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What advanced stats tell us about the Eagles’ sack problem, Jalen Reagor’s speed, and more | Early Birds

The first batch of player-tracking numbers and advanced analytics is coming in.

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz scrambling against Washington on Sunday.
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz scrambling against Washington on Sunday.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Good morning, Eagles fans. I know, it’s probably not a great morning, considering the way things went Sunday, but I can offer you two silver linings: Next Sunday is fast approaching, and the Cowboys lost.

The Eagles will be back on the practice field Tuesday, but just for a walkthrough that’s closed to the media. We’ll talk to defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and special teams coordinator Dave Fipp around noon, so be sure to look out for what they have to say.

As you probably know, the Eagles are preparing for their home opener against the Los Angeles Rams. It’s a small sample size, but the Week 1 results on teams making cross-country trips might not have been what you’d expect. The three teams that had significant travel (four or more hours on a nonstop flight) were 3-0. It could definitely be a blip on the radar, but it’s still noteworthy considering how strange this year has been for the league.

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Numbers never lie

The first batch of advanced analytics and player-tracking data came out Monday, giving us a more detailed look at Week 1.

Here are the biggest takeaways from the stats.

1. Jalen Reagor’s speed

If any doubt still lingers about Jalen Reagor’s top-line speed, it was answered Sunday. Even though the team’s first-round pick out of TCU ran a 4.47-second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine, the player-tracking data has always been favorable to Reagor and it continued to make his case against Washington. On his first career catch, a 55-yard reception, he hit a top speed of 20.27 mph, which ranked 15th among all ball carriers during Week 1, according to Next Gen Stats.

Baltimore Ravens rookie receiver Marquise Brown, who ran a 4.32-second 40 at the combine, was clocked at 20.45 on Sunday, which earned him the 11th spot for the week. The fastest speed recorded for the week was 22.73 by San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert. Reagor also ranked 16th in longest plays of the week, traveling 56.4 yards according to the tracking stats.

2. Carson Wentz’s time to throw

Still debating whether Washington’s eight sacks were a result of the porous offensive line or Carson Wentz holding onto the ball too long? The numbers show a little of both. Wentz took 2.48 seconds on average to get the ball out, which was the 14th slowest average time recorded by PFF among starting quarterbacks before Monday night’s games.

When you consider the number of screens the Eagles ran, combined with the offensive line missing three starters, it’s a bit longer than you might expect. The Eagles coaches staff clearly saw something they liked about Washington’s deep coverage going into the game. They called numerous deep shots, all of which required Wentz to let things develop while chaos unfolded in front of him so often. Wentz took six sacks when holding the ball longer than 2.5 seconds and completed just 47.6% of his pass attempts. In layman’s terms, things were bad when Wentz held onto the rock.

It’s not all on Wentz, though. He was the most pressured quarterback going into Monday, getting rushed 20 times. None of the Eagles' starting offensive linemen earned higher than an 80 pass-blocking grade by PFF, and every starter was credited with one allowed sack.

3. Josh Sweat’s sack

Somewhat unsurprisingly, Josh Sweat was the highest-graded Eagle by PFF coming out of Week 1. He got a 91.9, mostly because the grading system seems to justifiably put significant weight on turnovers (see Carson Wentz’s 41.3 grade).

Sweat’s strip-sack earned the title for the fastest sack of the day. He got to Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins in 2.3 seconds, which is remarkably fast considering he shed Washington left tackle Geron Christian, while most of the fastest sacks came from free rushers.

Especially with Brandon Graham in the concussion protocol, Vinny Curry expected to miss significant time, and Derek Barnett missing the last month of practice, Sweat figures to have an expanded role on the edge. He’ll have to translate his efficiency into a bigger sample size, but if he does he could be a breakout player for the Eagles' defensive line.

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. Doug Pederson spoke with reporters Monday and said the offense will not change its aggressive nature, but conceded he and Wentz could mitigate risk better going forward. Les Bowen has the story.

  2. Dallas Goedert was one of the bright spots of Sunday’s loss. His success could eventually come at the expense of Zach Ertz, Jeff McLane argues.

  3. Still trying to make sense of exactly what happened in the season opener? Paul Domowitch offers the five reasons things went sour for the Eagles.

  4. The Eagles offensive line was bad on Sunday. Jeff McLane explains why the group has the potential to torpedo the season if things don’t improve.

  5. Rob Tornoe etched up some cartoons about Sunday’s action, including the Cowboys' decision to host fans at AT&T Stadium.

  6. Damichael Cole recapped all of the action from the first NFL Sunday of the year.

From the mailbag

Why did J.J. Arcega-Whiteside get 0 targets? — from Dan K. (@Theostru) on Twitter.

Good question, Dan. Despite all the hype during training camp, it appears J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is still buried on the depth chart. He and John Hightower played 28 and 27 plays, respectively, a little less than half the team’s offensive snaps. Arcega-Whiteside seemed to be the top sub wideout during red-zone situations, while Hightower was used more everywhere else.

Still, Hightower’s 27 plays featured four targets, one catch, and one drop in which he did a nice job gaining separation before flubbing the catch. Arcega-Whiteside has a goose egg on everything: no targets and no catches. Part of it is the Eagles' personnel on these red-zone snaps Arcega-Whiteside is getting. It’s hard to imagine him having a massive role in the red zone considering the Eagles already have Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz, who are both excellent threats inside the 20. Wentz probably trusts those guys a lot more than he trusts Arcega-Whiteside to this point.

Speaking of trust, Arcega-Whiteside was a contested-catch guy in college, meaning he was at his best catching 50-50 balls thrown by a Stanford quarterback. Wentz is going to have to develop chemistry and faith in the second-year wideout if he’s going to get a chance to do that in the Eagles' offense.