Yesterday we looked at three overlooked areas where the Eagles need to improve. Today, three overlooked areas that the Eagles are consistently quite good at, giving them some nice advantages.
Yes, just Doug Pederson. We all know and love him and recognize him as a great coach. But nationally he still doesn’t get his due. He won four playoff games in two seasons with a backup QB and several other key injuries, and one of those games was, you know, the Super Bowl. Yet Sean McVay, who is clearly an inferior coach, is thought better of. Find an article ranking coaches and you’ll probably find Mike Tomlin ahead of him. Tomlin hasn’t accomplished more than Pederson, unless you want to award points for alienating 2/3rds of his keystone players. Or you might find John Harbaugh, who has won one playoff game in the last six seasons, ahead of him. The only coach you can definitely put above Pederson is Bill Belichick, who Pederson outcoached in the Super Bowl.
Of course, that’s just one man’s opinion. Pederson has objective, quantifiable advantages over his peers:
-Pederson is the king of the 4th down. He single-handedly changed the way the league approaches fourth downs. After two seasons, he created a legacy, and if in a few seasons it turns out that everyone else going for it more was just a fad, that would give Pederson an even bigger advantage.
-No other coach goes for 2 more often that Pederson. It’s something he should do more often, but even at his current rate, along with fourth down attempts, no coach is giving his team more chances to put points on the board than Pederson.
-He’s pretty good at knowing when to challenge. Pederson has won 52% of his challenges, which is an excellent rate. The expansion of replay rules may change that, but the risk applies to all coaches, and so far Doug Pederson has shown he has a pretty good grip on when to throw the flag.
Doug Pederson gives his team measurable advantages, to say nothing of his abilities as a playcaller and leader. Isn’t that the basis of coaching?
Defensive player rotation
In recent years the importance of resting players and managing their workload has risen to the forefront across many sports. Whether by design or not, Jim Schwartz has been excellent at managing the workload of his defensive line.
Fletcher Cox has played 75% or more of snaps in 24 of his 46 regular season games under Schwartz. Brandon Graham has played that many in 21 of his 47 regular season games. Schwartz has been helped by having great depth. Michael Bennett played in at least 60% of snaps in 11 games. Chris Long played at least 40% of snaps in all but three regular season games, Derek Barnett played 40% in all but 4 games his rookie season while as a starter in 2018 never played more than 75% of snaps.
At times the rotations have seemed frustrating, as Schwartz has gone stretches of games with no defensive line starters on the field. But in the fourth quarter, it’s worth it. In fourth quarters the Eagles sack rate has been very good, 7% in 2017 and 8% in 2018.
And of course it means the defensive line isn’t fatigued in the playoffs. Does the defensive line come up with a huge play in the final minutes of the final quarter of the final game of the season in 2017 if they had a high workload leading up to it? Maybe not.
Offensive line wears down defensive lines
On the other side of this is the Eagles offensive line, which has consistently ground down opposing defensive lines as games progress.
Offensive sack rate by quarter
A 6% sack rate is really bad, for the Eagles to keep teams at or below that in the second half of games is great job. It’s a combination of great talent, which the Eagles have had and added to with a top draft pick this year, and great coaching, as Doug Pederson and Jeff Stoutland have never started and ended a season with the same five starters on offensive line. Many teams struggle when they have to change their offensive line, the Eagles just get better.