What advanced stats say about the Eagles linebackers, Carson Wentz, and the NFC East | Early Birds
Dissecting the advanced metrics to figure out which linebackers are best, the Eagles' playoff chances, and more.
Good morning, Eagles fans! Happy Dallas Week. The Eagles are back in the building after enjoying a long weekend watching the Cowboys implode once again, this time against the Washington Football Team. There are no foregone conclusions with the Eagles this year, but they’re early favorites for a reason. The Cowboys are in a bit of a free fall, and could be down to their third-string quarterback depending on Andy Dalton’s status by Sunday.
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Behind the numbers
1. Grading the linebackers
The much-maligned Eagles linebacking corps might be moving in the right direction thanks to some fresh faces. Pro Football Focus has Shaun Bradley as the highest-graded linebacker on the team through seven weeks with a 73.6, but it’s important to note that Bradley has played significantly fewer snaps. Bradley has logged only 47 defensive snaps this season, significantly fewer than anyone else graded by PFF outside of Davion Taylor. Bradley has been largely called on in obvious running situations, typically around the goal line. He’s well-suited for it, based on the grading. He’s got an 86.3 run-defense grade and a 79.4 tackling grade. His coverage grade (44.4) is the downside in his PFF metrics. If he improves his coverage abilities, he could make a case for more playing time as an early-down linebacker.
Coincidentally, the linebacker with the most snaps, Nate Gerry, is also the worst graded. In his 479 defensive snaps, Gerry has a 44.4 grade. Gerry has been targeted by the opposing team 31 times and has given up 28 catches for 299yards, putting him in the bottom 15 of most linebacking coverages metrics.
The most promising grade is Alex Singleton’s, though. The linebacker from Canada has a 71.7 grade on 159 snaps, and he’s getting high marks as a blitzer. In the six plays he’s been cut loose, Singleton has three quarterback pressures and two hits, earning an 88.8 grade as a rusher. Singleton has been targeted seven times and has given up seven catches, but his tackling and blitzing abilities are encouraging.
2. Playoff probabilities
The Eagles are now the most likely team to claim the NFC East according to both Football Outsiders and FiveThirtyEight. FiveThirtyEight gives them a 64% chance, while Football Outsiders gives them a 55.5% chance with their most likely win total being around six wins. Beating the Giants increased the Eagles' playoff chances by 19%. The Cowboys' blowout loss to Washington decreased their odds from 35.2% to 14.3%. Washington has the second-highest likelihood in the division at 23.2%.
Speaking of the awful NFC East, Football Outsiders projects the division winner will most likely have a losing record, and there’s even a 27.1% chance the team at the top will have just six wins.
3. Carson Wentz’s pressures, time to throw
Carson Wentz was once again among the most-pressured quarterbacks in the league heading into Monday night’s game. Wentz was rushed on 20 of his 48 dropbacks last Thursday, tied for the league lead with Josh Allen. Nate Herbig and Sua Opeta both allowed six pressures, and Jordan Mailata gave up five and one sack.
Like the previous Sunday against the Ravens, Wentz has his share of the blame, though. He was averaging a little less than 3 seconds to throw, according to Next Gen Stats. Wentz’s time to throw was the fourth-longest of the week heading into Monday night. Considering the state of the Eagles offensive line, it’s fair to say Wentz needs to get the ball out faster.
What you need to know about the Eagles
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The Cowboys might be self-destructing, but the Eagles players aren’t about to revel in their rival’s misery. As Bowen reports, the group knows it has its own problems.
Carson Wentz has been one of the most effective running quarterbacks in the NFL this season. Marcus Hayes argues the Eagles should stop leaning on their franchise quarterback’s legs.
From the mailbag
Will a 6-9-1 record be enough to win the division? — from Dan May (@dannmaal) on Twitter
Good question, Dan. We talked earlier about the percentages involved with winning the division, but my personal outlook on it is a bit different. There’s a good chance six wins will be enough to win the NFC East. When you look at the Eagles' remaining schedule, it becomes evident how important the next few weeks are. Banking two wins in the next three weeks against the Cowboys and Giants could be a challenge for the Eagles, who haven’t shown us any reason to believe they’re capable of a three-game winning streak, but their schedule will get much tougher after Week 10.
Washington has a tougher schedule ahead, with games against the Steelers and 49ers still looming, but if the team can go on a run, it could give the Eagles some trouble in their pursuit to steal the division with six or seven wins. I don’t see the Cowboys or Giants making a serious run at first place based on the first seven weeks of the season. I wrote at the beginning of the year that Washington’s defensive line would keep the team in games it had no business being in. Washington hasn’t been very good this year, but if any team is going to challenge the Eagles, it will likely be Washington.