Eagles

Holding the ball seems to be right recipe for Eagles

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Holding the ball seems to be right recipe for Eagles

The Eagles let the Redskins hang around for a little too long Monday, but eventually, they blew them out 28-13. 

Really, though, the Eagles controlled that entire game. 

Earlier in the week, Doug Pederson showed just how self-aware he was when he went to the lectern for a press conference and joked that his play sheet included only running plays. But then for the second straight week, Pederson showed a commitment to the run and it worked. 

One stat that caught my attention from the game was the time of possession. The Eagles controlled the ball for 39:19 to the Redskins’ 20:41. 

Controlling the football and keeping opposing offenses off the field on defense has been a recipe for success for the Eagles under Pederson. Now, some of these stats are sort of like the stats that say if a team runs the ball “x” times per game, they win. Obviously, when a team is up big, they run the ball. 

But I think there’s really something to the idea of the Eagles’ being dominant when they control the ball. 

Check out some of these numbers: 

• Since 2016, the Eagles have held the ball for 39-plus minutes in five games and they’re 5-0 in those contests. 

The next closest teams on the list have played just three such games. And just six other NFL teams have held the ball more than 39 minutes in a game more than once since 2016. 

• The Eagles lead the NFL in time of possession this season at 6:31:13. The Eagles are averaging just 5.5 yards per play and haven’t had big plays this season, but the idea of being able to hold the ball is still good. 

• Since Pederson became the coach in 2016, the Eagles have led the NFL in TOP with 23:54:31. They’ve held the ball 53 minutes longer than the next closest team (the Saints) during that span!

• This is such a departure from the philosophy of the previous regime. During the Chip Kelly years (2013-15), the Eagles were dead last in TOP with 21:06:47. Everything was about scoring quickly, which put tremendous (and unnecessary) stress on the defense. 

• Since 2016, the Eagles are 11-4 when they hold the ball for at least 35 minutes. Two of those losses came this season to the Panthers and the Bucs. The Eagles were 5-0 in those games last season. 

The Eagles did it the right way Monday. Would they like to sprinkle in a few big plays? Absolutely. They haven’t had enough big plays this year. 

But running the ball and having a balanced attack while giving Jim Schwartz’s unit a break simply works. The Eagles’ defense played just 45 snaps Monday, which allowed guys like Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Michael Bennett to play almost the entire game. 

On Monday, the Eagles had 28 first downs and the Redskins had just 10. It was the first time the Eagles had done that in a game since 2008. 

Maybe some folks expect Pederson to revert to pass-happy ways, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think he realizes the benefit of having a balanced attack. But either way, the Eagles have shown they’re going to hold the ball. It’s a recipe that has seemed to work for them over the last few years. 

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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.

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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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