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Running the Numbers: Eagles’ Offensive Tendencies
19.3: Percentage of Michael Vick’s passes that have been play-action.
Vick ranks in the middle of the pack in play-action percentage, but like most NFL quarterbacks, he throws well after showing run action. Of the 32 starting NFL quarterbacks, only three have a lower yards per attempt (YPA) on play-action looks than straight dropbacks. Vick has thrown for 7.3 YPA on play-action passes, 0.6 YPA higher than his efficiency on all other attempts. Meanwhile, Tony Romo’s play-action rate of 9.2 percent is by far the lowest in the NFL. Actually, the difference between Romo’s play-action rate and the second-lowest quarterback, Kevin Kolb, is greater than the rate between Kolb and the next 12 passers. It will be interesting to see which team, if any, can capitalize with play-action on Sunday.
11.7: Percentage of Vick’s passes that have been deep.
A “deep” pass is one that travels at least 20 yards past the line of scrimmage. The percentage is a low one for an Eagles team that has traditionally liked to take shots downfield to their explosive wide receivers. In comparison, I’ve tracked Tony Romo as throwing deep on just 10.7 percent of his passes in 2012. Both quarterbacks have perhaps been victims of poor pass protection, although not to an extent that justifies their low deep-passing rate.
67.8: Percentage of Eagles’ runs outside of the tackles that have gone to the right side.
The Eagles love to run outside, especially to the right side of their offense, a trend that likely resulted from left tackle Jason Peters’ absence this year. Eagles running backs are averaging 4.25 yards per carry (YPC) when running outside of right tackle Todd Herremans, but just 3.14 YPC when running outside to the left. Herremans suffered a season-ending injury on Monday night, however, so it’s unclear if the Eagles will maintain this trend.
52.5: Percentage of Eagles’ first downs that have been designed passes.
The Eagles throw the ball more often than most NFL teams; the league-wide first down pass rate is 48.2 percent. First down is generally an excellent time to throw the football, as the majority of NFL quarterbacks excel with a new set of chains; the first down passer rating for all quarterbacks is 90.5. For whatever reason, though, Vick has struggled on first down. He has completed only 53.7 percent of his first down passes, throwing two touchdowns and five interceptions in the process – good for a passer rating of only 59.8.
8.36: Average yards-to-go for the Eagles on second down.
With Vick’s first down passing woes, it’s no wonder that the Eagles haven’t been able to put themselves in great second down situations. The Cowboys’ average distance to go on second down has been 7.72 yards, and the NFL average is 7.88. Only five teams have performed worse on first down than the Eagles.
21.2: Percentage of Eagles’ first down plays that have resulted in a new first down.
Although the Eagles’ first down offense ranks among the bottom of the league in terms of yards-per-play, they’ve converted a first down at the same rate as a league-average offense. This suggests that the Eagles like to take their shots downfield on first down, which partly explains Vick’s low first down completion rate. The idea coincides from what I’ve seen on film; the Eagles are aggressive on first down and actually become more conservative, at least in regards to the run-pass balance, on second and third downs.
2: Number of second-and-1 plays on which the Eagles have passed.
The Eagles passed the ball on only two of their 14 plays on second-and-1, supporting the idea that they’re a surprisingly conservative team on second down. Vick didn’t complete either of those passes, so Philadelphia has really failed to capitalize on a down and distance that offers optimal upside for offenses.
10: Number of fourth down attempts for Philadelphia.
Only three teams have gone for it on fourth down more often than the Eagles. While it might seem like they’re playing with fire, the truth is that, more often than not, punting on fourth down is the true risky play. Although we’ve been programmed to think of punts as a “good thing,” perhaps they should really be thought of as turnovers. Historically, teams that have gone for it often on fourth down have increased their expected points and winning percentage by doing so.
Actually, we saw the Eagles go for it on a fourth-and-1 in the second quarter just last week. LeSean McCoy gained 34 yards, increasing the Eagles’ expected points on the drive from 0.72 to 6.28. On the season, Philadelphia has actually gained 10.3 expected points by going for it on fourth down. For two teams that are really fighting for their playoff lives this week, you might see the conservative calls get scrapped for the ones that are both aggressive and optimal.