Eagles Wake-Up Call: Dissecting the Drops
Chip Kelly stood at the podium to address the media the day after the game at the NovaCare Complex, and he recognized the issue: drops.
“Yeah, they are a problem,” Kelly said. “It’s one of those where we need to continue to drill it. To work on it. To get our feet set. To secure the catch all the way through the cut. They are important, but it’s hurting us on the offensive side of the ball.”
That was September 21, the day after the Eagles’ second game of the season. Five weeks later, the problem has spread not just among wide receivers, but running backs and tight ends too. According to Pro Football Focus, the Eagles have dropped 25 passes, or 9.1 percent, which is the worst rate in the NFL since 2007.
They dropped at least eight — and possibly up to 10 — passes in their loss to the Panthers, Kelly explained Monday.
“We’re not going to win if we’re doing that,” he said. “There are too many for us — we have to be able to sustain things and we have to be able to make catches out there.”
Because of that, I went back to look at the film to see if any patterns exist. Is Bradford making catches more difficult on his receivers? Who’s at fault? And just how costly are they?
The nature of drops is subjective, so I counted any incompletion that touched a receiver’s hands. There were nine instances of that, and I think the potential 10th one Chip referenced is a pass DeMarco Murray missed — but didn’t appear to touch — because Bradford threw it when Murray wasn’t expecting it.
The biggest thing that stood out? A majority — five out of nine — occurred on third or fourth down. However, even when they happened on first or second down, the Eagles’ drive ended two or three plays later every time.
Two of them were in the red zone, including Josh Huff’s dropped touchdown. On this play, Bradford made a great throw. The picture above is what Bradford sees just as he’s releasing the ball, and it’s a great example of what people mean when they say “throwing receivers open.”
Huff had to twist back to grab the ball, but this is a play he needs to make. This was on third down from Carolina’s 6-yard line, so the Eagles had to settle for three points instead of seven.
In the second quarter after Malcolm Jenkins’ interception, Darren Sproles dropped a pass on first down that would’ve put the Eagles inside Carolina’s 10-yard line. However, he didn’t, and three plays later Caleb Sturgis kicked another field goal.
By my count, three Eagles touched two incompletions (Jordan Matthews, Huff and Sproles) and three more got their hands on one (Murray, Miles Austin and Zach Ertz).
The receivers appeared to be at fault in all of these instances except one of Sproles’ when Bradford threw it behind him. On Austin’s and Ertz’s, they are tough catches, but seem doable. On one of Huff’s, he should’ve caught the pass, but the referees missed a blatant defensive pass interference earlier in Huff’s route.
On a couple, it looked like Bradford shouldn’t have thrown the ball to his target in the first place. For example, Bradford passed it to Murray five yards behind the line of scrimmage with a linebacker in great position near him in their first series.
Although the quarterback does have to get rid of the ball quicker than he’d like because of a blitz, he doesn’t even look to the area the blitzing linebacker vacated — which Matthews filled on a slant route with open space ahead of him. This drop probably benefited the Eagles because they almost definitely would’ve lost yards.
Here’s a video of all of these “drops” in slow motion, so you can judge for yourself.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Taking a spin around the NFC East, where the Giants are picking up wins while the Cowboys are deteriorating.
Breaking down each of the key plays from the Eagles’ loss to the Panthers on Sunday night.
Chip Kelly has made it clear: he’s only interested in staying the course and pushing straight ahead.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Paul Domowitch brings back an old staple, where he cheekily interprets Chip’s press conference.
Are the issues at wide receiver related to talent or concentration?
What Chip said: “I don’t think it’s talent. I just think it’s sometimes a concentration issue with some of those guys. I think sometimes they may actually be thinking too much instead of just relaxing and going to play. Some of them need to just take a big, deep breath and do what we know they can do.’’
What Chip meant: “Well, since I drafted or signed most of these guys, you’re never going to hear me say it’s a talent issue. Am I right? We’re going to see if fear solves this drop problem in the next game. I’ve threatened to duct-tape anybody who drops a pass from here on out to the sled that our defensive line uses.
Tommy Lawlor writes the Eagles’ bye week comes at the perfect time for a team still searching for consistency.
[Chip] Kelly and his staff need to try to figure out things from their end. What can they do to fix the mistakes? They also need to self-scout and identify some areas that need to be adjusted. This could be schematic or personnel driven or involve play-calling.
The players are off this week so that gives the coaches time to study tape, check out the numbers and then to meet and discuss their findings. There will be no magic revelations, but any tweaks that can help are needed. The Eagles are not a good enough team to consistently win while making mistakes.
We’ll have an All-22 on the offense’s issues.