We’re nearly halfway through the season and the same problem that plagued the Eagles offense in 2018 is still around in 2019: they’re really bad at starting games.
But how bad are they really? Let’s look at it from a different angle, and take the scoring out of the picture for a moment. Scoring is the end result, and end results aren’t always indicative of the quality of a process. Let’s look at yards per play, which tells us something about the process. There is noise in this stat, but good offenses do well with it and bad ones don’t.
Because teams script their first 15 or so plays, I divided the Eagles offense over the past two seasons, including playoffs, into two stages: their first three possessions, which averaged 18.5 plays per game and generally covers the first quarter; and the rest of the game, excluding end of half kneel downs. If there isn’t a big discrepancy, that might suggest the Eagles have been unlucky, or that the issue is isolated to red zone offense* rather than the whole offense. But if there is a big discrepancy between the two in yards per play then the scoring woes aren’t in isolation.
There is a big discrepancy.
First 3 drives: 4.7 yards per play
Rest of game: 5.7 yards per play
To put those rates in perspective, 5.7 yards per play is 12th best this season. 4.7 would be 30th.
*The Eagles have the 4th best red zone offense
But wait, maybe this was an issue lurking in the background in 2017 and we didn’t notice it because virtually everything else went right that year. Let’s look at 2017, including playoffs, but not counting Week 17 because they weren’t trying to win.
First 3 drives: 5.7 yards per play
Rest of game: 5.8 yards per play
Nope, no problems there.
But unfortunately there’s a problem here, and it’s not going away. Something has to be done. Maybe after coming up with the script for the start of the game Doug Pederson should throw it in the trash.
Seriously though, Pederson should strongly consider making a coaching change, or at least coaching responsibility change. It’s clear that Mike Groh is unable to even adequately fill the considerable void left behind by Frank Reich. (And it’s worth noting, the team has struggled at WR since he was elevated from being the WR coach where he had already established himself as a quality coach.) Pederson has options to get him through the season: Duce Staley was the runner up to replace Reich, and Jeff Stoutland has had a sizable role in creating the game plan since Pederson arrived.
Whatever the solution is, the status quo ain’t it.