Eagles

The one thing that really held the Eagles back last year

Eagles

Think what it means to score 41 points all year in the first quarter.

That’s a little more than a safety per game, a little less than a field goal.

That’s what the Eagles did in 2018, when they were the slowest-starting team in the NFL.

The Eagles last year tied their fourth-fewest first-quarter points since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978.

They scored 31 in 2012 (Andy Reid’s final year), 33 in 1998 (Ray Rhodes’ final year) and 36 in 1993.

Worse, the Eagles were outscored by 20 points in the first quarter, and only eight teams allowed a bigger point disparity in 2018, including bottom dwellars like the Jets, Jaguars, Raiders and Dolphins.

Not the company you want to keep.

The Eagles too often last year found themslves in early holes and that just doesn't work over the long haul. 

Getting off to faster starts this year has been a focus this offseason for Doug Pederson.

Almost every day with the offense,” Pederson said. “I've emphasized that quite a bit this summer with our offense, and being kind of open-minded but at the same time understanding that we have to start faster. We scored 41 points in all of the first quarters last year and it’s not good enough. That's something that we continue to talk about and address on a daily basis.

The Eagles ran 35 drives last year that started and ended in the first quarter. They included:

• 20 punts
• 6 turnovers
• 2 missed field goals
• 2 field goals
• 5 touchdowns

In the six games they scored in the first quarter, they were 6-0. When they didn’t? They were 3-7.

 

Only the 49ers, with eight, committed more first-quarter turnovers. Only the Jaguars and Jets scored fewer first-quarter touchdowns.

The biggest things you look at are penalties and turnovers,” Pederson said. “That was really the culprit to a lot of games. We would make a drive and get into the red area and we would have a penalty, maybe a sack, a turnover and we weren't capitalizing on that and those are things we can control. So really, the focus was just controlling what we can do and just executing our offense.

The disparity between Wentz in the first quarter and the rest of the game is huge.

WENTZ FIRST QUARTER: Last year Wentz completed 62 perent of his passes with three TDs and three interceptions and passed for just 44 yards per game with a 77.6 passer rating. He ranked 24th in the NFL in first quarter TD passes, fourth from the bottom with four INTs and 28th of 32 QBs in passer rating.

WENTZ 2ND THROUGH 4th QUARTERS: Completion percentage jumps to 71 percent with 18 touchdowns and four interceptions, 236 yards per game and a 107.8 passer rating, which trailed only Drew Brees, Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson and Matthew Ryan.

It’s something that even in practice we always just come out and we want to start fast,” Wentz said. “It’s easy to say, harder to execute. And so for us it’s just kind of taking a hard look at what do we do and what do we do well and how do we do that effectively early in games. Maybe not try to complicate it too much, maybe just stay the course and do what we do. I’ve seen that through training camp and through practices, now we just have to prove it.

Wentz has gotten off to slow starts his entire career. 

He’s got a 14-to-11 career TD-to-INT ratio in the first quarter but those numbers go to 56-to-17 the rest of the game.

Pederson’s challenge is to tailor the gameplan and the play calls to get Wentz into an early rhythm while reigning him in early so he doesn’t try to do too much.

I know as a quarterback you want to hit that big home run throw right away, and it's just part of the growth process,” he said. “I can do a better job maybe play calling. I still like calling shots in those situations, first-quarter situations, but at the same time get him in a rhythm. Maybe call a little more of the quicker game, get the ball out, get him into a rhythm, kind of lather it up a little bit and then we take our shots. It's kind of a give and take there. But it’s something we have to definitely get better at.

When the Eagles had a lead after the first quarter last year they were 5-1, losing only to the Saints in the playoffs. When they trailed or were tied? They were 5-7.

 

You’re not going to consistently beat good teams playing from behind. You just can’t consistently win like that.

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