Eagles

Doug Pederson's reasons why Eagles are falling short

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Doug Pederson's reasons why Eagles are falling short

What’s wrong with the Eagles? Doug Pederson on Wednesday boiled it down to two things he believes are holding the Eagles back the most:

1)  A lack of takeaways, and

2)  Poor offense in the red zone.

The difference between the 13-win Super Bowl champs and a third-place team sputtering along at 4-5 is not that great, Pederson believes:

Listen, we’re very close. We’re so close in a lot of areas. You look at our output and our production offensively, we’re very similar to what we were last year. We’re plus 30 passes down the field. Explosive passes, I think we’re second in the National Football League, we’re sixth at 20-plus explosive plays. Third downs, we’re within a percentage point or two of being where we were a season ago. The difference is creating turnovers on defense and then scoring in the red zone. That’s kind of what’s staring at us right in the face. And time of possession’s good, all those things we look at. Red-zone defense has been good throughout the season. We’ve got to finish better and we have to score more points.

Let’s take a look at those two key areas.

Takeaways

As Dave Zangaro wrote this week, takeaways are down dramatically.

The Eagles have generated just seven takeaways, fewest in franchise history after nine games and third-fewest in the NFL (ahead of only the 49ers with five and the Buccaneers with six).

The Eagles have gone three straight games without an interception and they have just one in their last five games. They’ve had a franchise-record seven straight games with one or fewer takeaway and they have just four since Week 3.

The Eagles last year finished fourth in the NFL with 31 takeaways, just three fewer than the NFL-leading Ravens.

Red-zone offense

Last year, the Eagles led the NFL with touchdowns on 71 percent of their red-zone drives, and they averaged 5.6 points per red-zone drive.

This year, those numbers have dropped to touchdowns on 54 percent of their red-zone drives (22nd) with an average of 4.8 points per red-zone drive.

Let’s examine some of Pederson’s other figures:

Third down

Although he is correct that the Eagles are close to last year on third down — 41.7 percent last year, 41.2 percent this year — the league average has increased dramatically, from 38.7 percent last year to 40.3 percent this year.

So after being 3 percent over the average last year, they’re less than 1 percent over the average this year.

Time of possession

Eagles led the NFL at 32:41 last year and are second at 32:22 this year. Virtually the same.

Big plays

Doug’s numbers are a little off regarding big plays. The Eagles were 11th last year in offensive plays of 20 yards or more (62) and 12th in plays of 30 yards or more (24).

This year, they’re 21st in plays of 20 yards (34) and eighth with 16 plays of 30 or more yards (16).

Other areas

Sacks are up from one every 15.7 pass attempts last year to one every 12.6 passes this year. Rushing average has dropped from 4.5 to 4.1. And first downs per game are actually up – from 21.1 to 22.6.

The conclusion?

The Eagles actually have done a lot of things well. Some things even better than last year.

But in those critical moments when games are won or lost, they are coming up small.

They have the talent to pile up stats all over the place and keep every game close, but they've have put together only one complete game.

And if things don’t change soon? The 2018 Eagles are destined to be forever known as a frustratingly, agonizingly, consistently underachieving football team.

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Eagle Eye Podcast: Any interest in Le'Veon Bell or Antonio Brown?

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Eagle Eye Podcast: Any interest in Le'Veon Bell or Antonio Brown?

On this edition of Eagle Eye, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro discuss who the best quarterbacks were in the NFC East last season. 

Do either see the Eagles making a push for Le'Veon Bell or Antonio Brown?

Who have been the funniest, most underrated and most overrated players the guys have covered throughout their careers? 

1:00 - Rankings the NFC East quarterbacks.
10:30 - Will the Eagles be interested in Bell or Brown?
23:30 - Roob and Dave ask and answer random questions to and from one another.
24:00 - Favorite/least favorite road city.
27:00 - Which player do you want to host a podcast with?
29:00 - Funniest player you've ever been around?
33:00 - If you're in a bar fight, which former player do you want with you?
35:30 - Favorite current Eagle to interview?
39:00 - Most overrated/underrated player you covered?
43:00 - Guys answer questions from listeners.

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Was Carson Wentz the best QB in NFC East last year?

Was Carson Wentz the best QB in NFC East last year?

Carson Wentz returned from a serious ACL/LCL tear in Week 3 in 2018 and then his season ended early with a stress fracture in his back. But in the middle of all that, he actually put together some good numbers. 

This recent tweet from ProFootballFocus grabbed my attention. 

Yeah, they actually ranked Wentz as the best quarterback in the NFC East despite coming back from the knee injury and playing through a back fracture. My colleague Reuben Frank already dispelled 10 myths about Wentz (see story) and a lot of them were about the Eagles with Wentz vs. the Eagles with Nick Foles. I don’t want this to digress into the Foles vs. Wentz debate. 

I just want to take a closer look at how Wentz stacked up against the rest of the quarterbacks in the NFC East. Was he really the division’s best quarterback even with these injuries? 

Here’s a look at their overall numbers from the regular season: 

Carson Wentz: 11 games, 5-6, 69.6%, 3,074 yards, 21 TDs, 7 INT, 102.2 passer rating
Nick Foles: 5 games, 4-1, 72.3%, 1,413 yards, 7 TDs, 4 INT, 96.0 passer rating
Dak Prescott: 16 games, 10-6, 67.7%, 3,885, 22 TDs, 8 INT, 96.9 passer rating 
Alex Smith: 10 games, 6-4, 62.5%, 2,180, 10 TDs, 5 INT, 85.7 passer rating 
Eli Manning: 16 games, 5-11, 66%, 4,299, 21 TDs, 11 INT, 92.4 passer rating 

The thing that stands out there are the records. The Eagles were 5-6 with Wentz at quarterback, but I’ve always been hesitant to use wins as a QB stat. Sure, the QB plays a major role in them, but it’s a team stat that gets transferred to individuals.

Anyway, let’s take a closer look at a few of these stats with help from ProFootballReference: 

Passer rating

Wentz: 102.2 
Prescott: 96.9 
Foles: 96.0 
Manning: 92.4 
Smith: 85.7 

I know passer rating is an imperfect measure, but it’s still generally a really good indicator of quarterback play. It takes into account completion percentage, passing yards, touchdowns and interceptions. 

Wentz actually improved his passer rating from 101.9 in 2017 to 102.2 in 2018. Those two passer rating numbers are the third- and fourth-best passer ratings in Eagles history (minimum 300 attempts) behind Foles in 2013 (119.2) and Donovan McNabb in 2004 (104.7). Wentz is now the only Eagles QB to have two seasons of passer ratings over 100.

Completion percentage

Foles: 72.3 percent
Wentz: 69.6 percent
Prescott: 67.7 percent
Manning: 66 percent
Smith: 62.5 percent 

Foles and Wentz saw huge jumps in their completion percentage. The highest completion percentage Foles ever had in a season before 2018 was when he completed 65.5 percent of his passes as a backup in KC. Even in his 2013 year, he completed just 64 percent of his passes. 

As for Wentz, he had a goal to improve his completion percentage and, boy, did he do that. He had a near-MVP season in 2017 but completed just 60.2 percent of his passes. He improved that to 69.6 percent in 2018. 

Yards per game 

Foles: 282.6 
Wentz: 279.5

Manning: 268.7
Prescott: 242.8
Smith: 218

The Eagles’ two quarterbacks were pretty close in yards per game. The crazy thing is that the Eagles have never had a 4,000-yard passer in franchise history and both of these guys would have been on pace if they played 16 games. Wentz improved his yards per game from 253.5 to 279.5 from 2017 to 2018. He has improved in this category in each of his three NFL seasons. 

For as long as Manning has been in the NFL, he’s had just one season averaging more than 279.5 yards per game. Prescott set his own personal high this season. And Smith’s career high is 269.5 from his time in Kansas City. 

TDs per game 

Wentz: 1.9 
Foles: 1.4 

Prescott: 1.38
Manning: 1.31
Smith: 1.0 

This one is obviously huge. Since the start of the 2017 season, Wentz has thrown a ton of touchdowns. And in his first three seasons, Wentz has thrown 70 touchdowns; ninth-most ever in the first three years of a career. 

INTs per game

Prescott: 0.50
Smith: 0.50
Wentz: 0.64 
Manning: 0.69
Foles: 0.80

This is obviously in reverse order. Foles threw the most interceptions per game, while Wentz was in the middle. After throwing 14 interceptions as a rookie (in 16 games), Wentz has thrown 14 in 2017 and 2018 combined (24 games). Among the nine QBs who have thrown at least 70 touchdowns in their first three seasons, Wentz’s interception percentage (1.93) is the second-best.

— 

So what does all this mean? Well, it means what we’ve been saying for a while now: Despite the injuries, Wentz was still pretty good in 2018. He’s not absolved for the team’s struggles early in the season, but it would be foolish to pin those struggles and that record entirely on him. Had the Eagles won a few of those close games — Tennessee, Carolina, both Dallas games — perhaps we’d look back on Wentz’s 2018 season much differently. 

Was he the best QB in the NFC East in 2018? I don’t know. But, if he stays healthy, I think he’s going to be the best QB in the NFC East for a long time to come.

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