Here are five Eagles numbers that matter:
28 - The number of times the Eagles asked Jason Peters to block a Giants defender by himself in pass protection in the teams' first meeting last season. Michael Vick and Mike Kafka dropped back to pass 35 times, and only on seven occasions did Peters get help from a running back, tight end or fellow lineman. Many times, Peters went head-to-head with Jason Pierre-Paul, arguably the most talented defensive lineman the Eagles had to deal with. Pierre-Paul notched a pair of sacks, but one came after Vick escaped the pocket and tried to make something happen. The other occurred when Pierre-Paul beat Jason Kelce. For the most part, Peters held his own.
The point here today though has more to do with new Eagles tackle Demetress Bell. Andy Reid, Marty Mornhinweg and Howard Mudd had the luxury last year of sticking Peters on the left side, and for the most part, allowing him to block elite pass rushers one-on-one. Will they trust Bell to do the same? It'll be crucial to constantly assess what Bell is capable of and put him in positions to succeed. Don't be surprised if the Eagles use a running back or tight end, especially early in the season, to help Bell out.
59.57 - The percentage of times opposing offenses scored touchdowns on the Eagles in the red zone last year. That ranked 29th in the NFL and was actually an improvement from 2010 when they allowed teams to score 78.26 percent of the time, by far the worst mark in the league. But clearly, there's a lot of room for improvement.
I took a look at the 26 red-zone touchdowns the Eagles allowed. Here's a quick breakdown:
|Position||No. of RZ Scores|
|Running Backs (runs)||7|
|Running Backs (catches)||2|
I thought tight ends did more damage in the red zone, but that really wasn't the case. They only scored four times inside the 20. And all those touchdowns came in the first half of the season.
In terms of coverage, wide receivers torched the Eagles' secondary. In the final eight games, the Eagles gave up eight passing touchdowns in the red zone, and all caught by wide receivers.
One more thing for new secondary coach Todd Bowles to focus on.
15.7 - The percentage of snaps played by fullback Owen Schmitt last year, according to Pro Football Focus. That number dropped quite a bit from 2010 (33 percent). Schmitt's gone, and it appears the Birds are content to go with either Stanley Havili, a seventh-round pick from 2011, or one of the undrafted free agents.
The Eagles don't use the fullback much, and they might use one even less next season, depending on how comfortable they are with Havili.
Here's a chart showing how they used Schmitt last season, though:
|Role||Pct. of Snaps|
Most of Schmitt's snaps came as a receiver or lead blocker. He had just three catches for 32 yards and four carries for 6 yards.
Unless Havili surprises, my guess is you're not going to see the Eagles use the fullback much. In a future post, I'll take a look at LeSean McCoy's numbers with and without Schmitt as his lead blocker.
2 - The number of red-zone catches made by DeSean Jackson last season. In the past, critics of Jackson have ripped him for his lack of production inside the opponents' 20. And to be fair, that's completely legit. Jackson's biggest strength is his speed and acceleration on vertical routes. But that's taken away when there's less than 20 yards of the field to work with. He doesn't do much as a decoy in that area of the field either, as far as I can tell.
The Eagles finished 14th in the league in red-zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns 51.52 percent of the time. Not horrible, but not great, especially when you consider the talent at the team's skill positions.
One option to switch things up would be to take Jackson off the field in those situations. Maybe play more with two tight ends? Maybe see what one of the younger receivers like Riley Cooper or Marvin McNutt has to offer? It's not a size thing. Jeremy Maclin is 6-0, but is the Birds' best red-zone receiver. It's about being able to get open in tight spaces and catch the ball in traffic. Those are not strengths for Jackson.
13 - The number of special-teams tackles for linebacker Akeem Jordan, according to Football Outsiders. They also track Return Stops, which looks "at each return compared to an average return, with a baseline based both the length of the kick/punt and the yard line where the return man catches the ball." In other words, was the player better than average in terms of where he made the tackle? Twelve of Jordan's 13 tackles counted as Return Stops.
He's a veteran, who's played all over the place, but is not an above-average starter. Jordan, however, could have a leg up on a roster spot because of special teams.