Grading the Eagles at the quarter pole: Offense edition

The Eagles have reached the quarter mark of the season and are just 1-3. So naturally it's time to hand out some grades. Let's start with the offense.

QB – Michael Vick

Michael Vick is having a very odd season. On the one hand, he’s completing passes at a 55.1% clip, which is 31st in the NFL. On the other hand, he has a yards per pass attempt average of 9.2, which is astronomical. Here are the top 5 teams in terms of YPA since 2000:

Those are teams that were led by Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, and Kurt Warner.

But is it Chip Kelly’s new offense that is leading to those numbers, or is it Vick?

Vick has made a lot of big plays, but he has also left a lot of big plays on the field, and I think the above statistic oddity of the low completion % but high YPA illustrate just that.

On a side note, to Vick’s credit, he has only thrown 2 INTs this season. Only two QBs with at least 100 pass attempts have thrown less.

Grade: B-

RB – LeSean McCoy 

LeSean McCoy is having a phenomenal season. He leads the league in rushing yards, with 468.  That’s 47 more yards than the next closest player, Adrian Peterson, who has 421. McCoy is also gaining 6.0 yards per carry. The next closest running backs with at least 40 carries (there are 3 of them) are averaging 5.3 YPC. He also leads the league is rushing first downs, with 23. And just as importantly… no fumbles. 

Four weeks into the season, LeSean McCoy is clearly the best RB in the league so far in 2013.

Grade: A+ 

WR – DeSean Jackson

Here is how DeSean Jackson’s numbers compare with the rest of the WRs around the NFL:

Jackson has been everything Eagles fans could have hoped for this season. He’s an explosive threat again (8 catches of over 40 yards), and he isn’t just running deep. Jackson he been making catches all over the field and has been more aggressive in getting yards after the catch than in previous years. He has also been a willing blocker in the run game. Opposing defenses have begun to give Jackson more attention, which opens up mismatches in the run game, as well as 1-on-1 opportunities for the other receivers, although they have not capitalized.

Grade: A

WR – Riley Cooper

Cooper has played the 9th most snaps in the NFL among WRs. He’s 81st in receptions. Cooper is a good blocker, which helps in the run game… or so is the theory, anyway. Personally, I don’t think the run game would miss a beat with a mediocre blocker in his place, but I’m quite sure the passing game would be improved with a WR who has mediocre receiving skills.

Grade: D

WR – Jason Avant

Chip Kelly repeatedly referenced comments that Jason Avant made in the wake of “the Riley Cooper video” fiasco, and I don’t think that anyone would question Avant’s leadership. However, when opposing defenses are shading toward one player (DeSean Jackson) on the back end, it is the job of the other receivers to win 1-on-1 matchups and either expose the defense’s over-commitment to one player, or at least keep them honest. Neither Cooper nor Avant have done that consistently, although at least Avant has been better than Cooper. 

Grade: C+

TE – Brent Celek

Try as I might, I just can’t get Celek’s drop inside the Broncos’ 5 yard line out of my head. Last season, Celek had the 4th worst drop rate in the NFL (data via PFF):

It’s interesting to note that some of the better TEs in the league drop a lot of passes, but I don’t think that’s a good excuse for Celek, who not only dropped too many passes last season, but also had a few of those drops land in the arms of a defensive player. The drops remain an issue and Celek has already had a big one in a big moment.

Celek has just 7 receptions this season (less than 2 per game), which is 31st among NFL TEs. Like Avant and Cooper, Celek just isn’t doing enough in the passing game so far, and while he;s the best blocking TE on the team, it's not as if it's a major strength.

Grade: C-

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

I’ll grade this unit as a group, but will make individual comments on each player. Personally, I’m not as down on this group as others. Michael Vick has been sacked 14 times so far this season, which is tied for 5th most in the NFL. However, it doesn’t help that Vick holds onto the football as long as any QB in the league. Additionally, the Eagles’ run game is churning out 198 yards per game, which is a pace that will shatter the all-time single season team rushing record. It doesn’t hurt that Michael Vick picks up chunks of yards on the ground, and that LeSean McCoy is awesome, but obviously the OL is opening up holes.

The one area that is a rather large concern is penalties. Eagles offensive linemen have been guilty of 4 false starts, 5 holding calls, and 2 illegal formation penalties. Some of those penalties have wiped out huge plays. Some notes on each player, individually:

  • Jason Peters does not appear as though he’s going to be “2011 Jason Peters.” He still shows flashes of domination, but he’s not that consistent dominating force that we saw 2 years ago when he was arguably the best offensive lineman in the NFL.
  • I can’t honestly say I’ve studied Evan Mathis closely, but he remains a favorite of ProFootballFocus, as he rates out as their best OG in the NFL. Mathis has had his share of penalties (3 so far), but otherwise has been quiet. (Quiet is good).
  • Jason Kelce has had some issues with his snaps, and those aren’t to be diminished, but has been very good otherwise, and seems to be a good fit in Chip Kelly's offense as a guy who can get to the second level in the run game.
  • Todd Herremans had a rough start to the season, but was better against the Broncos. Herremans had a rare injury last season in his foot (broken cuboid bone) that the Eagles had to research before they could treat it. There’s no way to know if that’s still an issue (Herremans would never say it is), but he needs to play better. The bright side is that he is coming off a good game to start the 2nd quarter of the season.
  • Lane Johnson has been very inconsistent, which is to be expected of a rookie. Johnson started out on fire against the Washington team, opening up holes in the run game with authority, but he has regressed since. The Chiefs’ Justin Houston worked him over Week 3, and Johnson has had some crucial penalties.

If you look around the league, there are a lot of bad offensive lines out there. The Eagles are eventually going to have to add new pieces to this group, which has three starters over 30 years of age, but they could certainly do far worse.

Grade: B-

Quick notes on some of the key reserves:

  • Nick Foles: Led a nice, garbage-time TD drive against the Broncos. That's good to see, but again, fairly meaningless.
  • Bryce Brown: Brown has to stop trying to bounce everything to the outside, and get North and South.
  • Zach Ertz: It's only a matter of time before Ertz begins to chip away at some of Celek's playing time.
  • James Casey: Casey has played 18 snaps this season. He has made $55.763 per snap.
  • Damaris Johnson: MIA.
  • Jeff Maehl: He and Nick Foles are the next Montana to Rice.
  • Chris Polk: He has only gotten 6 snaps this season, but he has made them count.