Saturday, September 20, 2014
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Grading the Eagles at the halfway point: Offense edition

The Eagles have reached the halfway point in the season and are 3-5. Let's grade them through 8 games.

Grading the Eagles at the halfway point: Offense edition

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Eagles running back LeSean McCoy. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)

The Eagles have reached the halfway point in the season and are 3-5. They were 1-3 when we doled out quarterly grades 4 weeks ago, and were a disappointing 2-2 against weak competition in the second quarter. Let's grade them out on Weeks 5 through 8...

QB - Michael Vick

One of the negatives about Michael Vick's game is that he's extraordinarily injury prone. Strengths and weaknesses from an ability standpoint aside, Vick's inability to stay on the field is an enormous detriment to his value as starting QB. If you can't rely on your starting QB to actually play, you don't really have a legitimate starting QB to begin with. Michael Vick can't stay healthy. He never has, and never will. And that's really all there is to say about his 2nd quarter, since he only attempted 23 passes in the Eagles' last 4 games. His numbers in those games, just FYI: 12 of 23 (52.2%), 135 yards (5.87 YPA), 0 TD, 1 INT, 51.9 QB rating.

QB - Nick Foles

Nick Foles' numbers this quarter are actually pretty good: 49 of 85 (57.6%), 573 yards, 5 TD, 0 INT, 93.9 QB Rating. Obviously they do nothing to tell the whole story.

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Foles was very good in relief of Michael Vick against the Giants Week 5, and excellent the following week against the Bucs. Those were the highest of highs.

Then...

Obviously, we saw what Foles did against the Cowboys. That was an extremely winnable game, and Foles put together one of the worst professional QB performances I've ever seen. That was the lowest of lows.

Foles probably isn't as good as the guy we saw against the Bucs, and he can't be as bad as the guy we saw against the Cowboys, or he wouldn't even be in the NFL. The reality is that he's probably somewhere in between, but the lasting impression we have was against the Cowboys, and people are still scratching their heads trying to figure out how he could have been so bad. For me, I think like most people, the really bad performance has overshadowed the 2 good ones.

For now, we'll hold off on grading Barkley until he gets a game of his own to start, with 1st team reps in practice all week.

RB - LeSean McCoy

After the first 4 weeks of the season, there was no debate as to who the best performing RB in the league was. LeSean McCoy led the NFL in rushing yards (468), yards per carry (6.0), and first downs (23). Shady's 2nd quarter numbers are down, drastically:

To McCoy's credit, he has owned up to his recent games, via Sheil Kapadia of Philly Mag:

“I just wasn’t myself,” he said. “I felt like with a game like this where my team needed me and depended on me, I didn’t show up. I started doing just too many individual type of plays, not really going with the plays and just doing my own thing.

“Just was a little frustrated. I wasn’t really making the plays that I usually make. And they were stopping us. We were going three-and-out. And things weren’t going our way. I just tried to make too many things happen. Certain plays, from running the ball to screens, different things like that. I felt that was probably my worst performance since my rookie year. But I’ll bounce back this week for sure. Just gotta trust in the scheme. If things are not working out, eventually they’ll break.”

Check out Sheil's post in its entirety for a film breakdown of Shady's recent struggles.

On a side note, Bryce Brown is giving the Eagles nothing as the #2 back. Brown has 38 carries for 98 yards (2.8 YPC), 0 TD, and a long of 9.

WR - DeSean Jackson

DeSean Jackson has had a very good year to date, but his production has fallen off a bit this quarter, in terms of "big play production." He actually has more catches and TDs this quarter than he did last quarter, but his yards per catch, and big plays (catches of 20+ yards) are down quite a bit:

Is it because Jackson has good rapport with Michael Vick, and if suffering with Foles and Barkley? Are defenses realizing that DeSean is the only major threat in the passing game and opposing defenses are daring the Eagles to beat them with somebody else? Is it because the run game hasn't been as effective, and therefore opposing safeties aren't being drawn up to the line of scrimmage, which would enable DeSean to beat them over the top?

It could be a mix of all of the above, and more. DeSean's numbers this quarter were still very good, but I can't help having the following play yesterday on 3rd and 8 etched into my brain:

DeSean is easily going to get the first down:

Nope, wait, DeSean is now running East-West instead of North-South to avoid the safety:

Gah... The safety got him anyway, and the Eagles have punt:

No, DeSean, even if you stick the ball out after you're clearly down, you're still a full yard short:

And so, I have to knock him down from a B+ to a B.

WR - Riley Cooper

In the two games against the Giants this quarter, Cooper had a combined 2 catches for 13 yards. In the two games sandwiched in between, he had 10 catches for 208 yards, and a TD, including a nice catch on a Foles deep ball and a nice run after the catch against Tampa. The two good games are nice, but ideally you'd like your #2 WR to make a play or two in every game.

Cooper has been vastly improved this quarter, but is pretty clearly not an ideal #2 NFL receiver. This is a spot the Eagles should easily be able to upgrade next season, even with Cooper playing better.

WR - Jason Avant

Avant's second quarter numbers are basically the same as his first quarter numbers:

  • 1st Q: 12 catches, 146 yards, 1 TD
  • 2nd Q: 13 catches, 140 yards, 1 TD

Jason Avant has been a great Eagle, and a great leader, but I feel like he's stuck in a state of perpetual C plus-ness. He's a steady contributor, but ultimately a guy that opposing defenses don't fear.

TE - Brent Celek

The coaching staff has raved about Celek's play, but he's not producing in the passing game. He had 7 catches the first quarter, 7 catches the second quarter.

24 tight ends have more receiving yards than Celek this season, despite Celek playing 77.5% of his team's offensive snaps. Zach Ertz has gotten roughly half the snaps that Celek has gotten on pass plays this season, and has just as many catches:

Celek may very well be the best blocking TE on the team, but the Eagles need more than 27 receiving yards per game out of their TE.

(We'll hold off on grading Ertz until he gets more playing time).

OL - Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, and Lane Johnson

The OL is so hard to evaluate when there's a carousel of quarterbacks coming in and out of the game every week.

It seems as though the offense does indeed run the ball a lot better when Michael Vick plays (and is healthy). In the first 4 games, LeSean McCoy gained 6.0 yards per carry. In the last 4, he has gained 3.4 yards per carry.

Conversely, when Vick is in, the OL gives up more sacks.

Vick's penchant for holding onto the ball for an eternity is well documented by now. Also, based on the eye test yesterday, it appears as though Matt Barkley will need to develop an internal clock suitable for the NFL. But when the OL is protecting for Nick Foles, they're only allowing a sack on 4.8% of the Eagles' pass plays. 

I'll be upfront and admit that I haven't studied the subtle differences in the OL's play from one QB to the next, but I'll give a few quick notes on each starter:

  • It's safe to say now that Jason Peters is not the highlight reel player that he used to be. He's still a good player and above average starting LT, but we may be seeing the beginning of a decline with Peters. 
  • Evan Mathis has been very good, although not necessarily dominant, as usual. He just consistently wins his matchups.
  • There were some concerns about Jason Kelce's return from a torn ACL to begin the season, but he played well the first four games, and put some of those concerns to bed. Against the Giants Week 5, Kelce had a really bad day (shown on film here by Sheil Kapadia of Philly Mag).
  • Todd Herremans was simply not good the first few weeks this season, but he has played much better this quarter.
  • It's all about consistency for the rookie, Lane Johnson. Johnson was at least partly responsible for 2 sacks in the loss to the Giants. On one, Mathias Kiwanuka got the edge around him on a play that Matt Barkley held onto the ball too long. On another, Linval Joseph bulldozed right by Johnson, although Johnson may have been expecting a double team from Herremans. The athleticism is there. It's just a matter of getting a feel for the pro game. Johnson should eventually be a very good tackle, but there may be some more growing pains this season.
Jimmy Kempski Philly.com
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