Thursday, September 18, 2014
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The Eagles have a historically potent offense, but it's not leading to points: A deep dive statistical look

The Eagles are 1-3, which is a disappointing start to a season that puts them right on pace to finish at 4-12, same as the atrocity that was the 2012 Eagles. The defense has been downright awful, the special teams units have been bad, and we’ve already seen Chip Kelly make some questionable time management and game situation decisions.

The Eagles have a historically potent offense, but it's not leading to points: A deep dive statistical look

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

The Eagles are 1-3, which is a disappointing start to a season that puts them right on pace to finish at 4-12, same as the atrocity that was the 2012 Eagles. The defense has been downright awful, the special teams units have been bad, and we’ve already seen Chip Kelly make some questionable time management and game situation decisions.

However, lost in the doom and gloom is that the Eagles are on pace to break (and in some cases, shatter) some NFL offensive records this season. The Eagles have churned out yardage at a historical rate, although it has not translated to big numbers on the scoreboard.

First we’ll look at what the Eagles have done on offense through the quarter pole of the season, then try to figure why they have not scored as much as they should have:

Total yards

• The Eagles are gaining a very impressive 458.8 yards per game. That is 2nd in the NFL behind only the juggernaut Denver Broncos. To put that 458.8 number in perspective, the Eagles are on pace for 7340 yards this season. The 2011 Saints had the most yards in NFL history, with 7474.

• They also lead the league in yards per play, at 6.9. Since 2000, here are the best “yards per play” teams in the NFL.

In other words, in terms of yards per play, the Eagles are right on par with teams led by Kurt Warner, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning.

• There’s also this:

 

 

Passing yards

• The Eagles are averaging 260.5 passing yards per game, which is 11th in the NFL.

• The Eagles are 2nd in the NFL with 9.2 yards per attempt, an outstanding number. Here’s how that compares to the best of the best in that metric since 2000:

• However, while they’re at 9.2 yards per attempt, they’re only connecting on 55.3% of their pass attempts, which is 30th in the league. Their average completion is going for 15.3 yards, by far the highest in the NFL. That’s because they have hit on 24 pass plays of over 20 yards, best in the NFL, and 4 pass pays of over 40 yards, tied for best in the NFL. DeSean Jackson has a bunch of those big plays, and he is 5th in the league in receiving yards, with 393.

• They’ve also done a good job taking care of the football through the air. Michael Vick threw 2 INTs against the Chiefs, but he doesn’t have any INTs otherwise. Only three teams have thrown fewer interceptions.

Rushing yards

• The Eagles are rushing for 198.2 yards per game. That is by far the best in the NFL, and the Eagles are on pace to rack up 3172 rushing yards this season. The NFL single season record was set in 1978 by the Patriots, who had 3165. In 2013, the next closest team is the Bills, with 152 rushing yards per game. LeSean McCoy leads the NFL with 468 rushing yards, followed by Adrian Peterson, who has 421.

• There is also a huge gap between the Eagles and the rest of the league in yards per carry. The Eagles lead the league with 6.1 yards per carry. In 2013, the next closest team is the Packers, at 5.3. Since 2000, the gap is staggering:

• They’re 2nd in rushes of over 20 yards, with 7, and tied for first with rushes of over 40 yards, with 2.

Points

• And yet, despite all of the extremely impressive numbers above, the Eagles are a “good not great” 11th in points per game, with 24.8.

• They’re eating up yards like Pacman eats up delicious white pellets, but they’re not scoring enough. In fact, the Eagles are 24th in "yards per point," with 18.5. On that metric, the lower the number, the better. There are 8 teams who have a higher “yards per point” total than the Eagles. They are the Cardinals, Raiders, Steelers, Browns, Giants, Jets, Buccaneers, and Jaguars. The combined records of those 8 teams: 7-25.

Some reasons for their scoring inefficiency:

• They are 26th in the NFL in red zone efficiency, at 41.67%. The red zone is where you win games in the NFL. Red zone inefficiency has been a problem for the Eagles for years. While the offense is far better this year on the whole than it was the last two seasons, the Eagles have actually gotten worse inside the 20:

• Drops in the red zone haven’t helped. Brent Celek had a bad drop against the Broncos that should have eventually led to a TD (even if Celek wouldn’t have scored on the play), and James Casey dropped a TD against the Chargers.

• Three missed field goals from Alex Henery haven't helped either. Henery has missed from 46, 48, and 46. Those aren’t “gimmes” by any stretch, but they’re makeable FGs that you expect a guy with limited range outside 50 yards to make. In other words, if he’s not going to be a weapon from distances over 50 yards, Henery should be accurate on the long-intermediate attempts. Three misses in three straight games (plus a 44-yard miss in the preseason) is alarming.

• While the Eagles haven’t thrown many interceptions, fumbling remains a major issue. They have lost 5 fumbles so far this season. Only two teams (Giants, Steelers) have more, and neither has won a game yet.

• The Eagles are committing too many penalties on offense. They have 23 so far, or just under 6 per game. That is far too many. Some have been huge ones, like the Lane Johnson illegal formation penalty that wiped a DeSean Jackson TD off the board. Here’s the breakdown:

By comparison, the Colts have 5 offensive penalties.

• Sacks are stalling drives. The Eagles are tied for 4th worst in the NFL, with 14 sacks allowed. Some blame goes to the OL here, and some goes to Michael Vick, who has held onto the ball too long on occasion.

• The defense and special teams units are killing the offense. We’ll get to the full look at defense soon (it’s very, very ugly), but the gist of it is that the defense isn’t forcing turnovers. On the season, the defense has forced 5 takeaways. Only 7 teams have less. Driving the length of the field and scoring consistently isn’t easy. Here are the Eagles’ starting field position numbers, by game:

Summary:

The Eagles offense needs to be better in the red zone. They also have to cut down on penalties and fumbles. Those are the things the offense can control, and while red zone inefficiency is a more complex fix, the penalties and the fumbling are correctable. What the Eagles’ offense can’t control is field position, and opposing offenses consistently sustaining long drives. If the offense can get a smidge of help from the defense and special teams, they’ll put up more points, and in turn… more wins.

The difference on offense from last year to this year is night and day:

We’re only 4 games into the Chip Kelly era, and statistically, the offense is doing historical things. The Eagles’ record is 1-3, of course, and that’s not to be dismissed. However, when you look at the big picture, at least offensively, how can you not be excited about the Chip Kelly regime?

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