Midseason Grades: Eagles Offense
Yesterday, we went over the defense. Today, a position-by-position look at the Eagles’ offense with grades attached:
The conditions surrounding him were far from perfect, but Nick Foles did not play well in the first half of the season. His completion percentage (59.8) was 27th, and Foles ranked 24th in YPA (24th). His 3.2 percent interception rate was fifth-highest, and his passer rating (81.4) ranked 25th.
The Eagles’ passing offense overall ranks 20th, according to Football Outsiders.
Mark Sanchez will now get a shot, and if he plays well, he’ll almost certainly keep the starting job for the rest of the season, regardless of when Foles gets healthy. But Sanchez’s career interception rate (3.8 percent) is worse than Foles’ was this year. Taking care of the football has always been a challenge for him. Sanchez has 38 interceptions and 24 fumbles in his last 32 games.
If the Eagles were getting above-average quarterback play, they’d warrant more consideration as potential Super Bowl contenders. But this position is a question mark going into the second half of the season. Sanchez will try to make the most of his second chance and help put the Eagles in position to make a run.
RUNNING BACKS: B
The run game has been inconsistent, but that’s had more to do with the offensive line, the scheme and the way teams have been defending the Eagles than the actual running backs.
LeSean McCoy has 622 yards on 161 carries (3.9 YPC), but he’s been coming on strong. In the last three games, McCoy has 349 yards on 67 attempts (5.2 YPC).
Darren Sproles has been fantastic. He’s averaging 6.5 YPC on 35 attempts and has 244 yards receiving. Sproles has produced six plays of 20+ yards on offense. And he’s been a weapon on punt returns, averaging a league-best 15.4 yards per return, including a touchdown.
It took awhile for Chris Polk to get healthy, and he’s still not 100 percent. But the bruising back has made the most of his opportunities with 63 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.
The run game ranks 19th, according to Football Outsiders, but this group is well-positioned to carry the offense in the second half of the season.
WIDE RECEIVERS: B
This is a tough evaluation because Jeremy Maclin has been spectacular, and Riley Cooper has not.
Maclin is averaging 98.8 yards per game, fifth-best in the NFL. His 13 catches of 20+ yards rank fifth, and his 17.6 yards per catch ranks fourth. He’s the only receiver in the league with 700+ receiving yards, a YPR average of over 15.0 and eight or more touchdowns. Maclin has exceeded all expectations and is in position to cash in as a free agent this offseason.
Cooper, meanwhile, has struggled. Sixty players have more catches, and 77 have more receiving yards. After averaging 17.8 yards per reception a year ago, Cooper is averaging just 10.7 this season (31 for 331). Against the Texans, he was ineffective as a blocker, and he got jammed at the line of scrimmage on a Sanchez interception. Eight games in, the decision to give him $10M guaranteed as a free agent looks like a mistake.
Jordan Matthews has had some nice moments. His numbers aren’t all that different from Cooper’s but Matthews is a rookie and has played fewer snaps. He’s on pace for 64 catches, 616 yards and six touchdowns. Matthews has not been a downfield threat (9.8 YPR). He has played 61.3 percent of the Eagles’ offensive snaps.
Josh Huff has been up and down. He lost a fumble against Arizona, and a ball bounced off his hands against Houston, leading to an interception. When he’s held onto the ball, Huff has shown some YAC ability. And he’s already probably the best blocking wide receiver on the team, playing with a violent attitude on every snap.
If Huff shows the ability to cut down on the mistakes, he could take a bite out of Cooper’s snaps on the outside.
TIGHT ENDS: B
Veteran Brent Celek has played 70.9 percent of the offensive snaps and has morphed into one of the better blocking tight ends in the league. His efforts were key in the ground game against the Texans; Celek’s been used as a run blocker on 50.6 percent of his snaps.
When Zach Ertz gets on the field and the ball’s thrown his way, he makes things happen. Ertz is averaging 14.3 yards per catch, second-best among tight ends with at least 15 receptions. And he has seven catches of 20+ yards. But Ertz’s playing time has dipped because Celek is the superior blocker. He’s played 51.8 percent of the snaps overall. Per Pro Football Focus, he’s gone out in pass routes on 68.2 percent of those.
James Casey is good for the occasional fourth-quarter grab, but has mostly been used as a run blocker. Casey has played 14.7 percent of the snaps, and he’s been a run-blocker on 68.1 percent of them.
Overall, the guys in this group have defined roles. If the Eagles lean on a run-heavy attack, Celek will continue to play a lot more than Ertz. If they find themselves struggling to beat man coverage in the passing game, Ertz will be on the field more.
OFFENSIVE LINE: C
In 2012, we saw offensive line injuries cripple the Eagles’ season. In 2014, they’ve already played 11 different linemen through eight games and are still 6-2.
The struggles up front have been a key factor in the inconsistent play on offense, but the Eagles are getting healthy here at the right time.
Jason Peters has had some issues the last two weeks, but overall has given the Eagles what they expect. Evan Mathis returns Monday night from a knee injury. Jason Kelce is one of the best centers in the league when he’s on the field. He came back from sports hernia surgery last week. Todd Herremans battled admirably through a biceps injury, but is now done for the season. Lane Johnson has been an upgrade at right tackle, although it will be tough for him to make a true second-year leap, given the early four-game suspension.
Matt Tobin has shown improvement and will likely be the starter at right guard. David Molk, Andrew Gardner and Dennis Kelly have all gained experience that should help down the stretch.
In the second half of the season, if this group can return to being a strength like it was in 2013, the Eagles’ offense should be much-improved.
COACHING (offense only): C
Overall, the offense ranks 18th, per Football Outsiders. It’s been a mediocre unit, and the injuries up front have been the major reason why.
There have been stretches of excellent play – the Giants game, the Washington game, the Rams game, the Texans game. But there have been a lot of mistakes too.
Foles appears to have regressed significantly in his second season. The 49ers suggested they knew what was coming against the Eagles. The red zone offense ranks 31st (touchdowns 42.3 percent of the time). And the Eagles lead the NFL in turnovers with 20. Conditions have been far from perfect, but it’s tough to hand out something better than a C, given those numbers.