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Roob's 10 Observations: Can Eagles' offense achieve something it hasn't done in 74 years?


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Roob's 10 Observations: Can Eagles' offense achieve something it hasn't done in 74 years?

By Reuben Frank, Eagles Insider  Published September 3, 2023


A chance to achieve something they haven't done in 74 years, an Eagles quarterback from the 1940s who was way ahead of his time and a former Eagles camp QB leading one of the biggest upsets in college football history.

With a week to go before opening day, here’s our final edition of Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Preseason Observations. Next week we drop the "preseason.”

1. Last time the Eagles had the No. 1 offense in the NFL was 1949, and that was 74 years ago. The 1949 Eagles went 11-1 during the regular season – they lost to George Halas and the Bears at Wrigley Field in Week 5 – and then won their second straight NFL Championship with a 14-0 win in the rain over the Rams at L.A. Coliseum. That team averaged 30.3 points per game and at one point scored at least 38 points in five straight games – something no NFL team has done before or since. The Eagles were also the NFL’s highest-scoring team in 1944 (26.7) and 1945 (27.2). The only other time the Eagles averaged 30 points per game was 1948, when they were second at 31.3), although they came close in Chip Kelly’s second season – 29.6 (if Cody Parkey made field goals of 34 and 38 yards they would have reached 30). Since the last time the Eagles averaged 30 points per game, 55 teams have done it, including the Cowboys last year at 31.2. If any Eagles team can end three quarters of a century without leading the NFL in scoring it’s this one. The Eagles scored 28.1 points per game last year – that was 3rd-highest in the league - and another year of growth for Jalen Hurts, a return to form for Quez Watkins, the addition of Olamide Zaccheaus and a more varied running attack could well mean two more points per game. Also, the competition looks tougher this year and the Eagles’ defense might not be quite up to last year’s level. That could mean the Eagles will be in more close games in the second half and that could result in more points also because that means staying aggressive throughout. However it happens, I’m guessing the Eagles find their way to 30 points per game for the first time since Truman was President.

Here's a look at the 10-highest-scoring teams in Eagles history:

31.3 … 1948
30.3 … 1949
29.6 … 2014
29.3 … 1953
28.6 … 2017
28.1 … 2022
27.6 … 2013
27.4 … 2010
27.2 … 1945
26.8 … 1960
26.8 … 2009

2. Remember when G.J. Kinne was bouncing around Eagles training camps and practice squads from 2013 through 2015? Kinne finished his playing career in 2016 in the CFL and went into coaching, which didn’t surprise anybody who knew him. He was always a cerebral player and a natural leader and you knew he’d have success if he pursued coaching. Kinne spent time as a graduate assistant and entry-level coach at SMU and Arkansas before joining Doug Pederson’s Eagles staff in 2019. He went on to become offensive coordinator at Hawaii and Central Florida and then last year coached Incarnate Word of San Antonio to a 12-2 record and guided an offense that led the FCS with a ridiculous 53 points per game. In December, Kinne got the head coaching job at Texas State of the Sun Belt Conference, which hasn’t had a winning season since going 7-5 in 2014 and has averaged 2.8 wins over the last eight years. So how did Kinne’s debut as a BCS head coach go? On Saturday, Baylor was a 27.5-point favorite over Texas State, but Kinne’s Bobcats – behind quarterback T.J. Finley, an Auburn transfer – shocked the Bears 42-31 at Baylor’s McLane Stadium in Waco, their first win over a Power 5 opponent since moving up to the FBS in 2012. That’s a mind-blowing upset for the Bobcats and for Kinne, who’s 34 and was an entry-level assistant with the Eagles just four years ago.  

3. How rare is the type of improvement in accuracy Jalen Hurts made from 52 percent as a rookie in 2020 to 66.5 percent last year? It’s beyond rare. It’s never happened before. Hurts is only the sixth quarterback in NFL history to have a single season at any point in his career completing 52 percent or fewer of his passes one year and 66 percent at any later point in his career (minimum 100 attempts). The others are Alex Smith, Eli Manning, Jim Plunkett, Steve Bartkowski and Ken Anderson. But Manning’s 66 percent season didn’t come until his 15th year, Plunkett’s until his 14th, Anderson his 12th and Bartkowski his 10th. The only other QB to have a 52 percent season (or worse) followed less than a decade later by a 66 percent season (or better) is Alex Smith, who completed 50.9 percent of his passes for the 49ers in 2005 and 70.2 percent in 2012 for the Niners – seven years later. Hurts made that improvement in three years. Hurts’ 66.5 percent completion percentage last year was 5th-highest by a quarterback who once had a season at 52 percent or worse behind Anderson’s 70.6 percent in 1982, Smith’s 70.2 in 2012, Plunkett’s 68.9 percent in 1985 and Bartkowski’s 67.3 percent in 1984. Simply put, no quarterback in NFL history has improved his accuracy so dramatically so quickly. 

4. A.J. Brown had 1,496 yards last year and DeVonta Smith 1,196. Both have a chance to post consecutive seasons with at least 1,196 receiving yards, something no Eagle has ever done. In fact, Mike Quick is the only player in Eagles history with two seasons at any point with 1,196 or more yards – 1,409 in 1983 and 1,247 in 1985. The only team in NFL history with the same two players reaching 1,196 yards in consecutive seasons is the 1999 and 2000 Vikings with Randy Moss and one-time Eagle Cris Carter.

5. The Eagles have drafted 21 players over the last three years and only one of them isn’t currently with the team in some capacity. Every pick from this year and last year is on the 53 and the only guy from 2021 not still with the team is 6th-round safety JaCoby Stevens from LSU, who’s been out of the league since the Eagles released him at the end of training camp last summer. Five of nine guys from the 2021 draft are on the 53, Tarron Jackson and Patrick Johnson are on the practice squad and Zech McPhearson is on Injured Reserve. The Eagles also have one draft pick remaining from 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2017, five from 2018, three from 2020. There’s nobody left from the 2019 draft.

6. The last Eagle with at least four interceptions in back-to-back seasons is Asante Samuel in 2009 and 2010. Since then six Eagles have had one season with at least four INTs – Kurt Coleman in 2011, Brandon Boykin in 2013, Nate Allen in 2014, Jordan Hicks in 2016, Patrick Robinson in 2017 and C.J. Gardner-Johnson last year. 

7. I’ve seen enough from Ben VanSumeren to believe he can help immediately on special teams. The Eagles have lost most of their top special teamers from last year – Shaun Bradley and Zech McPhearson are out for the year with Achilles injuries, K’Von Wallace is now with the Cards and Nakobe Dean is a starter and likely won’t play much if at all on special teams. They’re going to need some young, athletic, physical guys to contribute on teams, and VanSumeren has shown he has all those qualities. What he doesn’t have is a roster spot, so I’d expect at some point the first half of the season he’ll be a game-day call-up for special teams duty, and if it goes well, Howie Roseman will find a roster spot for him after his three game-day elevations. He's exactly what this beleaguered special teams unit needs.

8. Stathead added a new searchable advanced analytics rushing category in the past few days – rushing success rate. This measures a player’s success rate gaining 40 percent of yards needed for a first down or touchdown on first down, 60 percent of yards needed on second down and 100 percent on third or fourth down. Who was the top NFL running back in rushing success rate last year with a minimum of 50 carries? How about Kenny Gainwell at 62.3 percent. Stathead now goes back to 1994 on success rate and the highest on record is Steve Young’s 74 percent in 1995. Donovan McNabb had the 5th-highest success rate ever at 65.1 percent in 2002 and just among running backs, Gainwell’s 62.3 is 8th-highest since 1994. But it’s not the highest ever by an Eagle. Jordan Howard had a success rate of 62.8 in 2001, highest in the last six years and 6th-highest on record by a running back. The top career marks in Eagles history belong to quarterbacks – Jalen Hurts (58.9), Michael Vick (57.0), Carson Wentz (55.4) and Rodney Peete (55.4). Eagles running backs with 100 carries over 50 percent are Gainwell (55.4), Miles Sanders (53.9), Howard (52.8), Ryan Mathews (51.7) and Boston Scott (51.4).

9. We’ve talked a lot about how three undrafted corners made the Eagles’ 53-man roster and how rare that is. And Josh Jobe, Eli Ricks and Mario Goodrich are all impressive young d-backs. Jobe in particular made huge strides over last year, Ricks was tremendous in the preseason games and Goodrich showed versatility with his ability to play outside or in the slot. But don’t forget about 23-year-old undrafted rookie Mekhi Garner, who had a more consistent training camp than Ricks. The Eagles knew they were more likely to lose Ricks on waivers because of his pedigree – a projected 1st-round pick not too long ago – and because he made big plays in games, plays other teams saw. But Garner, who’s 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, had a terrific summer and has great length and physicality. He may eventually wind up at safety – he looks like a safety. But he’s another intriguing prospect. Factor in Reed Blankenship and that’s five undrafted defensive backs who are 25 or younger. That’s insane.

10. Tommy Thompson’s 1948 season was absurd. Thompson threw 25 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions, completed 57 percent of his passes and had a 98.4 passer rating as the Eagles went 9-2-1 and then won their first NFL Championship. The 25 TD passes – in just 12 games – are still 10th-most in Eagles history, and the 98.4 passer rating remained a franchise record for 56 years – until Donovan McNabb broke it in 2004. As late as 1990, Thompson was still one of only six QBs in NFL history with a 98.4 passer rating or higher, 25 TD passes and 11 or fewer INTs. Thompson – still the only quarterback to lead the Eagles to multiple NFL titles – is not in the Eagles Hall of Fame.


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