A note about turnovers

I’m working on a longer analysis that’ll look at individual player fumble percentages.   In the meantime, I thought I’d provide some color on the Eagles terrible turnover statistics this season.

For those who are unaware, the Eagles rank last in the league in turnover differential at -22.  Of their 34 total turnovers, 21 have been fumbles.  As you can imagine, consistently forfeiting possession diminishes the chances for success.

There is reason to hope, however, that next year will see improvement.  The numbers above are mostly a function of the rate of Eagles fumbles and their inability to recover them.  Below is a chart illustrating the Eagles fumble recovery percentage (includes both Eagles fumbles and opponents fumbles):

Screen Shot 2012-12-16 at 12.43.43 PM

In general, we would expect fumble recovery rates for individual teams over the long-term to hover around 50% (given the play’s binary nature).  Indeed, if we take the average of the series above we get a value of around 47%.

The problem?  This year the Eagles are much, much worse; the team is recovering just 35.19% of all fumbles, which ranks 29th in the league.  Combine that with the fact that the Eagles are fumbling more often than the rest of the league and we can begin to see why the team is last in the league.

In the next week or so, I plan to take a look at the correlation of team fumbles from one year to the next (as I’m currently doing for individuals), but at the very least, we can assume that the Eagles are likely to improve on their recovery rate next year (if for no better reason than its difficult to be worse).  Holding all other things equal, that alone will result in an improvement in the turnover differential, raising the odds of success.

Post-game notes: Eagles vs. Bengals

Brace yourselves, I’m about to say something ridiculous…

That was just about the best performance in a 34-13 loss possible, and Eagles fans should be relatively encouraged by much of what they saw.  Ignore the bullshit and remember that since the Eagles aren’t in the playoff hunt, the scoreboard doesn’t matter.

Is anyone really worried about Cedric Thornton’s ability to field a kick?  Didn’t think so.

I was at the game, so in essence I got to see the All-22 live (though seeing which players are in on tackles is difficult without the TV and replays.)  Following is a list of what does matter coming out of the game:

– Nick Foles.  Not a good game.  However, I warned you that this was likely going to be much worse than his last game.  Foles made one obviously bad throw which is a bit puzzling (and worrisome), but he also did a good job of moving in the pocket and not making high-risk throws.  If it hadn’t been for the turnovers by the rest of the team, Foles would be praised for his ability to “manage the game”.  He was accurate again, though he did not appear to have the same precision as last week.

The interception was interesting because it came on a play that is ostensibly a strength of his.  Every scouting report on Foles mentions a lack of mobility and a strong arm.  In reality, what we’ve seen in play is almost the reverse.  He’s definitely slow, but moves very well in the pocket and uses his head to account for his slow speed.  The arm strength, however, has not been shown as clearly.  We have seen flashes of it, but accuracy appears to be a problem when he is forced to drop a pass deep downfield over-top a WR.  This throw was a clear under-throw.  There is a chance that he under-threw it on purpose, assuming the WR would see it and be able to adjust while the DB wouldn’t.  It’s very unlikely, but a possibility for reconciling it with his supposed arm strength.  Regardless, this is something to keep a close eye on for the rest of the season.

– The Defense.  The defense played a fantastic game, which is remarkable in the face of 34 points allowed.  Let’s look at some stats:

249 total offensive yards for the Bengals.

Andy Dalton was 13 of 27 for just 127 yards (and two fumbles).

The Law Firm ran for 106 yards on 25 carries.  29 of those yards came on one rush.  Outside of that play the Eagles held him to 3.2 yards per carry.

The Eagles registered 6 sacks and 7 passes deflected.

As we can see from the box score (and from watching it if you were able to ignore the score), the defense played a great game.

– Cox/Graham.  I mentioned in the pre-game thoughts that this was a big opportunity for both of these players.   I think they got the message.  Though I’ll have to confirm it on the tape, this was clearly either the best game or close to it for Cox and Graham.  Both consistently drove their blockers backwards and repeatedly disrupted the Cincinnati offense.

Graham finished with 2.5 sacks, 3 QB hits, and a forced fumble.

Cox finished with 1.5 sacks and 2 QB hits.  His game was actually a lot stronger than those numbers suggest, as he was able to collapse the pocket and force Dalton to scramble, contributing heavily to the overall defensive numbers.

– Colt Anderson. Didn’t see too much of him (positive or negative), but because of how much I’ve talked about his poor coverage skills, I felt I had to give him props for breaking up what would have been a 1st half touchdown pass to A.J. Green.  That’s exactly what a safety should do, so I’m kind of congratulating him for doing his job, but it was nice to see nonetheless.

– Don’t jump off the Bryce Brown train just yet. The last two games have taken some of the luster off Brown, but don’t get too down on him.  The fumbles are a big problem, but one that can be fixed.  From what I’ve seen, the poor yardage is a result of terrible run-blocking rather than poor performances by Brown.  Jake Scott in particular looked like he had an awful game, but we’ll wait to confirm on the game rewind.

Andy Reid Article

 

Very good article on Andy Reid published on Grantland today (written by Bill Barnwell).  I’ve included the link below.

http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/8746325/bill-barnwell-takes-all-andy-reid-haters

Towards the end of the season we’ll take a look at some Andy Reid numbers in hopes of gaining a good perspective on how best to characterize his tenure.  However, the linked article is a great outline.

I’ve been a vocal Andy Reid supporter for a while, and though it certainly appears like it’s time for both the franchise and him to move on, don’t be surprised when he competes for a title with another team.

 

Pre-game notes: Eagles vs. Bengals

As we get ready for a Thursday night game, a few notes followed by what to watch for:

– Regarding Nick Foles, this game is flashing a pretty strong “REGRESSION” sign.  Each defense Foles has faced is ranked in the bottom third of the league for opposing QB Rating allowed.  Cincinnati isn’t great (ranking 15th and allowing an average rating of 84.7) but is significantly better than Tampa Bay (allowing an average rating of 92.4).  Don’t be surprised if Foles’ stat line looks much worse than last week.

– Barring a miraculous performance by the O-Line, Foles is going to face significant pressure and will take some hits tonight.  The Bengals lead the league in both sacks per game (3.2) and sack percentage (8.27%).  Tampa Bay averaged just 1.5 per game heading into last week and came away with 6.

– The Eagles DBs will face a stiff test with A.J. Green in town.  In my opinion, he and Calvin Johnson are the best WRs in the game right now.  It will be interesting to see how the Eagles cover him (expect A LOT of double-teams).  Look for the Eagles to do everything possible to prevent him from getting single coverage with a safety, as trusting Allen or Anderson 1-on-1 would likely be a disaster.  Theoretically, this should open things up for other Bengals underneath, as zone coverage will be a gamble (at least on Green’s side).  The Bengals should be able to use Green to pull coverage, opening up the space he vacates.

What to Watch For:

Can Foles avoid a turnover?  To date, he’s been pretty good at protecting the ball and not making high risk throws.  However, in the face of the toughest defense he has seen (and with a short week to prepare) he’s going to be under more pressure than he’s accustomed to.  If it’s tough to move the ball (as it should be), we’ll see if he starts pressing.  Last week he did not.

As a reminder, forget Foles’ stat line.  Watch for his ability to make progressions (watch his head when he drops back) and avoid high-risk throws.  Also, still looking for an accurate deep ball…

Short slants and RB-flats from the offense.  I’m a little surprised they haven’t tried to hit Brown through the air a few more times (though perhaps he can’t catch), but they’ll need a variety of check-downs and hot routes to take advantage against the pass rush.

Mychal Kendricks.  Last game he was shifted to WLB and played perhaps his best game of the year (certainly his best since the first month of the season).  On the weak-side, he can use his speed more effectively.  Specifically, watch him in coverage (mostly RBs out of the backfield and TEs coming across the formation) , as that’ll be a major responsibility of his if they keep him on that side.

Brandon Graham/Fletcher Cox.  Cincinnati has problems protecting Andy Dalton and ranks in the bottom third of the league in both sacks allowed per game and sack percentage allowed.  This should be an opportunity for both Graham and Cox to make an impact.  Ideally we’d see Trent Cole with a big game, but his play has slipped dramatically since last year.  Hard to tell what’s wrong; he just isn’t winning one-on-one battles like he used to (might be an undisclosed injury or just a decline in ability).

Play Action.  As I mentioned in the breakdown from the Bucs game, Tampa Bay didn’t run nearly as much PA as I expected them to given the Eagles problems  defending it.  The shift away from the Wide-9 should help fix that, but there wasn’t enough of it run last game to test that assumption.

Colt Anderson/Jamar Chaney. Chaney re-entered the starting line-up last game when Kendricks shifted to WLB.  Both Anderson and Chaney were terrible early this year when given playing time.  Neither was tested very much by the Bucs.  For Chaney, see how involved he is.  He has a bad habit of getting sucked up by the first blocker he encounters.  He isn’t quick enough to go around them, and hasn’t yet shown the strength or athleticism to get off them.

Colt Anderson has had serious issues in coverage.  Against the Bucs, his positive plays came exclusively against the run (and on blitzes rather than read-and-reacts).  I’m not expecting very much from either player, but if one of them can be at least serviceable (i.e. close to average) then it eliminates a big hole for the Eagles heading into next year.

A look at the standings:

As the season winds down, I thought it’d be a good time to take a look at the standings, particularly the bottom as teams jostle for better draft position. While it’s very difficult to root for the Eagles to lose, make no mistake, losses are much more valuable than wins right now (repeating the note from last week’s post-game, the drop from the #3-#4 draft pick is worth a second round pick according to the standard value chart).

There are currently 8 teams at 4-9 (including the Eagles).  Below is the current order of teams (according to ESPN) as well as the combined records of the teams each has left to play.  There are 5 teams at 5-8, but for the sake of clarity, I chose to omit them.

Team                             Remaining Schedule (Combined Record)

Carolina (4-9) –                        SD, OAK, NO (13-26)

Tennessee (4-9) –                   NYJ, GB, JAC (17-22)

Detroit (4-9) –                         ARZ, ATL, CHI (23-16)

Arizona (4-9) –                       DET, CHI, SF (21-17-1)

Philadelphia (4-9) –               CIN, WAS, NYG  (22-17)

Oakland (3-10) –                   KC, CAR, SD (11-28)

Jacksonville (2-11) –             MIA, NE, TEN  (19-20)

Kansas City (2-11) –            OAK, IND, DEN (22-17)

Note:  The first tiebreaker is strength of schedule (teams with a lower SOS get a higher pick).

– It’s very unlikely that either KC or JAC will win 2 of their remaining 3 games, meaning we can cross the Eagles off for the #1-#2 draft pick.

– Oakland actually has a very easy schedule and could win any of their three remaining games, though it’s likely that if they finish with the same record as the Eagles they will win the tiebreaker (a function of the relative division strength).  Therefore, the #3 pick is unlikely as well).

– After that, the Eagles have the inside track on the #4 pick, and will likely take it if they lose out.  Conversely, one win by the Eagles puts all of the 5-8 teams in play (remember there are 5 of them now).

– Key game to watch this week (other than the Eagles of course) is Oak-KC.  If Oakland wins, the Eagles could find themselves tied for the #3 pick.  Though I noted above that SOS would likely still favor Oakland, the Raiders have two games (CAR, SD) that are relatively winnable.

Due to the Thursday night game this week, there will be a long layoff before the All-22 comes out and I can review it.  Therefore, the beginning of next week will have look at the draft board and what’s available for the Eagles versus what the projected needs are going into next year.

Does Nick Foles = Bobby Hoying 2.0?

(See today’s Philly.com article by Phil Sheridan)

Short Answer:  I don’t think so.

Longer Answer: While there are some eerie similarities, there is a large piece of evidence that points to Nick Foles having a higher probability of long-term success than Bobby Hoying had after his promising start.

Phil Sheridan points to the team adversity as a reason for Hoying’s failure.  Although that didn’t help, perhaps a larger factor was the accuracy of Hoying.  There are a number of attributes necessary for QB success, but accuracy is among the most important (if you don’t believe me please look at the current leaderboard).  While completion percentage is an imperfect measure (not accounting for drops, distance, throwaways, etc…), it still provides a decent indication of how good a QB is at getting the ball to where he wants it to go.  Furthermore, it is a measure that is rarely every significantly improved upon by players making the jump to the pro’s, that is, completion percentage in college is a good indication a player’s potential professional completion percentage.

Bobby Hoying’s college completion percentage was 58%, which is not terrible for college, but a very weak measure for aspiring pro’s (there are currently only two starting NFL QB’s with worse, Jay Cutler and Matt Stafford).

Nick Foles’ college completion percentage was 66.9%. (Of note: Michael Vick’s was 56.5%, which would be by far the worst in the league if he was still starting).

Counterpoint: There is a substantial (and obvious) flaw in the direct comparison of Foles to Hoying: Time.  NFL passing offenses have grown significantly in scale/importance/sophistication since Hoying played, and QB performance has risen substantially.  Hoying’s rookie year, the average NFL completion percentage was just 56%.  The current average for starting QBs is 61.62%.  However, there is a strong case to be made that as teams have emphasized passing, they have changed the methods for scouting QBs, weighing things like completion percentage more heavily than in the past (while lessening the attention paid to “intangibles”).  I believe its fair to say that overall QB play in today’s game is substantially better than in 1997 (Hoying’s rookie year).  In fact, it’s likely that if Hoying’s college career was evaluated for the draft today, he would be a much lower draft choice than #85 (if he was drafted at all).

Regardless, the relative comparison of each player’s college completion percentage to the league at the time of their respective rookie year’s suggests Foles has much more potential for success (relative to league average).

Post-Game Thoughts: Eagles vs. Bucs

Stoppable force beats movable object – Entering the game, the Bucs’ defense had 18 sacks in 12 games, or 1.5 per game.  Today they sacked Foles 6 times and hit him 13 times.  We’ll have to wait for the All-22 to see exactly what happened, but there were several egregious 1-on-1 losses by Eagles O-lineman.

Foles seizes opportunity – In what I predicted would be a showcase game for the rookie QB (see pre-game thoughts), he did not disappoint.  He made several very impressive throws while running, and more importantly, did not throw an interception against a defense that had a lot of them coming into the game.  However, in the next few days, I expect most commentators to gloss over the horrendous decision/throw he made on the final drive that should have been an easy interception and ended the game.  He was bailed out by the dropped ball, but that was a catastrophic mistake that he’ll need to avoid in the future.

Win the battle but lose the war? – While it’s certainly more fun to watch the Eagles win (especially in exciting last-play fashion), it is somewhat likely that the team will regret this win upon entering the offseason.  The win dropped (or raised) the Eagles from the #3 draft pick to #4.  According to the standard NFL Draft Pick Value Chart, that’s equivalent to a 2nd round pick.  It should be noted that the drop-off is less severe once outside the top 3 picks, but if the standings hold then that last second victory will cost the Eagles big.  (Would you trade a 2nd round pick for a meaningless win?)

Daniel Te’o Nesheim is still alive? – Apparently, and he had a sack and 2 QB hits.