You have to be creative, not unlike the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, when sifting through the franchise record book and predicting which long standing achievement could fall in 2018. The rotation of the defensive line limits opportunities and beyond the quarterback position the multifarious offense doesn’t lend itself well to individual box score busting feats.
On a team level, the 2018 defense has to contend with the insanely high variance past and the stingy and talent-laden Buddy Ryan defenses of a few decades ago. The 1989 squad set a franchise record with 62 sacks while the 1991 defense ranks 1st all-time in Football Outsiders defensive DVOA not just for the franchise, but for the league since 1950. Beyond contending with those buzz saws, how realistic is it to expect this defense to create more than 12 turnovers or 11 sacks in a game, allow less than 0 yards or -33 rushing yards or 0 completions, which is literally impossible?
You’re also dealing with ancient eras with wild circumstances. For instance, in 1934 the Eagles scored a franchise record 64 points against the Cincinnati Reds and then found the books again in 1935 and 1936 for the lowest scoring seasons in their history with a combined 111 points. Will the Eagles ever duplicate or surpass the 64-0 shutout of the doomed Reds? I would hope so seeing as the Reds were in the league for less than two years and were booted mid-season in ’34 for failure to pay league dues. To whom do you smack talk about that game? Marge Schott? Are you even old enough to get that reference?
Moving on the absurd and focusing on records that are more current, it’s a joy to see Carson Wentz and Nick Foles sprinkled throughout various passing categories. Foles holds the top spot for most touchdowns thrown in a game (7, tied with Adrian Burke), career QB rating (92.7), fewest single season interceptions (2) and best single game completion percentage (84%). In 2017, Wentz claimed franchise records for most attempts (607), completions (379), and touchdowns (33) despite having his year cut short. This only reaffirms the notion that the Eagles have the best quarterback situation in the NFL, hands down.
Any rushing records seem safe; in particular LeSean McCoy’s 1,607 rushing yards from 2013 will undoubtedly hold up. It took him 314 totes to reach that mark, a number far higher than any expect Jay Ajayi to see this season. The Eagles should be more efficient running the ball in the red zone this year, especially inside the 5-yard line, which could mean a higher scoring output for Ajayi. However their run:pass ratio (54:46) in the red area, past success airing it out as the field compresses and box counting philosophy regarding play selection points to Ajayi not getting enough opportunities to challenge McCoy’s 17 touchdowns in 2011.
The Eagles receiving threats topped out at 120 targets last year and it’s unlikely that the needle moves too far in one player’s favor. Zach Ertz could see an uptick in targets but it would take a lot more for him to reach Brian Westbrook’s 90 receptions from 2007. Unless the Eagles begin bird-dogging one player in the red zone (they won’t), Terrell Owens’ 14 receiving touchdowns is safe. Mike Quick’s bizarre 1983 campaign where it only took him 69 nice catches to accumulate a franchise record 1,409 receiving yards is likely untouchable with how the Eagles spread it around.
Taking a moment to appreciate Quick’s accomplishment, only three wide receivers in the 21st century have 50 or more catches and 20 or more yards per catch (Ashley Lelie, DeSean Jackson, and Mike Wallace).
That begs the question, what records are left to break in 2018? If you’re following along you won’t be surprised to learn that there aren’t many. The easiest answer lies within the quarterback room.
FULL SEASON, STUFFED BOX SCORE
The cautious optimism that once permeated talk of Wentz’s recovery has morphed into a growing confidence that the young star will be ready Week 1. If this trend holds up, there’s the potential for Wentz to not only reach his 2017 marks, but shatter them. As noted, Wentz’s holds the Eagles record for most attempts (607), completions (379), and touchdowns (33), claiming them in his second year as a pro.
Coming into his third year, Wentz will have to block out any doubt that his injury may have caused to resume being the best young quarterback in the league. One factor that he has in his corner is what some have called photographic memory. He’s had a second full offseason to analyze and commit to memory what defenses are cooking up to use against him. Using that new information, it’s my belief that Wentz will adjust to defenses quicker than defenses can adjust to him.
People forget... Wentz with the on the move bucket flick in a critical situation - pic.twitter.com/jQ3utVG4tZ— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) March 11, 2018
The question is if he will have enough opportunities to beat those totals. There’s a theory that the Eagles will lean on the run game more to protect their investment. That might have some truth to it regarding how the Eagles will treat garbage time, but the concept of the Eagles adjusting their game plan and ignoring defensive deployment out of fear of the worst case scenario doesn’t jive with the organizational philosophy on any level.
Wentz was on pace to throw 542 times last year if he completed the full 16 game slate. Extrapolating that over a full season, you get 100 more throws, 60 more completions, 750 more yards, and 7 or 8 more touchdowns. Even if they shave down their passing tendencies, if Wentz is near, at or beyond his level of play in 2017, it’s easy to see how he could set a bevy of new Eagles records.
A POINT ABOUT POINTS
It’s no secret that the Eagles exemplary offense came to a screeching halt during the early stages of Foles taking over as the starting quarterback. Two of the three games in which the Eagles scored under 20 points came during that process. With Foles now fully acclimated and with a coaching staff in tune with his strengths and weaknesses, even if Foles has to step in at any point and for whatever reason, the barrage against enemy defenses should continue.
In 2017 the Eagles set a record for team passing touchdowns (38) but fell one short in total touchdowns and hit the brakes on beating out the 2014 record of 474 points, missing it by 17 points. If the Eagles had continued scoring 31 points a game like they had through the first thirteen weeks, they would have broken all of those records by a good margin. There are zero signs that point to this offense slowing down and those previous highs should be a replaced by a bombardment on behalf of the Eagles 2018 offense.
ERTZ DOUBLES DOWN
Tight end Zach Ertz already owns the record for most receptions in a game. That came on a 15 catch game against the Washington Redskins in 2014. While I’ve made the point about the Eagles spreading the ball around, I’ll counter myself by pointing out where the Eagles could attack defenses more in 2018. When they attacked the short middle of the field it resulted in a 123 QB rating for Wentz for the season. Targeting Ertz in the short middle resulted in a 124 rating and it spiked to a team high 138 when he was targeted deep middle. The Eagles listen to what they analytics tell them and adjust accordingly, which could benefit Ertz and translate to high volume games.
Wentz-Ertz Red Zone TD Reel pic.twitter.com/5CFffwQOep— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) October 20, 2017
Speaking of volume, Ertz was targeted at least 10 times in 5 games last season, bringing his career total to 13 games of double digit feedings. There’s no reason for that to stop either, Ertz was extremely efficient for the Eagles in 2017, as I’ve pointed out before.
“Ertz ranked 4th in the league for yards per route run (2.00) among tight ends, his best number and finish in his four year career. He followed this by improving in the playoffs, with a 2.37 yards per route run average, best among tight ends with at least 50 snaps in a route (looking at you, Gronk).” -
Simply put, it doesn’t matter who is in the tight end room with Ertz, he’s been a dependable target in areas of the field that translate to high success rates and that should not change in 2018. I’ll listen to the analytics and call the shot; Ertz will at least tie his franchise record high 15 receptions in 2018. Or not.. for some reason out of his control. Always be hedging.
There isn’t much for the Eagles to accomplish that they haven’t already and the lack of feasible records to break that aren’t re-broken by the same players speaks to where this team is as a whole. There is no one weapon to stop, the quarterback room is bursting with talent, and the defense doesn’t need to break records to function well as a unit. If the Eagles can break the records I’ve projected, it means a deep playoff run is in the cards for the defending Super Bowl Champions.