Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Signal or noise? Three numbers that may or may not tell us who these Eagles are.

Have the tight ends disappeared from the offense? Is Jalen Hurts one of the best rushing quarterbacks ever? Is this the best Eagles pass defense we've seen since Jim Johnson? A look at the numbers.

Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert hasn't been a big part of the passing attack so far this season.
Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert hasn't been a big part of the passing attack so far this season.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

We’re going to find out more about the Eagles in Week 3 than we did in the first two weeks of the NFL season combined. Thus far, they’ve arguably faced the worst defense on their schedule and the best defense on their schedule. They’ve faced an offense that hasn’t been able to run the ball since the Obama years, and they’ve faced an offense that is quarterbacked by Jimmy Garoppolo. Combine all of those factors into a two-game statistical sample and it’s awfully hard to draw any meaningful conclusions.

On Monday night, the Eagles will square off against an opponent that should count as the first true litmus test of the 2021 season. They’ll face the two best running backs they’ve seen this season in Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. They’ll face the two best receivers they’ve seen in Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. And they’ll face a defense that sits in the big part of the bell curve, neither as porous as the Falcons nor as dominant as the 49ers.

» READ MORE: Eagles beat writers make their predictions for the Dallas Cowboys game in Week 3

So, who are this season’s Eagles? And what should we expect? Let’s take a look at three intriguing numbers from their first two games and attempt to separate the signal from the noise:

Tight end underproduction

Eagles tight ends are on pace to finish the season with just 76 catches and 901 yards in 17 games. Their lowest single-season totals during Doug Pederson’s five years as head coach were 107 catches and 1,202 yards in 16 games.

We’ll call this noise for now, but the evolution of the Eagles’ passing attack is definitely worth monitoring. Through two games, only nine of Jalen Hurts’ 39 completions have gone to tight ends, slightly over 23 percent. Of his 438 passing yards, 106 have gone to tight ends, which amounts to 24 percent. That’s a huge departure from the Pederson era, when the Eagles utilized their tight ends as much as any team in the league.

» READ MORE: What the metrics can tell us so far about the Eagles

In each of Pederson’s five seasons, the position accounted for at least 30 percent of the team’s receptions and receiving yards, topping out at 39.6 percent of receptions and 42.0 percent of yards in 2019. At the moment, Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell have the same number of receptions as Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert.

At the same time, it’s early. In the Eagles’ season-opening win over the Falcons, Ertz and Goedert combined for six catches and 76 yards, both of which are in line with the position’s single-season averages under Pederson. The Niners limited the duo to three catches and 30 yards, but San Francisco is known for suffocating opposing tight ends. Last season, the Niner defense allowed just 481 yards to the position, nearly 200 fewer than the next stingiest team. It was the second year in a row that San Francisco led the NFL in tight end defense. Only five times since 2019 have the 49ers allowed a tight end to gain 60-plus yards in a game. They did allow T.J. Hockenson 97 yards and eight catches in Week 1, but four of the Lions tight end’s catches and 46 of his yards came in the fourth quarter, when the Niners were protecting a big lead.

Running man

Jalen Hurts is on pace to finish the season with 1,224 rushing yards. His 16-game pace is 1,152 yards, 52 shy of Lamar Jackson’s record for rushing yards by a quarterback.

There’s plenty of signal here. In fact, there’s even a solid argument that Hurts should be running more. Since 2018, NFL teams are 28-3 in games in which their quarterback has at least 13 rush attempts. They are 67-10 in games in which a quarterback has at least 10 rush attempts. Since 2012, they are 36-6-1 in games with 13+ rush attempts. Cam Newton is 8-0-1 in the nine games he has at least 13 carries. Kyler Murray and Josh Allen are a combined 5-0. Jalen Hurts is 1-0.

» READ MORE: Eagles film: Who will fill Graham void? More on Sweat, Barnett, and other candidates.

Hurts might not have the elite speed and make-you-miss moves that Lamar Jackson has, but the Ravens are a good example of how deadly an offense can be when it takes full advantage of its quarterback’s running ability. Through two games, Jackson is on pace to shatter his single-season record, with 28 carries for 193 yards for a Ravens offense that has scored 63 points.

Since 2018, NFL teams are 28-3 in games in which their quarterback has at least 13 rush attempts.

Since Jackson took over at quarterback two years ago, the Ravens are 11-1 when he carries the ball at least 16 times in a game. They are 17-3 when he carries the ball at least 13 times. They are 14-5 when he carries the ball fewer than 13 times.

Air traffic control

Through two games, the Eagles defense is on a 16-game pace of 2,600 passing yards allowed, which would be the lowest total in the last 10 NFL seasons.

» READ MORE: Nick Sirianni is looking like the breath of fresh air the Eagles needed

Since 2010, 11 different teams have finished a season holding opponents under 3,000 yards passing. The lowest total during that stretch was the 2,707 yards allowed by the 2019 Niners. Thus far, Jonathan Gannon’s defense has allowed just 325 passing yards — 136 to Atlanta and 189 to the 49ers — putting it on pace to finish this 17-game season with 2,925 yards allowed.

Obviously, bet the over. But by how much? It might be the biggest unknown about this Eagles team, especially now that they will no longer have Brandon Graham creating havoc on the edge. On the one hand, we saw some impressive stretches out of Jim Schwartz’s units: in Weeks 6 through 8 last year, the Eagles allowed 173, 165, and 132 yards. So beware of small samples.

» READ MORE: From Hurts’ middle-field targets to Hargrave’s dominance, what advanced stats say about Eagles

At the same time, that three-week stretch came against the Ravens, the Giants, and a Cowboys team that started Ben DiNucci at quarterback. In the Falcons and the 49ers, the Eagles shut down two passing offenses that were at least competent last season. Atlanta finished fifth in the NFL with 4,363 passing yards. The 49ers finished 12th with 4,033.

With Dak Prescott back under center and Lamb and Cooper looking like one of the best wide receiver tandems in the NFL, Monday night’s game will offer the Eagle’s defense an instructive test. All told, Week 3 may well be when we find out if these Birds are for real.