For much of the 2009 season, the Eagles leaned on their offense.
In their 11 wins, the Birds averaged nearly 33 points per game, and they finished the year averaging 26.8 points per game, fifth-best in the NFL
But in the back-to-back losses to the Cowboys in Week 17 and in the wild-card round, the Eagles managed just 14 points - total. And, well, you know what happened after that. Donovan McNabb was shipped off to Washington, Kevin Kolb was groomed as his successor, and yada, yada, yada... Michael Vick's name is being mentioned in MVP discussions ("I mentioned the bisque...").
So today, as Vick and the Eagles prepare to take on McNabb and the Redskins, I wanted to take a look at how this year's offense with Vick and Kolb compares to last year's offense with McNabb. Let's start with the basics. The numbers in parentheses indicate league-wide rank.
|YPG||PPG||Passing YPG||Rushing YPG|
|2009||357.9 (11th)||26.8 (5th)||255.6 (10th)||102.3 (22nd)|
|2010||376.3 (4th)||24.8 (8th)||238.8 (11th)||137.5 (5th)|
The Eagles are better in yards per game, but down in points. The passing yardage is down, and the rushing yardage is up.
Part of that can be attributed to LeSean McCoy's improvement, but a big part is what the Eagles are getting from Vick's legs, and what they're getting from receivers on running plays.
On average, the offense is getting 53.75 yards per game on the ground from its quarterbacks/wide receivers. Last year, that number was just 22.4. The runs have been more effective this year, as the Eagles are averaging 5.1 yards per carry, which is tied for first in the NFL. Last year, they averaged 4.3, 14th in the league.
Here's a closer look at the passing numbers:
|2009||60.6 (18th)||7.9 (8th)||2.38||4.81|
|2010||62.2 (15th)||7.4 (8th)||3.0||5.61|
The completion percentage is up slightly this season, but the yards per attempt is down slightly. Both offenses ranked eighth league-wide in YPA, indicating that both were explosive and effective with big plays in the passing game.
For that last column (YAC/reception), I just took overall yards after the catch and divided by total number of completions. Initially, it looks like the Eagles are up in YAC this season, but that number is deceiving when you take a closer look.
48.7 percent of the Eagles' YAC this year is from running backs. In other words, the yards have come on plays where McCoy or another back made a catch near the line of scrimmage and took off. The number doesn't really speak to the timing of the offense and the theory that the QBs should be hitting receivers on intermediate routes and allowing them to make plays.
Here's the YAC/reception for the Eagles' top three wide receivers and Brent Celek:
As you can see, the numbers are down across the board for the wide receivers and tight ends.
If you're looking for a number that points to the 2010 version of the Eagles' offense being better than the 2009 version, it's probably third-down efficiency. The Eagles are better-suited to sustain drives because they are converting on 42.5 percent of their third-down chances, which is seventh-best in the league. As I mentioned in Saturday's post, much of the credit for third-down success goes to Vick. He's completing 61.8 percent of his passes and averaging 11.68 yards per attempt on third down.
In '09, the Eagles converted on 36.2 percent of third-down chances, which was 23rd.
The things that have stayed the same on offense this year: spread the ball around, hit on big plays downfield and don't turn it over.
The things that are different: a more dangerous run game, better third-down efficiency and the Vick factor, which points to his ability to make a big play with his arm or his legs from any place on the field at any time.
COMPARING THE DEFENSES
Here is how the 2010 defense compares to the '09 version:
|YPG||PPG||Passing YPG||Rushing YPG|
|2009||321.1 (12th)||21.1 (19th)||216.4 (17th)||104.7 (9th)|
|2010||318.8 (12th)||22.6 (20th)||214.9 (14th)||103.9 (13th)|
It's amazing how similar the numbers are, huh? Here are some more:
|YPA||YPC||Passer Rating||3rd Down%||Sacks/g.|
|2009||6.5 (6th)||4.1 (11th)||77.6 (11th)||33.0 (2nd)||2.75|
|2010||6.5 (6th)||3.9 (12th)||73.3 (4th)||39.8 (20th)||3.0|
Let's start with the passing defense. The Eagles are allowing exactly the same yards per attempt as last season, but opposing quarterbacks are completing 55.9 percent of their attempts, compared to 61.0 percent last season. The defense is on pace for 26 interceptions, which would be one more than '09, but they're on pace to allow one more touchdown through the air also. In other words, the numbers are very similar.
Sacks are up slightly, and the run defense is nearly identical in terms of yards per carry.
Like on offense, third down stands out. But not in a good way here. The Eagles allowed opposing offenses to convert on 33 percent of their third-down chances last season, which was second-best in the league. This year, the 'D' is having more trouble getting off the field, allowing offenses to convert on 39.8 percent of those attempts, 20th in the NFL.
Of course, the Birds are only at the midpoint of the season, and much can change in the next two months. Much has changed in the last few weeks alone with the improvement against the run.
The second half begins with tonight's matchup against the Redskins. As always, I'll be live chatting the game so join me around 8:15 p.m.
And if you missed it, I took a look yesterday at what the Giants' loss means to the Eagles and the NFC East. Also, over the weekend, I posted on who's picking the Eagles and offered up my midseason awards.