What advanced stats say about Carson Wentz’s sack numbers and Travis Fulgham’s emergence | Early Birds
Recapping the most interesting advanced statistics coming out of the Eagles' loss to the Ravens.
Good morning, Eagles fans. Another week, another Tuesday morning when we dive into the numbers after an Eagles loss. The Eagles might be 1-4-1 with an injury list wordier than some of my newsletter introductory paragraphs, but at least there’s another game in a few days, right?
The Eagles will host the 1-5 New York Giants. It is a very winnable game and is the start of a stretch in which their schedule eases up. They’ll play the Cowboys in Week 7 and the Giants again in Week 8. It won’t be a cakewalk, but the Eagles could go 3-0 if they play solid football.
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Behind the numbers
1. Constant pressure on Wentz
Missing seven linemen by the end of Sunday’s 30-28 loss to the Ravens, the Eagles' offensive front finally reached a breaking point. Carson Wentz was pressured on 24 of his 47 dropbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. He was sacked three times and hit 16 times. Jamon Brown, filling in for Matt Pryor, was the main culprit in the leaky pass protection measured by PFF, allowing nine pressures, four hits, and two sacks. Jordan Mailata was second, giving up three pressures and one sack.
Wentz is the most sacked quarterback in the NFL, being taken down 25 times, two more than Joe Burrow. The more concerning number is his completion percentage while under pressure, though. Wentz is completing just 40% of his passes when dealing with a pass rush, which is fourth worst among quarterbacks with significant playing time.
It’s not all on the offensive line, though. Wentz had the second-longest time to throw among quarterbacks who played before Monday night’s games. He took on average 3.27 seconds to get the ball out, a lot of time to ask a patchwork line to hold up. Part of the problem is the Eagles’ inability to consistently get into manageable third downs, but it’s still worth keeping in mind just how long Wentz is holding the ball when you’re criticizing the offensive line.
2. Travis Fulgham gaining respect
Travis Fulgham got double-digit targets in consecutive weeks and put together another solid performance against the Ravens. He has made the case that he should be a starting receiver for the team, even once Jalen Reagor, DeSean Jackson, and Alshon Jeffery come back from injury.
The most interesting number from Fulgham’s performance against the Ravens is how he held up against a solid defense that obviously saw him coming. Next Gen Stats tracks “cushion,” which measures how many yards a defensive back plays off a receiver at the line of scrimmage before the snap. Fulgham was middle-of-the-road in his first two weeks, but was given the fourth-largest cushion among receivers who played before Monday night with an average of 8.2 yards of space.
Part of it is definitely the Ravens' scheme: They gave Tee Higgins 8.8 yards of space on average last week, but it’s worth noting they played Terry McLaurin completely differently two weeks ago. They gave Washington’s No. 1 receiver just 4.6 yards of cushion on average.
3. Miles Sanders' value
Somewhat surprisingly, the advanced numbers haven’t always been kind to Miles Sanders. He had a 62.3 grade from PFF as a rookie and wasn’t leading any notable advanced stats. This season, that has changed. He’s sixth in the league in rush yards over expectation, measured by NGS, and he leads all running backs in yards per carry.
Also noteworthy, Sanders is considered the most north/south runner in the league, according to NGS’s “efficiency” stat. Sanders is at the bottom of the list in lateral movement while working upfield, according to the metric. The Eagles haven’t really given the crop of running backs expected to replace Sanders this Thursday much of an opportunity for a good enough sample size to look at — Boston Scott is averaging just 3.5 attempts per game. We’ll have more on them next week.
What you need to know about the Eagles
Doug Pederson conceded Monday that the Eagles would have been better off using a timeout before the pivotal two-point conversion against the Ravens, but said it’s not why the team lost. As Les Bowen writes, it did stymie the team’s comeback Sunday.
The Eagles are among the most injured teams in the NFL for the third year in a row. Jeff McLane explains how the team’s medical staff shake-ups have factored into the injury issues.
Still trying to wrap your head around what went wrong for the Eagles on Sunday? Paul Domowitch has his weekly five reasons the team lost.
The Eagles will be without Miles Sanders, Lane Johnson, and Zach Ertz for Thursday’s game against the Giants. Bowen has the latest on the Eagles' injury report.
From the mailbag
Do you feel like of all the NFL teams, Eagles are the only organization to seemingly purposely sabotage their franchise QB? Week after week, season after season, we constantly hear “get him some help” & " play him to his strengths" — from Scorpion (@CalP78814746) on Twitter
Thanks for the question. I don’t think the Eagles have the worst case of “QB sabotage" in the NFL. The Eagles have tried to get Wentz plenty of help since they drafted him. Injuries and missed draft picks — and not just the front office — have depleted the offense. Don’t get me wrong: The Eagles' brass deserves plenty of blame for the lack of a young, elite talent at receiver to pair with Wentz, but we can’t pretend they haven’t tried. They have the fourth-highest cap dollars spent on the offensive side of the ball and have used their first pick in the draft on offensive players three years in a row.
You look at the Green Bay Packers or the Seattle Seahawks, and it’s easy to see an offense that, while talented, has asked for its quarterback to compensate for a lack of investment. Seattle got D.K. Metcalf with a second-round pick, and he has emerged as its No. 1 receiver. The Eagles drafted J.J. Arcega-Whiteside seven picks before Metcalf went off the board, and he has struggled to make an impact. The Seahawks have used their first pick for an offensive player just once in the last four years, and that was on running back Rashaad Penny. Russell Wilson has never enjoyed the quality of offensive line that Wentz has had in recent years, and his receivers haven’t been significantly better.
Wentz isn’t the quarterback that Wilson or Aaron Rodgers is, but I do think it’s worth noting that the lack of talent around him is far more related to injuries and missed draft picks than a blatant disregard for surrounding him with talent.