Eagles vs. Cowboys Part Two: By the Numbers
Paul Domowitch takes an inside look at the Eagles’ shift to more 12- and 13-personnel and how it helped spearhead the team into the playoffs.
Once again Sunday, Nick Sirianni used a healthy dose of multiple-tight end sets. Thirty-one of the Eagles’ 61 offensive plays in their closer-than-it-should’ve-been win over Washington were run with either 12-personnel (1RB, 2TE, 2WR) or 13-personnel (1RB, 3TE, 1WR).
In the last four games, the Eagles have used 12P 37.1% of the time and 13P 16.2%. Since the Eagles switched to a run-heavy offense after a 2-5 start, they’ve used 12P 30.0% and 13P 13.4%. In their first seven games, they used 12P just 19.9%, and 13P just 4.7%.
Their two young backup tight ends – Jack Stoll and Tyree Jackson — have seen considerable playing time and have been important factors in the success of the ground game. Stoll has played 271 offensive snaps in the last nine games, 126 in the last four games alone. Tyree Jackson, who was activated in Week 9, has played 132 snaps in eight games, 72 in the last four.
The Eagles have used 13P this season on 98 of 1,005 snaps, or 9.7%. That’s the second-highest use of 13P in the league, behind only the Cleveland Browns (17.5). Tennessee is third (8.6), Atlanta is fourth (7.2), and Chicago is fifth (7.0).
The Eagles are seventh in 12P usage (25.5%), behind only Miami (62.1), Green Bay (30.3), Houston (28.4), the Giants (28.2), the Chargers (27.5), and Denver (26.3).
Sean McVay and the Rams are tops in 11P usage (83.6), followed by the Bengals (76.6), who are coached by former McVay assistant Zac Taylor. The Eagles are 13th in 11P usage (63.0).
The Eagles not only are using 13-personnel more, but they’re also throwing more with it. Nineteen of the 42 plays in which they’ve used 13P the last four games (45.2%) have been pass plays. In their first 12 games, just 12 of 56 plays with 13P (21.4%) were pass plays.
Jalen Hurts completed 17 of 26 passes for 214 yards Sunday against Washington. He was 6-for-6 for 98 yards with 13P. Tight end Dallas Goedert had two catches for 32 yards out of three-TE sets. DeVonta Smith, who is usually the lone wide receiver in 13P, had two of his three catches for 42 yards in it. Running back Boston Scott had the other two catches.
In his last three starts, Hurts has completed 11 of 13 passes for 211 yards with 13P. Gardner Minshew was 4-for-5 for 31 yards with 13P when he started for the injured Hurts against the Jets.
Goedert has 21 catches in the last four games. Eight have been with 11P, eight with 12P and 5 with 13P. Smith has 13 catches in the last four games. Four of them have been with 13P. He is averaging 18.0 yards per catch with 13P and 18.7 with 12P. He is averaging 12.9 yards per catch out of three-wide receiver 11P.
Hurts has an 111.0 passer rating with 13P (22 attempts), 105.0 with 12P (68 attempts) and 81.3 with 11P (329 attempts).
The ground game: then and now
- Regardless of what happens in the playoffs, one of the things this season will best be remembered for is Nick Sirianni’s decision to flip the script after a pass-heavy 2-5 start and go to a more conservative ground-and-pound attack that took advantage of the Eagles’ talented offensive line and took pressure off of inexperienced quarterback Jalen Hurts. In those first seven games, the Eagles averaged 34.7 pass attempts and just 23.4 rush attempts per game. In the nine games since, seven of which the Eagles have won, they have averaged 24.1 passes and a league-high 39.9 runs per game.
- The Eagles actually have averaged the same number of yards per carry – 5.0 – in the last nine games as they did in the first seven. But their rushing yards per game have soared from 116.7 to 194.3, and their rushing first downs per game from 7.1 to 11.6. Most importantly, their points per game average jumped from 22.7 to 28.8.
- They were 27th in the league in rush attempts in the first seven games. In the last nine games, they’re first. Since Week 8, they also are first in rushing first downs, rushing touchdowns (16), and runs of 10 yards or more (50). Hurts has 18 of the Eagles’ 50 “chunk’’ runs in the last nine games.
Third down report
- The Eagles converted just four of 12 third-down opportunities Sunday against Washington. Six of those 12 were four yards or less. The Eagles converted only two of them.
- The game was the exception rather than the rule this season, though. The Eagles are fifth in the league in third-down efficiency with a 44.8 success rate. That’s the second-highest third-down success rate by an Eagles team since at least 1980 when the league began keeping track of third-down conversions. They were fourth in 2019 with a 45.4 rate.
- They have converted 64.3% of their third downs of 3 yards or less (10th), 46.2% of their third downs of 4 to 6 yards (8th), and 25.0% of their third downs of 7 yards or more (21st). While that last percentage is alarmingly low, the good news is the Eagles have had the fewest third-and-longs in the league (69) and the fifth most third-and-3s or less.
- Jalen Hurts has not been particularly effective as a passer on third down, which is going to be a high offseason priority for both him and the team. He leads the NFL in rushing first downs on third down (22) but is ranked 22nd in third-down passing among quarterbacks with at least 70 third-down attempts (82.0) and is 26th in third-down completion percentage (54.2).
- Hurts has a 52.2 completion percentage on third-and-3 or less, 55.0 on third-and-4-to-6, and 54.5 on third and 7-plus.
- In the Eagles’ last nine games, he has completed just 7 of 17 third-and-long attempts (7-plus yards). Just two of those seven completions have resulted in first downs – a 27-yarder to Greg Ward on a third-and-10 Sunday against Washington, and a 24-yard completion to Dallas Goedert on a third-and-12 against Denver in Week 10.
- The Eagles are tied for 10th in third-down rush average (4.9 yards per carry). But they are first in rushing first downs on third down with 46. Hurts, who is averaging 6.8 yards per carry on third down, has a league-high 22 of those 46 third-down rushing first downs. Boston Scott has seven, Kenny Gainwell and Miles Sanders each have six and Jordan Howard has five.
- DeVonta Smith has a team-high 15 third-down catches. Eleven have been for first downs. Dallas Goedert and Quez Watkins each have 12 third-down catches. All 12 of Goedert’s have resulted in first downs. Watkins has nine first downs off of his 12 third-down catches. Smith is tied for 41st in third-down catches. The Vikings’ Justin Jefferson leads the league in third-down receptions with 33.
- Since that three-interception, 17.5 rating, injured-his-ankle debacle against the Giants in late November, Hurts has put together three solid starts. He has a 101.3 passer rating in the Eagles’ two wins over Washington and the rematch with the Giants. He has a 66.7 completion percentage in those games and has averaged 8.7 yards per attempt.
- In his last three starts, Hurts has completed six of 10 throws of 20 yards or more and 13 of 18 throws of 11-19 yards. For the season, Hurts has a 35.9 completion percentage on deep balls, 58.2 on 11-19 yard throws, 76.5 on 0-10 yard throws, and 89.4 on throws behind the line of scrimmage.
- For comparison’s sake, here’s a look at Carson Wentz’s completion percentages by distance in 2019: 20-plus yards – 37.7, 11-19 yards – 52.8, 0-10 yards – 74.3, and behind the line of scrimmage – 87.0.
- Hurts has just seven incompletions in 66 attempts on throws behind the line of scrimmage. Interestingly, five of them have been in his last three starts.
- Hurts has committed two red-zone turnovers this season. He had a lost fumble in the Eagles’ Week 7 loss to the Raiders, and one of his three interceptions in the Week 13 loss to the Giants was in the red zone.
- Hurts threw nine red-zone touchdown passes in the Eagles’ first seven games. Since the Eagles’ switched to ground-and-pound, he has thrown just four in the last nine games. That equals the number of rushing touchdowns he has in the red zone in the last nine games.
- In the last three games, Hurts has targeted tight end Dallas Goedert 20 times and wide receiver DeVonta Smith 18 times. No one else has been targeted more than nine times. He has targeted the team’s four running backs 16 times in those three games.
More good stat stuff
- The Eagles have turned the ball over just 15 times this season (nine interceptions, six fumbles). That’s the fifth-fewest giveaways in the league. Even better, opponents have been able to convert those 15 giveaways into just 27 points, or 1.8 points per turnover. That’s the Eagles’ best points-per-giveaway average since the Andy Reid era.
- One of the biggest failings of Jonathan Gannon’s defense this season has been its inability to produce turnovers. Gannon and his HITS approach was a popular subject during spring minicamp and summer training camp as the Eagles defensive coordinator and his players talked about the emphasis they were placing on stripping and punching the ball out of the arms of ball carriers. But the Eagles’ 16 takeaways (12 interceptions, four fumbles) are the seventh-fewest in the league and the fewest by an Eagles defense since 2012 when they had 13. The offense managed to convert those 16 takeaways into 61 points, or 3.8 points per takeaway, which is the most since 2015, when they averaged 3.9 points on 26 takeaways.
- The Eagles have allowed just 28 sacks this season. That’s the eighth fewest in the league and the fewest they’ve given up since 2008 when they allowed 23.
- The defense has nine sacks in the last four games, but still only has 28 this season. That’s the fourth-fewest in the league behind only the Falcons (17) and the Lions and Jaguars (both with 26). It’s also the fewest by an Eagles defense since the league went to a 16-game season in 1978.
- The Eagles gave up 23 touchdown passes this season. Eleven of them were to tight ends. Opposing tight ends have 97 catches for 962 yards against the Eagles. They were targeted 127 times.
Paul Domowitch has covered pro football for five decades and has been a Hall of Fame selector since 2001. You can reach Paul at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @pdomo.
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