This week's edition of Five Eagles numbers that matter:
6 - The number of passes Drew Brees had tipped or batted at the line of scrimmage last year, according to Pro Football Focus. That comes out to one every 109.5 attempts.
So, why am I writing about the Saints quarterback when this blog focuses on the Eagles?
Because Brees is 6-0 tall. And so is Michael Vick. Yet, per PFF, Vick had 14 passes tipped at the line of scrimmage, or one every 30.2 attempts. Quarterbacks coach Doug Pederson told reporters last week that he had the number at 19, which would make it one every 22.3 attempts. Either way, that is way too many and something Vick needs to work on.
The obvious implication is that the batted balls lead to incompletions. But last year, the results were more devastating. By my count, three of Vick's interceptions occurred after balls were batted at the line of scrimmage. And it's not exactly a new problem, although it did get worse last season. In 2010, Vick had 10 passes batted, or one every 37.2 attempts.
While clearly height plays a factor, it's not everything. Ben Roethlisberger (6-5), had 11 passes tipped, or one every 46.6 attempts.
At times last year, teams that were concerned about Vick's ability to take off and run had their defensive linemen stay near the line of scrimmage with their hands up. It's up to Vick (and the offensive line) to work on finding the right passing lanes and limiting the number of batted passes. Perhaps giving Brees a call in the next few months would be a good idea.
18 - The number of pounds Casey Matthews worked to put on this offseason, as reported by the Daily News' Les Bowen. We've discussed the linebacker's rookie season at length in this space before. But if you need a refresher, he started out in the middle for the first two weeks, moved to the WILL in Week 3, barely saw the field until Week 14 and then played quite a bit in the final four games.
He played pretty well too, specifically in pass coverage. But taking a closer look at those final four games, about 70 percent of the plays he was on the field for were passing plays.
Which brings us to 2012. How does Matthews fit in? And what effect will going from 232 pounds to 250 pounds have on his speed and agility? Matthews' best chance of making an impact is probably to beat out Brian Rolle for the starting WILL spot, alongside DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks (These are just projections, of course. A lot can change between now and Week 1). His other option is to be so good in coverage that the Eagles use him in sub packages for either Ryans or Kendricks. But last week at OTAs, Ryans and Kendricks stayed on the field in nickel situations.
It'll be an interesting summer for Matthews. He was thrown into the starting lineup right away as a rookie and was quickly yanked. Apparently, he was asked to put on weight this offseason to get stronger against the run, but that was before the Eagles traded for Ryans and drafted Kendricks. From now until September, he'll work to find a defined role in next year's defense.
19 - The number of defeats by Cullen Jenkins last year, as charted by Football Outsiders. That was tied with Cincinnati's Geno Atkins for the league lead among defensive tackles. In case you're unfamiliar with this stat, a defeat is counted any time a defensive player causes a turnover, causes a loss of yardage or stops a conversion on third or fourth down.
Leading up to the draft, I saw a lot written about how the Eagles needed to upgrade at defensive tackle, but the truth is, Jenkins and Mike Patterson played really well. And Derek Landri was good as a rotational DT also.
Don't get me wrong. I like the Fletcher Cox pick. He provides nice size and versatility on the interior and should be able to bat down his share of balls. Now, teaming him and Jenkins together could be a lot for opposing quarterbacks to handle in obvious pass-rushing situations.
7 - The number of times Riley Cooper was the first man downfield on the Eagles' coverage teams, as tracked by the coaching staff. That was third on the team, behind only special-teams ace Colt Anderson (18) and linebacker Akeem Jordan (9). Cooper also was a blocker on return teams.
You'll probably hear a lot of talk this summer about how Cooper and rookie Marvin McNutt are competing for a roster spot, but the only way that happens is if one (or two?) of the team's lesser-known free agent receivers has a great training camp. In reality, the Eagles are in position to keep Cooper and McNutt, to go along with DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant.
They both could be active on gamedays too, but Cooper's special-teams production likely gives him a leg up.
3 - The number of positions played by King Dunlap in the last two seasons. Who saw this coming? Recently, I wrote that several Eagles veterans - Joselio Hanson, Darryl Tapp, Moise Fokou and Akeem Jordan - will be fighting for jobs this summer. But Dunlap probably has a spot reserved on the final roster. He has been asked to fill in at left tackle, left guard and right tackle. And while Dunlap won't be making the Pro Bowl any time soon, he's improved to become a capable backup.
Originally a seventh-round pick in 2008, Dunlap signed a one-year deal in March after the Eagles found out about the Jason Peters injury. He won't get a lot of ink this summer and is not really critical to the team's success, but depth is important, and Dunlap deserves credit for taking advantage of opportunities and finding a place in the league.
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