The Eagles are 2-0 largely in part to Thursday night’s shift to the running game. If the opposing defense is going to drop 8 into coverage and prevent the big play, then you simply run it down their throats instead.

That shift, plus a tough win in New England, are reflected in the small sample size of numbers we’re looking at through two weeks. Notably, the passing stats are lagging behind while the run game and defensive line really shine. Here are ten things to consider as we head into Week 3 with Tampa Bay on deck:

1. downfield passing

The Eagles only have two passing completions that went at least 20 yards through the air. Both were caught by DeVonta Smith. They finished with 27 last year, which was good for ninth in the NFL and amounted to 1.58 of these plays per game.

2. big plays, or not

One of the themes from the Minnesota win was the Vikings’ decision to drop into heavy coverage and rush three at various points of the game. The Eagles took what was given and decided to pound the rock instead, and as such, they only have four “big” plays this season, which are gains of 20+ yards. That’s a bottom-six number through two weeks. The Birds were second in the NFL last season with 80 big plays over 17 games, which amounted to a 4.7 per game number. On the flip side, the defense has only allowed 9 big plays through two games, which is a top-ten number league-wide.

3. Red Zone rushing attempts

One of the keys to the Eagles’ offensive success in 2022 was their ability to pound the ball in the Red Zone, primarily with Jalen Hurts, who finished with 44 carries in this part of the field. This year, through two games Kenny Gainwell and D’Andre Swift have 10 of those carries while Hurts only has three, two of which were goal line tush pushes in the Minnesota win. Keep an eye on this statistic, because while it’s field position-dependent (Hurts will smash it in from the 1), it should provide a good idea of how they’re going to use Jalen elsewhere in the running game. Hurts, with those 44 Red Zone carries, was #5 in the NFL last year and first among all quarterbacks. Miles Sanders was fourth overall, with 45 Red Zone attempts.

4. 2nd quarter differential

Remember how ridiculous the Birds were in second quarters on their march to the Super Bowl?  They were a whopping +116. It’s a small sample size this year, just two games, but after a 10-7 second quarter against the Vikings and -14 number in New England, they are now -11 in the second quarter, good for 30th in the NFL. They’re doing their best +/- work in the first and third quarters, where they’re +19 and +10, respectively. There’s a pattern here of quick start, let up, rebound, let up.

5. rushing efficiency

How effective was D’Andre Swift’s Thursday night performance? He’s third in the NFL with 178 rushing yards, despite only getting one carry in New England. There are four running backs this season with at least 15 carries and a yards-per-rush number greater than six, and they are:

  • Austin Ekeler
  • Bijan Robinson
  • Christian McCaffrey
  • Swift

That’s good company to be in.

6. three and outs

A negative trend, the Birds are currently going three and out on 28% of their possessions, which is 9th-worst in the NFL. Tied at the top are Pittsburgh and Cincinnati with a wild 45.5 number. For some context, last year the Eagles were top-7 with a very small 16.7% three and out rate, so that drop of almost 12 percentage points has moved them from the top 10 to the bottom ten. They need to do a better job of moving the sticks early and beginning these drives on positive notes.

7. personnel shifts

The Birds barely came out of 11 personnel in the New England win, but with Minnesota giving up the run on Thursday night, the Eagles shifted big time into 12 personnel and even threw some 13 personnel out there as well. On the year, they’re now at 70% 11 personnel (3 WR, 1 RB, 1 TE), 25% 12 personnel (2 WR, 1 RB, 2 TE), and a little under 4% for 13 personnel (three tight ends out there at once).

8. still a nickel team

The injuries to Reed Blankenship, James Bradberry, and later Avonte Maddox didn’t change much in the defensive scheme department. After two weeks, they’ve played 105 nickel snaps, which is 5th-most in the NFL. They’ve played 79.7% of their defensive snaps in nickel.

9. QB mistakes

SportRadar/PFF now has a metric called “QB Misq%,” which logs the percentage of dropbacks that result in a fumble, snap, or interception. At 23.4%, Daniel Jones and the Giants are worst in the NFL, but Jalen Hurts and the Birds are 9th-worst at 15.9%. QB play needs to improve.

10. defensive pressure

Wanna know how good the Birds’ defensive line is? They’re second in the NFL with a 30.4 defensive pressure percentage. On almost one-third of their snaps, they are either hurrying, knocking down, or sacking the quarterback.

All numbers come from SportRadar/Pro Football Focus