Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Eagles Offensive Profile Under Doug Pederson
2016-2017 Pass Attempts Rank: 6th, 13th
2016-2017 Rush Attempts Rank: 10th, 6th
2016-2017 Play Volume Rank: 3rd, 3rd
2016-2017 Yards Per Play Rank: 29th, 10th
Unaccounted for Air Yards from 2017 (Rank): 1,479 (11th)
Unaccounted for Carries from 2017 (Rank): 190 (10th)
Projected Starting Lineup
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Passing Game Outlook
Everything fell into place for Carson Wentz’s sophomore breakout. He worked diligently to fix mechanical flaws that contributed to his downturn in rookie production. Being surrounded by three QB gurus – Doug Pederson, Frank Reich, and John DeFilippo – undoubtedly helped. GM Howie Roseman landed born touchdown-maker Alshon Jeffery, and sports psychology helped revive former first-round bust Nelson Agholor. Difference-making RT Lane Johnson made 15 starts after missing ten the year prior for PEDs. The Eagles pumped analytics into Pederson’s headset to optimize play calls, creating a competitive edge. They went for it on a league-high 29 fourth downs, which beat writer Jimmy Kempski calculated to add 71 points to Philly’s total. The Eagles’ fourth-down aggressiveness may have indirectly boosted their third-and-long performance by easing the next-play burden on the team; Wentz led the NFL in passer rating on third-and-six or longer (127.0), well ahead of runner-up Josh McCown (112.6). Among passers with at least 200 attempts, Wentz led the league in TD rate (7.5%) – nearly triple his 2016 mark (2.6%) — and was the fantasy QB2 overall behind Russell Wilson before tearing his ACL and LCL in Week 14. Wentz is expected to be ready for Week 1, but his early-season mobility may be compromised after Wentz ranked No. 9 among quarterbacks in rushing yards per game (23.0). I have Wentz ranked as the fantasy QB7 but never get him in drafts, where he usually goes as a top-five quarterback. Wentz’s legs are a huge part of his game, and he has touchdown regression forthcoming.
Alshon Jeffery compensated for a five-year low in yards per game (49.3) by scoring nine touchdowns in his first season with the Eagles, finishing 13th among receivers in red-zone targets (17) and efficiently turning seven into scores. Jeffery saved his best play for the postseason with Nick Foles, dropping 12/219/18.3/3 on 18 targets against the Falcons, Vikings, and Patriots. Although Jeffery has an injury-prone reputation, he’s now played 16 games in three of the last five years. Jeffery did play through a torn rotator cuff and had surgery shortly after the Super Bowl. Alshon’s recovery cost him all offseason workouts, but he is due back for Week 1. Entering his second season with Wentz, 28-year-old Jeffery has lots of room for receptions and yardage growth after managing a career-worst 47.5% catch rate in 2017. Jeffery’s recovery is worth tracking closely, but he is a reasonable WR2 pick in the fifth round of drafts.
Nelson Agholor began seeing a sports psychologist toward the end of his dismal 2016 season, then took a stunning third-year leap en route to WR23 results on career bests across the board (62/768/12.4/8). Agholor also benefited from a move inside, running 86% of his routes in the slot after operating as an 80% perimeter receiver in his first two years. Agholor cut his 2015-2016 drop rate from 10.5% to 5.6%, and Josh Hermsmeyer’s Game Speed charts showed Agholor moving at by-far the fastest pace in Philly’s wideout corps. His 3.0 average yards of separation at target also led the team. Even if Agholor fails to repeat his eight touchdown catches, he has earned a high-percentage, focal-point role in one of the league’s premier offenses. He’s every bit worthy of his ninth-round ADP.
Mike Wallace joined the Eagles on a one-year, $1.915 million deal after leading the Ravens in receiving yards in back-to-back years (1,017, 748). Although Wallace turns 32 in August, he has topped 14.0 yards per catch in consecutive seasons and continued to show high-end Game Speed in Hermsmeyer’s charts. Torrey Smith drew only 67 targets in the role Wallace inherits, but Wallace has been a far superior player. Even if re-draft-caliber consistency is unlikely, Wallace is an appealing late-round best-ball pick.
The Eagles’ sub-package pass-catcher options are worth knowing on a high-scoring team in case Jeffery, Agholor, or Wallace misses time. Most intriguing is second-year vertical threat Mack Hollins, who quietly led the Eagles in yards per reception (14.1) as a rookie and paced Philly’s wideout corps in catch rate (72.7%), then earned 15 snaps per game in the playoffs. Hollins offers plus size (6’4/221), long arms (33 ¼”), and special teams value that will at very least keep him active on game days. It’s not crazy at all to think Hollins could push Wallace for playing time. No. 49 overall pick Dallas Goedert figures to be eased into the old Trey Burton role behind Zach Ertz, although Goedert is a better blocker and played 65% of his college snaps as an in-line tight end. A poor man’s Travis Kelce, Goedert led all draft-eligible tight ends in yards after catch (573) as a senior. Goedert’s main competition for playing time is ex-Packers TE Richard Rodgers, a plodding if sure-handed possession pass catcher who signed a near-minimum deal.
Zach Ertz parlayed Wentz’s league-best touchdown rate into a career-best season, keeping his catch (74) and yardage (824) totals similar to his previous-two-year norms (76.5, 834.5) but scoring eight TDs after failing to top four touchdowns in any of his prior four seasons. He ranked fourth among tight ends in red-zone targets (18) and sixth in targets inside the ten (8). Ertz did miss Week 9 with a hamstring injury and Week 14 with a concussion. If we include Ertz’s postseason stats, his final receiving line was 92/1,016/9 in 17 appearances. Only Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, and Hunter Henry averaged more yards per route run than Ertz’s 2.00, and Ertz has finished top ten among tight ends in that metric in 4-of-5 seasons. Always a high-floor pick, Ertz is my TE3 behind Gronk and Kelce.
Running Game Outlook
Jay Ajayi joined the Eagles for a fourth-round pick last Halloween, and was used in a three-way RBBC alongside Corey Clement and LeGarrette Blount. Ajayi’s chronological touch counts to close out the season were 8 > 8 > 6 > 12 > 16 > 14 > 16, then 18 > 21 > 9 in three playoff games. Ajayi’s efficiency spiked in Philly’s potent offense, averaging 5.29 yards per carry over ten appearances. He received zero carries inside the five-yard line all season, however, and scored just one rushing TD. Following the trade from Miami, Ajayi was out-carried inside the ten-yard line 4 to 2 by Clement. Blount’s exit does free up ten carries inside the five – ninth most in the league – although it remains to be seen whether Ajayi, Clement, or Darren Sproles will benefit most. If we use Ajayi’s final six games to project his 2018 usage, his pace would be 221.3 rushing attempts and 29.3 receptions. A longstanding concern is Ajayi’s balky right knee, which caused his fall to the fifth round of the 2015 draft and cost him significant 2017 practice time. It has never cost him an NFL game. Even as Ajayi’s passing-game and goal-line roles are unclear, he is worth fourth- to fifth-round fantasy consideration as the lead back on a high-scoring team.
Corey Clement won a 2017 roster spot as an undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin and earned a committee role in the second half of the year. From Week 9 into the playoffs, Clement averaged 20.4 snaps and 5.6 touches per game, then broke out in Super Bowl 52 for 108 total yards and a touchdown, although Clement did it on only seven touches. Clement did not reach 70 yards from scrimmage in any other game. He did dabble on kick returns and special teams coverage. A jack of many trades but master of none, Clement managed a 4.68 40-time coming out of college and figures to lose passing-down snaps to Darren Sproles. Clement has drawn recency-biased hype since the Super Bowl, but he is unlikely to carve out a fantasy-relevant role barring injury to Ajayi or Sproles.
Darren Sproles suffered a torn ACL and broken arm last Week 3, contemplated retirement, then re-upped with the Eagles on a one-year, $1.415 million pact. Sproles participated fully at June minicamp and should be all systems go for Week 1. Sproles averaged a robust 42.0 snaps and 9.5 touches in his two full 2017 games before going down, although his 2018 usage will be determined by Sproles’ health and ability to withstand further punishment at age 35. Sproles could conceivably end up leading the Eagles’ backfield in touches – as one Philadelphia beat writer openly suggested – or be employed sparingly in hopes of having Sproles at full strength for the stretch run. Sproles is tough to support as even a late-round fantasy pick, but he could become in-season waiver-wire material in PPR leagues.
2018 Vegas Win Total
The Eagles’ Win Total opened at 10.5 with -140 odds to the under after last year’s 13-3 finish and Lombardi Trophy win. Their lone lost starter on offense was Torrey Smith, on whom GM Howie Roseman upgraded with Mike Wallace. All-world LT Jason Peters returns after missing nine games. Key defenders MLB Jordan Hicks and RCB Ronald Darby are also healthy after combining for 17 missed contests. Roseman has arguably built the best roster in the league, complemented by the coaching staff’s use of analytics to optimize game planning and play calling. Warren Sharp did rate Philadelphia’s schedule 11th toughest in the league. Nevertheless, sheer talent gives the Eagles upside to win more games than any team in football, and Super Bowl MVP backup Nick Foles raises their floor in the event of another Carson Wentz injury. Especially at such favorable odds, I’m taking the over on 10.5 wins.