Wake-Up Call: Eagles By the Numbers
Some numbers of note related to the 2016 Eagles:
1.6 — Average number of interceptions per season for Leodis McKelvin.
McKelvin stood out this spring, establishing himself as the No. 1 corner heading into training camp. The 30-year-old has 64 career passes defensed to his name but hasn’t come away with a ton of picks in his career, totaling 13 over eight seasons.
It’s a similar story for his fellow defensive backs. Nolan Carroll has seven interceptions over six years (1.17 avg); Rodney McLeod has five interceptions over four seasons (1.25 avg.); Malcolm Jenkins has 11 in 7 (1.57); and Ron Brooks has zero career picks over his four-year career to date. Among what you might consider the main players vying for starting spots in the defensive backfield — Jenkins, McLeod, McKelvin, Carroll, Brooks and Eric Rowe — zero registered more than two interceptions last season. (For reference, 47 players across the league had three-plus in 2015). Not the most prolific group when it comes to turnovers, in other words.
Jim Schwartz could help change that some. His 2014 Bills ranked sixth overall in interceptions in 2014 (19). That also happens to be the season that McKelvin set a personal best in picks with four. Players’ stats seem to have a way of spiking under this DC. The Eagles will be hoping that trend continues in this case.
+11.3 — Sam Bradford‘s drop-adjusted plus-minus rate last season, according to Football Outsiders — good for 11th best in the NFL. FO goes next level with their stats, and came up with a plus/minus quarterback grader that delves deeper than completion percentage and looks at things like where the pass was thrown, how far it was thrown, down-and-distance, etc to gauge a QB’s accuracy. Bradford finished on the positive side of the ledger with a +3.1 (12th in the NFL), which goes up eight-plus ticks when you factor in receiver drops. This was a clear improvement from his time in St. Louis, as Scott Kacsmar explains.
Say what you will about Chip Kelly’s offense in the NFL, but he has helped make the job of completing passes easier on his quarterbacks. Nick Foles was +17.2 in his great 2013 season, but finished dead last at -24.0 with the Rams last year. Sam Bradford was -25.3 in his time with the Rams, but had his first positive season with the Eagles in 2015. Mark Sanchez’s C%+ was -4.6% with the Jets, but improved to -1.4% (which, granted, is still not good) in two years with Philadelphia. Colin Kaepernick’s plus-minus has gotten worse each season, but Kelly should be able to help him, or (gulp) Blaine Gabbert in San Francisco.
The stat works against the theory that Bradford just dinked and dunked his way to a career-high hit rate, while raising questions/concerns about what may happen now that Bradford is back in a West Coast-style system.
92.5 — Percentage of snaps from the slot for Jordan Matthews last season per Pro Football Focus, most in the NFL. For all the talk about moveable pieces, no slot man was more stationary than Matthews last year.
It sounds like Doug Pederson plans on keeping Matthews in that role for the most part.
“He’s better inside because he’s got that big body and he knows how to use it in space,” Pederson said. “One thing that he can do — particularly in tight areas — is separate from man-to-man type coverages. That’s one thing we’ve seen [from him] this spring from the slot position.”
That doesn’t mean Pederson won’t switch it up some. With question marks surrounding just about all of the outside options, it makes sense to have the team’s best wideout on the field regardless of formation. And there will be plenty of opportunity to deploy him from the inside. According to PFF, the percentage of routes run from the slot was 37 percent last year — up from less than 33 percent in 2009.
WHAT YOU MISSED
“The team is so the Seattle Seahawks of 2012, with a little bit more experience at quarterback and maybe a little less talent on defense” NFC East Roundup.
“They may have the weakest ‘second best defensive lineman’ among teams in the top 10, but they definitely have the ‘fifth-best defensive lineman’ in football.” Weekend Reading.
With training camp fast approaching, who might make the 53-man roster?
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Jimmy Kempski of PhillyVoice takes a way-too early look at the Eagles’ 2017 draft needs.
2) Running back
Ryan Mathews is the ninth-oldest projected starting running back in the NFL this season, and perhaps not the best fit in Doug Pederson‘s offense, which will require running backs who excel at catching the football. That’s not Mathews. If the Eagles release or trade Mathews next offseason, they will save $4,000,000, which is money that they will need, seeing as they have the least amount of available cap space in the NFL in 2017 and 2018. Meanwhile, Darren Sproles is 33 and in the final year of his contract, and Kenjon Barner is more hype than production.
The only running back who feels very likely to still be on the team in 2017 is 2016 fifth round pick Wendell Smallwood. Expect the Eagles to draft another one next offseason in a 2017 running back class that is absolutely stacked.
3) Wide receiver
This shouldn’t need much explanation, right? The Eagles led the NFL in drops last season and did not select a wide receiver in the 2016 draft. (You can’t address everything). Meanwhile, Nelson Agholor is facing serious sexual assault charges, and the receivers the Eagles added in free agency — Rueben Randle and Chris Givens — are on one-year deals. And then there’s Josh Huff, who has shown flashes of talent, but has also been too inconsistent to trust as a viable starter.
Jordan Matthews is the only proven, steady receiver in the bunch. The Eagles need to upgrade their passing offense weaponry.
Tommy Lawlor talks about character in the locker room.
The Eagles took a chance when they drafted DeSean Jackson. He fell to the 2nd round because of character concerns. Most of those concerns didn’t come true in the NFL. He was a good risk.
King Dunlap got benched in his Senior season at Auburn. The coaches were frustrated with him and sat him to play a freshman. That killed Dunlap’s draft value. The Eagles took a chance in the 7th round and he has had a solid NFL career.
There were character questions with Winston Justice as a prospect. Character was never an issue with him in the NFL. Getting married and becoming a father helped him to mature. His issues were all football related.
Both Lito Sheppard and Freddie Mitchell had maturity questions coming out of college. Both players had maturity issues in the NFL.
You have to take some chances. The key is to limit those chances and be smart about them.
Hope everyone had a great holiday. Twenty days until rookies report.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.