The NFL season is still in its early days, but we’re starting to get a sense of what the 2021 Eagles will look like after two weeks.
Going into Monday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles are 1-1 with uneven showings from some positions and encouraging signs from others. Here are the biggest takeaways from the advanced stats so far:
It’s been hard to miss Javon Hargrave’s impact early this season. The 28-year-old defensive tackle had two sacks in the opener against the Falcons and, while he didn’t have any against the Niners, he disrupted a handful of plays by getting into the backfield.
Hargrave’s advanced numbers confirm the eye test and then some. According to ESPN’s pass-rush win rate, which measures how often a pass rusher beats his blocker in less than 2.5 seconds, Hargrave has been the most efficient defensive tackle in the NFL through two weeks. At 43%, he’s trailed by Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donald and Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman J.J. Watt by a decent margin.
If you expand the sample size to include defensive ends, Hargrave is still doing quite well. Only T.J. Watt is beating his blocks more frequently than Hargrave, with the Steelers pass rusher logging a 44% win rate.
Pro Football Focus backs up ESPN’s data, giving Hargrave a 92.4 pass-rushing grade, which trails only Cardinals edge rusher Chandler Jones. Jones, who had five sacks against the Tennessee Titans in Week 1, has a 92.7.
Jalen Hurts’ tendencies
The microscope will be on Jalen Hurts all season, and the results so far have been more positive than negative. Hurts has made plenty of nice plays, managing the pocket well, making effective checks at the line of scrimmage and throwing a handful of well-placed passes.
It hasn’t all been perfect, though. Hurts will need to make progress in a few areas to stay ahead of teams trying to take away the things he does best as more tape comes out on him. One of the biggest areas needing improvement is revealed by his throwing charts.
Whether it’s because of game plan or hesitancy, Hurts has seldom thrown to the middle of the field during his NFL career. He seemed to make some strides in this area during his lone preseason action against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it’s been more of the same so far this regular season. Of Hurts’ 58 passing attempts this year, only one completion — a 19-yard pass to DeVonta Smith — has been anywhere near the hashes downfield.
It’s fair to point out Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said Monday that Hurts’ lack of middle-field targets was a result of scheme. The 49ers typically run single-high safety defensive formations that close down the middle of the field to a certain extent and most of Hurts’ deep passes came toward the sideline.
“In our first two games, that’s where we wanted to attack on the defensive side,” Sirianni said. “Outside the numbers there and underneath a little bit. And so, that’s just a product of who we’re playing and what routes we have in for that week.”
Still, if Hurts is going to earn the starting job beyond this season, he’s going to have to show he has the ability to throw accurately and decisively to all parts of the field. This trend isn’t quite enough to sound any alarms, but it will be important to see how Hurts responds when a defense challenges him to attack that area of the field.
Hurts also had a significant swing in intended air yards from Week 1 to Week 2. In the opener against Atlanta, Hurts had the shortest average depth of target in the league, averaging 3.4 air yards per throw.
Against San Fran, Hurts did an about-face, leading the league with 14.6 intended air yards, illustrative of how many shot plays the Eagles called last Sunday relative to the underneath passing attack they used against the Falcons.
The road to finding Jason Peters’ heir apparent was a rocky, years-long process for the Eagles, but the post-Bodyguard era is off to a solid start.
Jordan Mailata, the left tackle tasked with replacing the future Hall of Famer, made a few highlight-worthy blocks in the season opener and has been steady in pass protection through two games. The 24-year-old’s play has gone a long way in validating the Eagles’ signing him to a four-year contract extension worth up to $64 million just before the start of the regular season.
How good has Mailata been? PFF ranked Mailata fourth among all offensive linemen in blocking grades and second among offensive tackles behind only 49ers tackle Trent Williams. He’s only been credited with two pressures and hasn’t given up a sack yet.
Lane Johnson doesn’t rank as highly with PFF (34th among starting tackles), but ESPN’s pass-block win rate tells a different story. ESPN’s metric has Johnson sustaining his blocks for longer than 2.5 seconds 96% of the time, which leads all offensive tackles. Mailata is ranked second in run-block win rate, which measures how frequently a lineman stops a rusher from getting into the backfield.