5 Numbers That Show You Should Still Be Confident In the Eagles
Yesterday the Eagles lost, ending the season and eliminating them from playoff contention. Wait, no that is not right. But surely it cost them the 1 seed. Nope, that didn’t happen either. But still looking so bad vs a mediocre team with their starting QB is a reason to be concerned. Wait, Jalen Hurts was out.
So wait, why are so many people acting like the sky is falling? Yea it was an ugly loss, and it puts them in a must-win position vs the Giants. That is not ideal. But did you all drink so much over New Year’s that you forgot how great this team looks with Jalen Hurts healthy? 10 points against the Saints is incredibly ugly. But it was with Gardner Minshew at QB. And Minshew was the main reason they could not move the ball. His final numbers looked decent, but those are inflated by the long AJ Brown TD where Brown did almost all of the work. He was incredibly inaccurate all day and even some of the receptions were off-target.
This is still an elite team. The full collection of their games proves that. And yet all yesterday I saw usually smart Football minds freaking out. One guy even said that the Eagles would have no chance to win in Tampa. What are we doing here? If you are panicking, I am going to give you 5 reasons to relax. Here are 5 numbers that show why you should still be confident in the Eagles.
The Chiefs currently lead the league with 29.1 points per game. Well with Jalen Hurts at QB, the Eagles averaged 29.4 points per game. The Eagles are among the elite offenses when they have their MVP candidate QB in. This is an elite offense. With Jalen Hurts they have scored at least 20 points in all except one game. That matches the Chiefs and the Colts. You can’t judge this offense by how badly Minshew played because Minshew won’t be playing in the playoffs, and likely won’t be playing this week.
Minshew being in there changed the Eagles’ entire offense. He is not only a worse Qb than Hurts, he is not a threat in the run game. there were so many times yesterday where a play failed, but Minshew had space where he could have run. If Hurts was in those drives would have been extended because he could have just run for the first. There were times when Minshew threw it behind someone, where Hurts would have hit them in strife and let them run after the catch. There is nothing you can take from the performance of the offense yesterday because it was sabotaged by a terrible Qb performance. Could the game plan have been better? Yes. But the gameplan works great with Hurts so what is there to worry about?
The defense takes a ton of heat. And I agree there are things Jonathan Gannon does that I find incredibly annoying. But the numbers will show that this is one of the elite defenses in the NFL. They give up just 302.6 total yards per game. That is the lowest number in the NFL. Even lower than the 49ers who many would argue have the best defense in the whole league. And that is with this team having a lot of games where they were way ahead and the other team was airing it out to try and catch up.
I think at times the Gannon defense is too soft. There are games where you can say the defense did not play well. But when a team is 1st in yards per game, and 8th in points allowed per game, you have to give the defense some credit. The middle of the field with Avonte Maddox and CJ Gardner-Johnson out is concerning. I do not trust Josiah Scott or Reed Blankenship even a little bit. But CJGJ may be back soon. And even without them, they have still played well.
They gave up only 13 points vs the Saints. Yea that opening drive was a mess. But we have seen this defense is capable of starting slow and eventually buckling down. Are they as shutdown as the Niners? Probably not. But they are still a damn good defense. One of the best in the NFL.
Oh, and did I mention how good this defense is at getting to the QB? They average 4.3 sacks per game. Their 68 sacks put them in the top 5 all-time in total sacks by one team in a single season. They get after the Qb better than anyone. And they have 5 guys who contribute to that. One of them, Josh Sweat, went down yesterday with a scary neck injury. But it seems like he may actually be okay to play in the playoffs. Haason Reddick leads the way with 16 sacks. But Sweat, Javon Hargrave, and Brandon Graham are all also in double digits. And Fletcher Cox is not too far behind at 7 sacks, with Milton Williams also making some noise with 4 sacks. And the production is picking up at the end of the year.
There was talk yesterday of sacks being overrated. But I can’t get behind it. Are they the be-all end-all? No. But if you are consistently putting opposing teams behind the sticks, you are doing something right. And a lot of these sacks come on 3rd down which obviously gets the other team off the field. Their ability to get off the Qb is their best asset, and it is a reason to be confident about this defense.
Even with Gardner Minshew hurting the numbers in the past two weeks, the Eagles are still the best red zone offense in the league. They score a TD 72.2% of the time they get into the Red Zone. And that is in large part due to the Eagles’ run game being impossible to stop in the Red Zone. They have 31 rushing Touchdowns. Hurts accounts for 13 of those, and Miles Sanders accounts for 11. There are only 9 players with double-digit rushing touchdowns, and the Eagles have two of them. In the Red Zone, you have to cover a Jalen Hurts run, Sanders or whoever else they have in at RB, Devonta Smith, and AJ Brown, plus Dallas Goedert. And if one guy misses his assignment, or gets beat, the Eagles are scoring. Oh, and the Eagles also have zero red zone turnovers this year, not counting turnovers on downs.
Losing two games in a row is a bit of a gut punch. But it is worth remembering the Eagles still have just 1 loss when Jalen Hurts is playing. I can’t blame Minshew solely for the Cowboys’ loss, though Hurts would have played better than him. But we can blame Minshew for the Saints’ loss. I don’t think it is controversial to say that if Hurts played they would have won at least one of these games. Which would put them at just two losses. No other team has less than 3.
The Chiefs, Bills, Bengals, 49ers, and Cowboys all have multiple ugly losses. We over-focus on our own teams because it is what we pay the most attention to obviously. But if we broaden our perspective every single team has weeks like the Eagles had. And the Chiefs had Patrick Mahomes when they lost to the Colts. So I’m not going to overreact to one, or even two losses when the Eagles shave their backup QB in.
Bonus Stat- 510
There is a myth floating around, and it is propelled by recency bias. All over you will see people saying the Eagles do not run the ball enough. And I would say that is true specifically about the Saints game. But the people saying that the Eagles in general do not run the ball enough are flat-out wrong. They have 510 rushes this season. That is 4th in the NFL. And before you say that is only because of Jalen Hurts scrambles, Sanders has the 7th most carries in the NFL. And other than Dalvin Cook, all the RBs ahead of him are on teams that struggle to throw the ball.
In the past, the Eagles have gotten too pass-happy. And vs the Saints, they certainly should have run it more. But they literally run the ball more than they pass it. They have only thrown 501 passes this season. And they have an incredibly dangerous passing game when Hurts is healthy. Do you want to take targets away from Goedert, Brown, or Smith? Their balance on offense is fine. You can’t make things up about the team just because of one bad game plan. They run it more than enough. They have nearly 350 RB runs. That is about 22 RB runs a game. The eagles not running the ball enough is not a real concern.