A couple weeks ago, we looked at each of the 48 sacks the Eagles allowed last season in a 4-part series. In case you missed them and have some time to kill, here they are:
Here is who we attributed blame to for each of those 48 sacks:
The 4-part series showed each sack (with pictures), but did not offer any overall analysis once it was completed. We'll do that now. Here are some various notes about the sacks the Eagles allowed last year:
Miscommunication vs. physically dominated
When you see that a team has given up 48 sacks on a season, it would appear that the OL simply isn't very talented. However, I don't think that was the case at all with the 2013 Eagles. I took a look at each sack individually and dropped them into 1 of 5 buckets:
1) An offensive lineman was simply beaten by his opponent, and clearly at fault.
2) Miscommunication between two offensive linemen, or a misread by somebody (not recognizing a blitz, etc)
3) QB's fault.
4) Coverage sack, in which the OL gave the QB plenty of time to throw and nothing was open down the field.
5) Other odd situations.
Here's the tally:
As the chart shows, only 17 of the Eagles' 48 sacks allowed came when one of the Eagles' offensive linemen was clearly beaten by the opponent he was trying to block. That's only 1 per game. That shows that the Eagles don't lack for talent along their OL, but have some things to figure out elsewhere.
Eight of the sacks came as a result of miscommunications or misreads along the OL, which does not absolve them of blame, but are less concerning than being physically unable to block the opposition. Miscommunications and misreads are easier to fix, especially with an experienced OL, than players just not being good enough to keep defenders away from the QB. Many of the Eagles' miscommunications occurred early in the season, which makes sense, considering the Eagles changed their head coach and offensive line coach. It's reasonable to assume that communication will improve with another year together in Chip Kelly's offense under OL coach Jeff Stoutland.
The remaining 19 sacks were not on the OL.
In terms of simply being beaten physically by an opponent, here is how many sacks each individual player allowed:
As you can see, Lane Johnson led the team with 7. Johnson had a few rough moments early in the season against the Chiefs and Broncos, but he settled down as the season progressed. More on Johnson in a bit.
As the LT, Peters has the disadvantage of typically facing off against the opponent's best pass rusher. Last season, here's a sampling of players Peters faced: Brian Orakpo x2, Dwight Freeney, Tamba Hali, Jason Pierre-Paul x2, Lamarr Houston, Clay Matthews, Calais Campbell, Ziggy Ansah, Jared Allen, Julius Peppers, DeMarcus Ware, and Cameron Jordan.
Jason Peters was returning from a double ruptured Achilles, and he was clearly beaten by his opponent just 4 times last season, or less than once every 4 games.
If there was any doubt as to why the Eagles extended Peters' contract this week, that should help explain it.
Evan Mathis was physically beaten by his man for a sack just once last season, and he was only involved in one miscommunication that led to a sack. His All Pro nod was most definitely warranted.
Kelce had a lot of help with double teams, but that's the nature of the position. Like Mathis, Kelce was at fault for just two sacks, and was only physically beaten on one. The other was a bad shotgun snap. Kelce was the only Eagles offensive lineman not to have been responsible for a sack as a result of a misread or miscommunication. He does a tremendous job of seeing blitzes and acting appropriately. Some people would prefer a bigger center, as they believe that Kelce is easily bull rushed. Kelce did struggle in one game against the Giants, but if you watch the sacks allowed in 2013, that sentiment is complete and total nonsense.
Another thing to note about Kelce is that there was concern about how he would recover from a torn ACL the previous season. He was very good in pass protection, and that isn't even what he does best. Only a handful of centers come close to Kelce in terms of athleticism, as Kelce is a weapon both in the screen game and as a run blocker getting to the second level. If Kelce continues to play the way he did in 2013, he should begin to get Pro Bowl consideration His lofty contract extension is well deserved.
Todd Herremans had a rough start to the 2013 season, allowing 3.5 sacks in the first 3 games. He was only involved in 3 sacks the rest of the way, and on 2 of those 3, he shared credit with another player. On those first 3.5 sacks, there was only one in which Herremans was simply beaten by the man he was blocking. The other 2.5 were either miscommunications or misreads.
There's a sentiment that Herremans should be replaced. Compared to the rest of the Eagles starting offensive linemen, Herremans is clearly the most replacable, but that doesn't mean he should be replaced.
There are two things to note Herremans' slow start to the season. To begin, he hadn't played guard since 2010, and he hadn't ever played RG. Secondly, he was playing next to a rookie at RT with whom he had no previous continuity. As the season progressed, Herremans settled in at guard.
Herremans will turn 32 in October, so it would be wise for the Eagles to have a replacement ready to go if Herremans' play begins to decline. However, I don't see any reason currently why a move to somebody else should be forced. Herremans is still a quality starter.
Lane Johnson's season started off shaky, but he settled down as the season progressed. In his first 4 games, Johnson was physically beaten for a sack 3 times, as he struggled quite a bit against the Chiefs and Broncos. However, over the last 13 games, he was physically beaten for a sack by an opponent he was trying to block 4 times. Jason Peters was also beaten 4 times over that same span. Early struggles for a rookie OT are to be expected, but Johnson's improvement as the season progressed was very encouraging.
It should also be noted quickly that Barbre was not responsible for a sack in any form in his 89 snaps last season.
When you're looking only at sacks, you're looking at the worst possible moments for offensive linemen. After watching all 48 of them, I actually came away with a higher opinion of the OL than I previously had. They were rarely physically badly beaten, and the miscommunications/misreads improved as the season progressed.
The OL is the only area of the team that can be considered "old," and yet, despite that, it's actually a unit that I think should improve next season.
• They'll bring back all 5 starters, and will have the OL continuity that is so important for communication.
• They'll have a better understanding of the offense.
• Jason Peters and Jason Kelce will be one more year removed from their serious injuries.
• Lane Johnson will have his rookie season behind him, and Todd Herremans will be fully re-acclimated back at OG.
Oh, and I haven't even mentioned that the 2013 Eagles led the NFL in rushing, yards per carry, rushing 1st downs, rushing 1st down %, and rushes of 40+ yards... and were 2nd in rushing TDs and rushes of 20+ yards.