Last week we reviewed some of the biggest sneaky concerns about the Philadelphia Eagles heading into the 2017 season. Today we’ll look on the bright side and look at two of the team’s biggest sneaky strengths, as identified by Football Outsiders in an article for ESPN In$ider.
First up, the sneaky strength of the Eagles’ offense.
Offense: Plays from "traditional" formations
Burying the legacy of Chip Kelly quickly, the Eagles were a better offense from formations with Carson Wentz under center (eighth in DVOA, 12th in yards per play) than formations with Wentz in shotgun (26th in DVOA, 30th in yards per play).
Heh. How about that?
Here’s a breakdown of the Eagles’ plays under center versus shotgun splits, via Pro Football Reference.
UNDER CENTER: 366
SHOTGUN: 178 rush attempts for 796 yards (4.5 average) and 6 touchdowns
UNDER CENTER: 262 rush attempts for 1,006 yards (3.8 average) and 10 touchdowns
SHOTGUN: 308 completions on 508 attempts (60.6% completion) for 2,758 yards (5.4 yards) and 13 touchdowns to 13 interceptions for a 73.1 passer rating
UNDER CENTER: 72 completions on 100 attempts (72% completion) for 836 yards (8.4 average) and 3 touchdowns to 1 interception for a 102.8 passer rating
The numbers show the Eagles ran more efficiently from the gun but passed way more efficiently from under center.
It looks like there’s some sample size stuff going on here. The Eagles used shotgun plays nearly twice as often as they ran plays from under center. Maybe the Eagles should line up Carson Wentz under center more often, but maybe the numbers wouldn’t look as good if the Eagles did that.
The sneaky strength of Jim Schwartz’s defense is ...
Defense: Covering tight ends
For the second straight year, Philadelphia was dead last in the frequency of opposing passes targeting tight ends (13.8 percent). That's probably because the Eagles were fantastic covering tight ends. They allowed a completion rate of just 59.2 percent, second in the NFL, and had a league-best DVOA of minus-53.0 percent.
There used to be a time when the Eagles couldn’t cover tight ends to save their lives. Now they have one of the best cover linebackers in the NFL in Jordan Hicks. Nigel Bradham is also a pretty good player, so that helps too.
Now if only the Eagles could improve at covering wide receivers. That’s not likely to happen soon given Philadelphia’s personnel at the cornerback position.
For more Eagles optimism, check out six things you should be excited about this season.