Eagles observations: Understanding why Eagles don't use middle of field

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Understanding why Eagles don't use middle of field in Roob's observations originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The mystery of why the Eagles don’t use the middle of the field, Jalen Reagor vs. Quez Watkins, a wild Damon Moore stat and tons more in this week’s Roob’s random Eagles observations.

1. It’s no secret the Eagles are dead last in the NFL in targets in the middle of the field, throws between the hashes. It’s frustrating because those are generally higher percentage throws, and that’s a huge chunk of the field where some pretty reliable receivers roam – tight ends, backs, slot receivers. So why has Jalen Hurts thrown so rarely into the middle of the field? Here’s his answer to that question from Wednesday: “I’m trying to execute everything that’s called.” End of answer. Sure seemed like he was saying that this is what Sirianni wants and not something Hurts has chosen to do. Tuck that away and then consider this: We were chatting with Alex Singleton on Thursday, and he was talking about how teams are attacking the Eagles this year compared to last year, and he dropped this in: “I think in the NFL any team kind of tries to throw the ball between the hashes. It’s obviously the easiest throw in football for a quarterback instead of throwing outside the numbers.” Obviously. Was he making some sort of statement about Sirianni’s offense? I sincerely doubt it, but it was still a very interesting combination of comments from two Eagles about the same topic. Bottom line is that if the Eagles don’t start using the middle of the field, there’s no way this will be a successful offense.

2. Jalen Reagor has played 45 more snaps than Quez Watkins this year (284 to 239) and has fewer than half as many yards (311 to 140).

3. It was really interesting to hear Dallas Goedert talk about Zach Ertz’s departure. The two are obviously very close off the field, but Goedert was blunt about how being the only true receiving tight end on the roster will benefit him: “I think it was mutual between him and I that neither of us really wants to be splitting time,” he said Friday. “We both thought we should be the No. 1 tight end.” Nick Sirianni doesn’t play much 12 personnel, and Ertz and Goedert were only on the field together for 80 snaps the first five games, or 26 percent of the Eagles’ plays (Goedert was on the COVID list and missed the Bucs game). And it had to be a challenge for Sirianni to try and keep both of them happy. Ertz is an all-time Eagle, but in this case less could be more. Goedert should be more comfortable playing most of the snaps, and the offense should run smoother without two tight ends randomly shuttling on and off the field in a desperate attempt to keep them both content. We’ll see.

4. Seven of the Eagles’ last 11 games are against teams ranked in the bottom 11 in the NFL in defense.

5. The last NFC safety with three interceptions in a single postseason is Damon Moore. What a postseason Demo had in 2001 – two INTs and a pick-6 against the Bucs in a wild-card game and another INT a week later against the Bears at Soldier Field (it was during his 18-yard return that Hugh Douglas famously obliterated Jim Miller, effectively ending his career). Moore was only 25 when he suffered a severe knee injury the following week in the NFC Championship Game in St. Louis and only played six more games in his career. To this day, he ranks third in franchise history with those three postseason interceptions, all in an eight-day span. He trails only Herm Edwards (5) and Brian Dawkins (4). Eric Allen and Roynell Young also had three. What a shame he got hurt because that kid was on his way to becoming a heck of a player.

6. For people who say, “Jason Kelce gets us,” I have to disagree. He doesn’t get us. He literally IS us.

7. Shane Steichen said the other day that one thing he discovered while self-scouting during the mini-bye was that the Eagles have to be better on 1st and 2nd down so their 3rd downs are more manageable. “We've got to be more efficient on 1st and 2nd down.” Sounds great. But the reality is the Eagles have been really good on 1st and 2nd down and their 3rd downs have been manageable. The Eagles are 9th-best in the NFL on 1st and 2nd down, gaining an average of 6.0 yards. Their average 3rd down through six games has been 3rd-and-6. 6, which is 9th-shortest in the league. But they’re still only 19th in the league converting on 3rd down. The problem isn’t 1st and 2nd down. It’s 3rd down, where 62 of the Eagles’ 72 snaps have been either Jalen Hurts runs or throws. Miles Sanders has just six 3rd-down carries all year and Kenny Gainwell has four. First and second downs haven’t been the problem. Third down has.

8. And here’s one reason why: On 3rd down and 2 or longer, the Eagles have called 58 pass plays and four running plays. That’s a 94-6 ratio. That’s utter insanity. Nothing like basically telling the defense what you’re about to do on third down. For what it’s worth, they’re 2-for-4 converting on the running plays (50 percent) and 18-for-58 on the pass plays (31 percent).

9. JALEN HURTS STAT OF THE WEEK: In his first 10 starts, Hurts threw for 2,399 yards and ran for 572 yards. His 2,971 combined yards are 6th-most in NFL history by a QB in his first 10 starts, behind Pat Mahomes (3,332), Cam Newton (3,296), Deshaun Watson (3,257), Justin Herbert (3,200) and Andrew Luck (3,128). His 21 combined touchdowns (13 passing, 8 rushing) are tied for 8th-most.

10. This is crazy, but after Steve Van Buren rushed for 1,146 yards in 1949, the Eagles didn’t have another 1,000-yard rusher until Wilbert Montgomery ran for 1,220 yards in 1978. That’s 28 years without a 1,000-yard rusher. League-wide there were 93 1,000-yard rushers during that span.

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