Three Eagles Numbers That Matter
From what Chip Kelly wants at quarterback to the Eagles’ age to Billy Davis’ blitz, here are three numbers that matter.
21 – That’s the percentage of Foles throws that were either underthrown or overthrown last year, according to Football Outsiders. Among the 36 quarterbacks who attempted at least 200 passes, Foles ranked 31st in this category. Only Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, Blake Bortles, Kirk Cousins and Brian Hoyer were worse.
There are plenty of different ways to measure accuracy, and this is one of them. But even in traditional completion percentage, Foles ranked 26th last year (59.8). He was playing behind a banged-up offensive line and had an inconsistent running game, but it’s fair to say that one of the reasons Kelly traded Foles is because he didn’t capitalize when he had opportunities.
Football Outsiders also charted the percentage of passes that were batted down or touched by an opposing defender. The number for Foles was 9.0 percent, which ranked 32nd out of 36 quarterbacks. What’s interesting is that Foles didn’t have a single pass batted at the line of scrimmage, but he still ranked poorly in this category for a number of reasons.
Inaccuracy, timing and decision-making allowed for defenders to break passes up. And it wasn’t just Foles. The receivers have to take some responsibility for lack of separation and their performance in one-on-one situations.
If you’re wondering about Mark Sanchez, he was 22nd in the overthrow/underthrow category at 18.4 percent. And he was 24th in the batted/defended category at 7.8 percent. Combined, Foles and Sanchez had just two passes batted at the line of scrimmage all year. As author Scott Kascmar notes, apparently the fly swatters at practice worked.
One thing that seems is that Kelly doesn’t think his scheme is the problem. He believes that when the offense stalls, it’s because of poor execution. And he obviously is convinced that a healthy Sam Bradford can execute at a higher level than Foles – specifically when it comes to accuracy and decision-making. If Bradford can stay upright, we’ll find out if he is right.
6 – Where the Eagles ranked in snap-weighted age last year, according to Football Outsiders. The metric is used to determine each team’s average age based on snap counts. In other words, if you have a bunch of 22 year olds who never get on the field, you don’t get as much credit for having a young team. The metric combines age and playing time (click on the link for a more detailed explanation).
The Eagles were the sixth-oldest team in the NFL last season at 27.0. On offense, they were 11th (27.2), and on defense they were 13th (26.9). On special teams, they were first (26.9). Of course, the Eagles had a fantastic special teams unit in 2014. But perhaps this demonstrates Kelly’s philosophy in that area: bring in proven veterans, rather than just relying on younger depth guys.
Last offseason, the Eagles signed guys like Bryan Braman and Chris Maragos who offer little value aside from special teams. Does this strategy hurt depth and development, or does it make sense because it bolsters special teams?
Overall, the Eagles need to get younger. They parted ways with veterans like Trent Cole and Todd Herremans in the offseason. It’ll be interesting to see where they rank after the 2015 season.
14 – Where the Eagles ranked in terms of blitz percentage last year, according to Pro Football Focus. Billy Davis sent extra pressure 31.6 percent of the time. In 2013, according to the Football Outsiders Almanac, he blitzed 36.4 percent of the time, which was seventh most.
Davis has said repeatedly that his preference would be to not blitz as much if he can generate a pass rush with four guys. And the Eagles took a step in that direction in 2014.
I’d expect the trend to continue next season. Fletcher Cox is a young, ascending player who has emerged as a highly disruptive pass rusher. Brandon Graham is a better pass rusher than Cole at this point in his career. Vinny Curry fills his role nicely as a sub package player. And Connor Barwin should hold steady, even if he doesn’t reach the same mark statistically.
With the additions of Kiko Alonso, Byron Maxwell and Eric Rowe, the coverage should be better in 2015. There are some pieces in place. Now it’s up to Davis to put it all together.