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Jalen Hurts’ performance, Eagles’ playoff hopes, and more advanced stats from Week 15 | Early Birds

Breaking down the most important advanced stats coming out of the Eagles' loss to the Cardinals.

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts passes against the Arizona Cardinals.
Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts passes against the Arizona Cardinals.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Good morning, Eagles fans. We typically spend our Tuesdays still engulfed in the previous weekend’s game, but I’d be remiss not to wish you a happy Cowboys week right from the jump. The Eagles left Arizona with their ninth loss of the year, but at least it was an interesting game with promising performances from a handful of young players, most notably Jalen Hurts.

In case you’re reading this early Tuesday morning, you might catch Jim Schwartz and Dave Fipp speaking with reporters. It will be intriguing to hear what Fipp has to say about the special-teams blunders that hurt the Eagles against the Cardinals.

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Behind the numbers

1. Jalen Hurts’ numbers

Hurts’ performance against the Cardinals graded out pretty well on most advanced metrics, albeit a little lower than you might expect for the second week in a row. His completion percentage above expectation was positive, meaning he completed more passes than Next Gen Stats projected. His 1.4% above expectation was in line with Matt Ryan and Jared Goff during Week 15 and was just the fourth time this season an Eagles quarterback wasn’t in the negatives.

PFF was still hard on Hurts, giving him a 60.2 passing grade, but Hurts’ success was eye-popping in a few areas. According to PFF’s Kevin Cole, Hurts has been slightly above league-average in estimated points added per drop-back on first and second downs, averaging .06 EPA. On third and fourth downs, though, he’s averaging .58 EPA. For reference, Patrick Mahomes led all quarterbacks in EPA per drop-back last season at .28. It’s incredibly likely Hurts will see a regression in production on third-and-long and desperate fourth-down attempts, but it’s still promising to see him make so many plays in those situations.

On some less in-the-weeds stats, Hurts did pretty well. He was ranked 13th in QBR among quarterbacks before Monday night’s game. He also made progress with his time to throw, which is noteworthy considering the Eagles were playing from behind and Hurts had so much success driving the ball down the field. He averaged 2.84 seconds between snap and throw, down from 3.07 last week. Part of that is the frequency of screen passes thrown against Arizona, but Hurts still seemed to be a little more comfortable getting the ball out quickly Sunday.

2. Matt Pryor’s struggles / Hurts under pressure

Even though Hurts’ time to throw improved, he was sacked six times. The Eagles offensive line had turned in its best performance of the year against the New Orleans Saints, but the group reverted to this season’s norm over the weekend. Hurts was sacked a league-leading six times and was pressured on 40% of his drop-backs. He had a QBR of 46.6 when pressured, a sharp contrast from last week when Hurts had an 87.5 QBR against the rush. It will be important that Hurts manages the pressure more effectively moving forward, considering Carson Wentz’s struggles this season were tied to his inability to handle the rush.

Although it’s not all on him, Matt Pryor is seemingly the straw that breaks the camel’s back for the Eagles’ patchwork offensive line. Even when Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks, Jason Peters, and Andre Dillard were all out for the season, the group has put together solid performances with backups such as Jack Driscoll and Nate Herbig. Pryor seems to be the one for whom the group can’t compensate. The right tackle gave up two sacks against Arizona and allowed seven pressures, both of which not only led the team, but were tied for the most allowed by any offensive lineman in the NFL going into Monday’s games.

3. Playoff odds

The Eagles still have a path to the playoffs, although it’s a bit narrow. If the Eagles beat the Cowboys this weekend and the Washington Football Team in the regular-season finale, they’d need Washington to lose to the Panthers next weekend and for the Giants to lose one of their next two games, against the Ravens and Cowboys.

How likely is this? Football Outsiders puts it at 10%, with Washington’s playoff odds sitting at 70% and New York’s at 14%. FiveThirtyEight puts the Eagles’ chances at 9% and gives Washington a 75% chance.

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. Still trying to make sense of how the Eagles lost to the Cardinals? Paul Domowitch offers his five reasons the Eagles fell short.

  2. It’s easy to become a prisoner to Hurts’ moment, but Mike Sielski reminds us just how many former Eagles quarterbacks have put together two impressive games.

  3. Pryor’s struggles against the Cardinals were glaring. As Les Bowen explains in Monday’s notes, there aren’t many other alternatives left.

From the mailbag

Alshon Jeffery looked sort of good on Sunday? What do you think the Eagles do with him this offseason? — from Art Vandelay (@Art_Vandelay44) on Twitter

Good question, Art. Alshon Jeffery has played better the last two games. Whether you want to say he’s playing better because of the quarterback change or because of his recovery from a Lisfranc foot injury is up to you. Still, he’s made the coaching staff’s decision to play him over Travis Fulgham look like a more reasonable choice in the last two weeks.

Even if he continues to play well, don’t get too attached to Jeffery. The Eagles have a serious cap bill coming in the offseason and they’ll likely have to say goodbye to a handful of proven players. Cutting Jeffery would save them about $10 million on the cap, and they need to shed about $70 million because of the financial implications of the coronavirus leading to the cap’s going down. It’s hard to imagine that Jeffery won’t be one of the first cap casualties this offseason.