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Fantasy Opportunity Spotlight: Philadelphia Eagles

A team-by-team analysis of coaches’ tendencies and using them to help create realistic fantasy football projections. @TubaDeus takes a look at the Philadelphia Eagles.

Welcome to the new home of my yearly Fantasy Opportunity series! For those who didn’t see this series on Reddit last year, I try to take a different approach to fantasy projections than your run-of-the-mill analyst. The basis of my process is that the number one indicator of fantasy success is opportunities to touch the ball. Obviously, individual player skill can (and will) affect that, but at the end of the day players are at the mercy of playcalling and play design. Therefore, if we want to make accurate projections, we need to look at each coach’s scheme and how they like to spread the ball around.

As a result, this series is very coach-centric. I’ll touch on individual players, but only as they relate to their coaches’ schemes. On a related note, this series will only aim to establish projections on how touches will be split up, not what individual players will be able to accomplish with those touches. That will come later once depth charts settle through training camp. Think of this series more as a basis for realistic expectations.

Make sense? Good. Let’s dive in.

Most of my stats are pulled from Pro Football Reference. Please support them. They are awesome and are my primary source of statistical information.

Philadelphia Eagles

Last Year’s Accuracy

Total PlaysRush Attempts (Rush %)Passing Plays (Pass %) – Includes SacksSacks Allowed (Sack %)WR Targets (WR Target %)RB Targets (RB Target %)TE Targets (TE Target %)
2020 Projections1075425 (39.5%)650 (60.5%)40 (6.2%)275 (45.1%)125 (20.5%)200 (32.8%)
2020 Stats1066403 (37.8%)663 (62.2%)65 (9.8%)295 (49.3%)97 (16.2%)169 (28.3%)
For league wide stats, see this spreadsheet.

Coaching Changes

How the mighty have fallen. Just three years removed from one of the more impressive Super Bowl runs in recent memory, Doug Pederson finds himself without a job while his former team sits in last place in the worst division in football. Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni has been brought in to pick up the pieces as the new head coach. He will be joined by former Chargers offensive coordinator Shane Steichen and former Colts defensive backs coach Jonathan Gannon as his new offensive and defensive coordinators, respectively.

Colts: Did Eagles hire Nick Sirianni to be a puppet for front office and  ownership?
Tim Warner/Getty Images

Coaching History

Despite possessing a combined 20 years of offensive coaching experience at the NFL level, Sirianni and Steichen only have a combined 1.5 years of playcalling to show for it. Sirianni noted that he will retain playcalling duties as the head coach, but Steichen is the only one between the two who has actually called plays before. As a result, it’s worth taking a look at both the Colts and Chargers during the periods where Sirianni and Steichen were the offensive coordinators.

Since arriving in Indianapolis, the name of the game under Sirianni and longtime mentor (and current head coach) Frank Reich has been flexibility. The Colts have had three different starting quarterbacks over the last three years. The offense has reinvented itself each time to accommodate their strengths. With Andrew Luck under center in 2018, Sirianni and Reich operated a very pass heavy scheme that only ran the ball 38% of the time. They did so at a lightning pace. With Jacoby Brissett at the helm the following year, they shifted gears to post a run rate over 46% with a much more average pace. Last year with the much older Philip Rivers, the offense continued to slow down, but they did rely a little more on Rivers’ arm as the run rate reduced to under 45%.

Positional target shares under Sirianni and Reich were much more consistent over that three year span. Still, there is still evidence that it was personnel driven. The wideouts featured the ghost of T.Y. Hilton and not much else, so their consistently low-50% target share makes sense. The tight ends had been a position of strength and were rewarded with around a 27% target share in 2018 and 2019, but with their ineffectiveness last year they dropped to just 22%. The running backs added an elite talent just in time to pick up the slack as their 24% target share in 2020 was the first time they had broken 20% under Sirianni and Reich.

LA Chargers value contiunity in Shane Steichen promotion
Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports

On the Steichen side, we’ll focus on the one year he had to implement his own scheme rather than the half year where he was adapting to his predecessor’s scheme. It’s worth noting that the Chargers led the league in total plays last year thanks to a slightly above average pace and an offense that was elite at extending drives. The running backs, led by elite receiving back Austin Ekeler, unsurprisingly posted the 4th highest positional target share in the league at 25%. The tight ends bounced back to a near-league-average 21% target share with a healthy Hunter Henry, so it was the wide receivers who took a hit for the running backs’ success as they only notched a below average 52% target share. Steichen kept a balanced offense as his 41/59 run-pass ratio nearly perfectly matched the league average.

Looking Ahead

Given Sirianni’s status as the head coach and playcaller, it’s likely safe to assume that the offenses he was a part of in Indianapolis are a better gauge of what Philly will look like than Steichen’s L.A. offense. With that in mind, the two offensive schemes weren’t that far apart from each other. Neither scheme heavily featured wide receivers, and that shouldn’t change with the Eagles’ depleted receiving corps. Sure, Philadelphia has taken first round wideouts each of the last two years, but they’re also a little short on depth after letting their previous top two receivers walk in free agency (though were they really the top two receivers if they hardly saw the field?).

While the running backs should see an increased target share, the tight ends are likely to continue playing the bigger role. Dallas Goedert is wildly underrated, and while trade rumors continue to swirl around Zach Ertz, he’s still in an Eagles uniform for now. The pair has powered the Eagles’ tight end group to the most targets and highest target share of any tight end corps in the league over the last three years, and it’s not even close. Both Sirianni and Steichen have shown willingness to feature tight ends when their roster allows, so Philly should continue to boast one of the highest volume tight end groups in the league.

Will Nick Sirianni's offense fit Eagles QB Jalen Hurts?
Steven M. Falk/The Philadelphia Inquirer

That being said, the overall passing game pie might very well be shrinking in 2021. Quarterback Jalen Hurts is a capable runner. If Sirianni is planning to maximize that talent (which it seems he plans to), additional QB sneaks and scrambles will reduce the team’s passing volume. The passing volume could take another hit if the total plays drop under the new leadership. It is true that the Eagles operated one of the least efficient offenses in the league last year in terms of plays per drive, but they did so at a blazing speed. As noted above, Steichen’s offense was only slightly faster than average, and the offense Sirianni was a part of was a little slower than average. With a likely drop in pace, the new coaching tandem will have to scheme up a much more efficient offense if they hope to keep the play volume high.

At least they’ll have some help in the offensive line department. The Eagles were plagued by injuries up front all year in 2020. Still they were able to post a respectable year according to PFF. Just getting healthy again will be a huge boost to the normally-elite unit, as will the addition of a day two rookie. A scheme that doesn’t force the QB to sit back and wait forever for plays to develop would be helpful here too. A likely drop in sack rate should help extend drives.

2021 Projections

Total PlaysRush Attempts (Rush %)Passing Plays (Pass %) – Includes SacksSacks Allowed (Sack %)WR Targets (WR Target %)RB Targets (RB Target %)TE Targets (TE Target %)
2020 Stats1066403 (37.8%)663 (62.2%)65 (9.8%)295 (49.3%)97 (16.2%)169 (28.3%)
2021 Projections (17 Games)1129539 (47.7%)590 (52.3%)40 (6.8%)274 (49.8%)108 (19.6%)153 (27.8%)

Previous Entry: New York Jets

Next Entry: Pittsburgh Steelers

Find this article helpful? You can follow me on Twitter and Reddit as @TubaDeus, though I spend most of my time on Discord.

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