers) to get that done, so I think that’s why we’re practicing like that.”

Stuart’s chart also shows that using an up-tempo offense is not a new phenomenon. He goes back to 1991 and shows that four of the five fastest offenses of the last 21 years were teams that played in the 1990s. Three were the Buffalo Bills (1991, 1992, 1993), and the other was the 1995 Patriots.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: WRs Better Be Ready To Block

Even though he’s the wide receivers coach, Bob Bicknell didn’t need a football during a “teach” period at Monday’s practice.

The emphasis during this particular session was on blocking. It’s an aspect of playing the position that is often overlooked, and it’s not something that shows up in the box score or gets guys big pay checks.

But in Chip Kelly’s system, it’s crucial. Last year, Oregon had 43 runs of 20+ yards. That was No. 1 in the nation. In 2011, the number was 40 (third). And in 2010, 39 (fourth). Spread the defense out, run the football, and hit on big plays. Such a plan requires wide receivers to take care of defensive backs on the outside.

“Obviously, with the different type of stuff that we’re doing, there’s different techniques that you have to work on as opposed to the other techniques that are standard in the west coast offense,” said Jeremy Maclin.

The truth is, Maclin and the Eagles wide receivers were poor blockers in 2012. With a likely emphasis on the run game, wide receiver screens and quick passes, that will have to change in 2013.

The team has given itself more options going forward. The Eagles acquired Arrelious Benn from Tampa, and he’s proven to be a good blocker in the past. On a wide receiver screen to Maclin on Monday, Benn shoved cornerback Bradley Fletcher out of bounds, creating space for his teammate.

The Eagles also have a versatile group of tight ends who are capable of lining up in a variety of different places. For example, you might see Zach Ertz and DeSean Jackson on the same side of the field with the tight end blocking for the speedy wide receiver.

“If they ask you to block, then that’s what you have to do,” Maclin said. “There’s some offenses where they don’t ask guys to block. Some of the greatest receivers of all time never had to block. That’s just how it is.”

Every wide receivers coach in the NFL will say blocking is part of being a complete player. Some really mean it, others not so much.

But if the past is any indication, certain aspects of Kelly’s offense simply won’t work if the wide receivers don’t do their jobs as blockers.

WHAT YOU MISSED

A new documentary will reveal some intriguing stories about Jackson. T-Mac has the scoop.

The offense is in the process of picking up a new way of calling plays.

Find out how you can win tickets to the Eagles Academy For Men.

Interesting comments from Jason Kelce about the difference between Kelly and Andy Reid.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Good take on Brandon Graham from Tommy Lawlor over on IgglesBlitz.com:

The biggest thing I look for in a pass rusher is whether the player is explosive. Graham isn’t. He wins with good burst and great leverage. He is very good with the bull rush. There are some plays when he’s able to get his hands in the chest of the blocker and jolt him. Graham can then get by the blocker. Graham uses the rip move very well, which ties in to his use of leverage. Graham tried spin moves in a couple of games and had mixed results.

One of Graham’s best assets is his motor. He doesn’t give up when initially blocked. He will fight to disengage from the blocker and then will chase the ball all over the field. He makes hustle plays.

Albert Breer of NFL.com offers his impressions from Eagles’ OTAs:

Fourth-round draft pick Matt Barkley made his share of rookie mistakes, throwing into coverage and holding the ball too long. But on throws in which he was locked in and had it right, he flashed fantastic accuracy. And in the long run, that’s important, especially in the style of play preferred by head coach Chip Kelly.

COMING UP

Never a dull moment with this team. We’ll have plenty to get you through the day.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Benn Seeks Fresh Start: ‘I Don’t Like My Career’

Arrelious Benn’s career had been going down a promising path.

He was a five-star recruit out of high school, showed off his versatile skill set at Illinois and got selected in the second round of the 2010 draft by the Bucs.

But since arriving to the NFL, he hasn’t lived up to expectations, totaling just 59 catches and 862 receiving yards in three seasons. Now, the 24-year-old is excited about getting a new start.

“If I’m being honest with you, I don’t like my career,” Benn said today. “I’ve got to stay healthy. I haven’t stayed healthy. I’ve had a problem with injuries. When I was healthy and out there, I made plays. I was consistent. But the big thing for me is to stay healthy. It’s no secret for me, I know that. I’m going to be honest with myself. Just come in here and do what I’ve got to do.”

Benn (6-2, 220) suffered an MCL sprain last year and only appeared in eight games before landing on IR. In 2011, he tore his ACL and missed the final two games. Benn pointed out that injuries were never an issue for him in college and said he’s 100 percent healthy right now.

Asked for a self-scouting report, Benn said, “Physical, a guy that gets the ball in my hands and can run after the catch.”

As we pointed out in the All-22 breakdown last week, the numbers back that up. Per Pro Football Focus, he averaged 6.6 yards after the catch in 2011, 11th in the NFL. And as a rookie, that number was 6.3, which was tied for sixth.

Benn hasn’t been given much information about his potential role yet. He was effective on special-teams coverage in Tampa, and even though he didn’t do much as a return man there, he could get an opportunity here to do that.

Although he doesn’t have the hands of Jason Avant, Benn, who is a good blocker, thinks he can be effective in the slot.

“I think I have the skill set to play both [inside and outside],” he said. “I think I’m a mismatch in the slot with my speed and size. We’re going to see where I fit in, and I’m going to go with it.”

Asked if he was expecting to be moved, Benn said, “I was expecting it. I’m not going to lie, I was expecting it. I wanted to move forward. I didn’t want to be there.

“I just needed a change of scenery. I just needed a fresh start. The situation just wasn’t going right. That’s all I’m going to say about it.”

Benn signed a one-year extension today that keeps him under contract with the Eagles through 2014.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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