You might not know this but the Philadelphia Eagles have kinda had a problem with injuries in recent seasons.
Case in point: the 2018 Eagles were the second most injured team in the NFL by Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Games Lost metric (AGL).
The 2019 Eagles saw improvement in this area but they were still more injured than the average team with a 21st ranked finish.
While luck is always a factor when it comes to injury, it’s not like the Eagles successfully managed to mitigate risk. The team was playing with fire by counting on one of the oldest rosters in the NFL last year and it came back to bite them.
After the Eagles’ playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Howie Roseman admitted that the Eagles need to be more proactive when it comes to battling injury issues.
“One of the things that obviously has been an issue for us has been the injury situation. When we look at the last three years, in 2017, we were able to overcome it. The last two years, the injuries have really hurt our football team. There is a part of that that is natural during the game. Injuries are going to happen. But we have to figure out a way to get better here. We can help from a front office perspective by looking at the players that we bring in. Hope is not a strategy when it comes to injuries. When you bring in guys that are injured, it obviously increases the risk that they will get hurt again.”
Roseman’s words proved to be more than mere lip service. The Eagles made two significant medical staff additions this offseason by hiring 1) former Minnesota Vikings coordinator of rehabilitation/assistant athletic trainer Tom Hunkele as Philly’s new director of sports medicine and 2) former Los Angeles Rams director of strength training and performance Ted Rath as Philly’s new director of sports performance.
If AGL is any indication, there’s reason to be encouraged by these hires. The Vikings finished as THE healthiest team in 2019. The Rams, meanwhile, were the 10th healthiest group.
Widening the sample size, here’s how both teams ranked beyond just last season:
Vikings — 2013 through 2019 — 11th, 8th, 12th, 30th, 11th, 12th, 1st
Rams — 2017 through 2019 — 1st, 4th, 10th
In addition to hiring Hunkele and Rath, the Eagles have put an emphasis on acquiring players who lack extensive injury issues. Here’s an overview of the total missed games by some of their biggest offseason acquisitions:
Javon Hargrave - 1 missed game in four seasons
Darius Slay - 9 missed games in seven seasons
Jatavis Brown - 8 missed games in four seasons
Nickell Robey-Coleman - 1 missed game in seven seasons
Will Parks - 2 missed games in four seasons
Jalen Reagor - 0 missed games in three seasons
Marquise Goodwin and Prince Tega Wanogho stand out as exceptions to this rule but the Eagles only made low-risk investments in those players.
One can only hope the Eagles’ offseason efforts to avoid being decimated by injuries yet again pay off. There’s reason for optimism but luck is the unpredictable variable in this equation.
Some other observations from the 2019 Football Outsiders AGL study:
- After having the NFL’s second most injured defense in 2018, Jim Schwartz’s 2019 defense was the fourth most injured unit. And yet the Eagles still ranked 12th in defensive DVOA last year. The Eagles’ defensive coordinator isn’t perfect, no, but the annual cries to fire him are misguided. Schwartz’s defenses have allowed the fifth fewest points per game in the league since he was hired in 2016. That’s even more impressive when you consider the injuries and the lack of defensive cap investment.
- Speaking of defensive injuries, the 2019 Eagles had THE most injured defensive line by AGL. Philly was really just decimated at defensive tackle for the second year in a row with Malik Jackson, Timmy Jernigan, and Hassan Ridgeway all missing significant time. The Eagles will be hoping to stay much healthier on the interior this year as they’re paying out three of the top nine 4-3 defensive tackle contracts to Fletcher Cox, Hargrave, and Jackson.
- The Dallas Cowboys were the second healthiest offense and the fourth healthiest team overall. They might be due for some worse injury luck in 2020.