Eagles Wake-Up Call: Red-Zone Boost?
Today’s question comes from Brad via email:
Any sense if we’ll be better and more consistent in the red zone this season? Thanks.
During his end of season press conference inside the visitors locker room at MetLife Stadium, Jeffrey Lurie identified three problem areas that he believes led to the downfall of the 2014 Eagles: big plays allowed, turnovers and red zone offense.
To help address the first issue, the team parted ways with three-fourths of the starting secondary, inked Byron Maxwell to a six-year, $63 million deal and dedicated five of their six draft picks to the defensive side of the ball (including three defensive backs). As for the second, Chip Kelly traded in many of his top skill position players for what he hopes are better system fits that will theoretically enable the offense to run cleaner. What about the third item on Lurie’s list? What did they do to try and fix a red-zone offense that ranked 23rd in the NFL with a 49 percent TD success rate?
You can make the case that the change at running back is the answer.
As good as LeSean McCoy is, his red zone numbers aren’t great. Last year, he scored four times on 56 attempts for a conversion rate of seven percent. Even during his career year in 2013, he averaged just 1.7 yards per carry inside the 20 and had a 13 percent conversion rate.
Murray, meanwhile, finished first in yards gained (148) and tied for first in touchdowns (12) in the red zone last year for a rate of 21.4 percent. Proving that it was more than just a freak year behind a standout offensive line, Murray rushed for 135 yards and nine TDs (23 percent rate) from inside the 20 the season prior.
Frank Gore‘s red-zone numbers (13 percent conversion rate over the last two seasons) aren’t as impressive, but he would have served as a marginal statistical upgrade over McCoy in this area. It makes sense that physical, downhill runners typically fare better in tighter quarters, and the numbers seem to bear that out. That helps explain why Chris Polk (17 carries, 4 TDs, 24 percent red zone rate) stole some carries away near the goal line last season.
McCoy and Polk are gone, Murray and Ryan Mathews are now in.
There are plenty of variables that go into red-zone success, from ball security to offensive line performance to play-calling. The banged-up front did not help matters any last season, and you can argue that Zach Ertz could have been better utilized and needs to be more of a factor this year.
With question marks still hovering over the offensive line and quarterback positions, among others, it’s tough to forecast marked improvement in ’15. But it certainly seems possible that the percentages could go up with Murray in tow.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Evan Mathis is absent for start of OTAs. A look at what lies ahead.
What are the odds of another ACL injury for Sam Bradford? Dr. James L. Carey provides insight.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Ed Kracz of The Intelligencer believes the Eagles should be eyeing a trade with the Browns.
[T]here is an interesting development in Cleveland, where safety Tashaun Gipson has decided not to report to OTAs because he has yet to sign the restricted, second-round free agent tender the Browns offered him during the offseason.
Gipson is a solid cover safety, one who would fit the Eagles’ scheme nicely. He is 5-foot-11, 206 pounds with 12 interceptions in 29 starts since entering the league as an undrafted free agent from Wyoming. He was named to the Pro Bowl last year.
Perhaps the Eagles could make a call for Gipson and offer say, linebacker Mychal Kendricks. The Browns could use an inside linebacker to slot next to Karlos Dansby and Cleveland could use fourth-round pick Ibraheim Campbell or former Eagles draft pick Jordan Poyer at safety. And heaven knows, the Eagles could use a safety to start opposite Malcolm Jenkins.
Jordan Matthews sang the praises of Nelson Agholor during a recent radio interview. From CSN Philly.
“The one that’s going to obviously jump out is Nelson,” Matthews said. “You hear a lot of great things, but then when you actually get him out there on the field you see what type of guy he is [and] you’re like, ‘OK good kid, he gets it.’
“Instead of taking the regular rookie shuttle he takes a taxi to get here early to the facility. That’s a kid that gets it. That’s not a façade. That’s somebody who’s saying, ‘OK, I want to go here, get in the building early, I need to learn what I want to do and I want to go out and compete.”
Day 2 of OTAs at the NovaCare Complex.