Eagles Wake-Up Call: Is Sports Science Working?
When the Eagles made their pitch to veteran linebacker Brad Jones earlier this week, they used the sports science angle to differentiate themselves from other potential suitors.
“They actually have gone over quite a bit,” Jones said after he signed. “Honestly, I was attracted to all that. They base most of that on scientific studies that have proven to work. If you can get things like that and just try to help your players recover faster and recover more and sleep studies, I’m all for it. I think anything that can help us win games I’ll fall in love with.”
Chances are Chip Kelly will continue to sell prospective free agents on the benefits of having a sports science coordinator and a sports science program when they visit the NovaCare Complex in the coming days.
One focus of the program is injury prevention. We don’t have a mountain of evidence to dissect to figure out if the Eagles’ methods are working, but we do have two years worth of data.
Football Outsiders keeps a metric called Adjusted Games Lost (AGL):
We are able to quantify how much teams were affected by injuries based on two principles: (1) Injuries to starters, injury replacements, and important situational reserves matter more than injuries to benchwarmers; and (2) Injured players who do take the field are usually playing with reduced ability, which is why AGL is not based strictly on whether or not the player is active for the game, but instead is based on the player’s listed status that week (IR/PUP, out, doubtful, questionable, or probable).
The Eagles ended up fifth on the list in 2014. In other words, only four teams were healthier than the Birds.
Considering the injuries the Eagles suffered on the offensive line last season, that ranking might come as a surprise. But Football Outsiders also ranked individual units. The Eagles ranked in the top eight (most healthy) at running back, wide receiver, tight end, defensive line and defensive back.
They ranked in the bottom eight (least healthy) at only quarterback and offensive line.
In 2013, the Eagles finished first in AGL. They are the only team to finish in the top five in each of the past two seasons.
From Football Outsiders:
They are only the third team since 2002 to lead the league in AGL and finish in the top five the following season. Maybe this team is onto something with preventing soft tissue injuries. The big problems for the Eagles were focused along the offensive line, plus a broken collarbone for Nick Foles and a torn Achilles for DeMeco Ryans. Sometimes bones are going to break in tackles regardless of how much prep work goes into each week.
Again, this is still a small sample size, but early returns from the Eagles’ sports science methods – at least in terms of injury prevention – are positive. And Kelly will likely use those results as a selling point with free agents going forward.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Byron Maxwell says the Eagles’ scheme fits his skill set, and he’ll have to consider the Birds when free agency starts.
An All-22 look at a player who could be on the Eagles’ radar: Packers cornerback Davon House.
Notes on Chris Polk, Cary Williams, Trent Cole and Vince Wilfork.
“The ledge is where we’ll be living as long as Kelly is running the show.” Great read from T-Mac on where Kelly is steering the ship.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
While I happen to think he’s a very good coach, he’s also a relatively inexperienced NFL talent evaluator. And as I’ve pointed out in previous columns, just because you’re good at one doesn’t mean you’re good at the other.
“I have a lot of respect for Chip as a coach,” an NFC executive said. “But what they’re doing right now is a big gamble. It’s either going to turn out really well or he’s going to be back coaching a college team in a few years.”
So what’s that mean for Kendricks? A Ryans return could have absolutely no impact on his future with the Eagles. The 6-foot-3, 246-pound Alonso could theoretically move outside or defensive coordinator Bill Davis could try some sort of rotation. Or maybe Ryans is indeed the odd man out. But it wouldn’t come as a complete surprise if Kendricks was part of another trade. He’s an ascending player, but he pre-dates Kelly’s arrival, doesn’t fall under Kelly’s big-people-beat-up-little-people preference on defense, and could be better suited to play outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme.
It’s early in the offseason, but the Eagles haven’t approached Kendricks about a contract extension. Even if he stays it’s unlikely the Eagles would fork over a long-term deal without seeing how Alonso performs. Kelly’s plan at inside linebacker doesn’t appear completely fleshed out yet.
It’ll probably be a slow day, as usual.