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February 18, 2021

Assigning blame for each of the Eagles' NFL-leading 65 sacks allowed in 2020

The 2020 Philadelphia Eagles allowed 65 sacks, which led the NFL by a wide margin. The next closest team (there were three of them) allowed 50. Is that bad? It feels like that's bad.

The last team to allow at least 65 sacks in a season was the Cleveland Browns, who allowed 66 sacks in 2016. They went 1-15 that season. The following is a list of teams that allowed at least 65 sacks in a season, and their win-loss records, in the last 20 seasons:

Year Team Sacks allowed 
 2020Eagles (4-11-1) 65 
 2016Browns (1-15)66 
 2014Jaguars (3-13)71 
 2006Raiders (2-14)72 
 2005Texans (2-14)68 
 2004Bears (5-11)66 
 2002Texans (4-12)76 
 2001Lions (2-14)66 

The combined records of the teams above is 23-104-1 (.184). 
My conclusion? There's a strong correlation between giving up a lot of sacks and losing football games. #Analysis.

In the Eagles' case, what was to blame? For this exercise, we looked at all 65 of the Eagles' sacks, and tried to determine what went wrong on each sack. The short answer is that it wasn't just the offensive line that allowed a lot of sacks. It was a lot of different things.

• The offensive line has been a top 5 unit in the NFL over the last half decade or so, but in 2020, injuries forced the team to have to play 14 different starting offensive line combinations. Guys who are borderline NFL players, like Jamon Brown or Sua Opeta, had to start games. Other players, like Matt Pryor and Jason Peters, played out of position and were exposed.

But the line really wasn't that bad in 2020. PFF had them ranked 19th, which isn't great, of course, but it's close to the league average. ESPN's analytics, meanwhile, had the Eagles' offensive line as the 11th best in "team pass block win rate." They also ranked second-best in "run block win rate." Those are obviously very good rankings. 

On the eye test, they got good play from Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson (when healthy), Isaac Seumalo, Jordan Mailata (later in the season), Nate Herbig, and Jack Driscoll. There were plenty of games in which the O-line protected the quarterback just fine. Even on the sacks they allowed, I found that most them weren't of the "The QB had no chance" variety. In other words, the narrative that "no quarterback could have had success behind this line" is nonsense, in our view.

• Both Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts were responsible for more than their share of the sacks taken in 2020. Eagles quarterbacks were responsible of 21.5 of the total tally, by our count, and they didn't help on a bunch of others.

• The Eagles' scheme stunk in a lot of different ways, but one glaring way that Doug Pederson and Co. didn't adjust to their personnel was the insistence on running slow-developing plays down the field to receivers who couldn't run them, and a banged-up O-line that shouldn't have been counted on to protect for 4+ seconds.

• The receivers often didn't get open, which led to coverage sacks.

Here is how we would place blame for the sacks on the season:

 Player / explanationSacks allowed 
 Carson Wentz13.5 
 Jalen Hurts
 Jordan Mailata
 Matt Pryor
 Jason Peters
 Coverage sack
 Jamon Brown
 Jack Driscoll
 Sua Opeta
 Nate Herbig1.5 
 Nate Sudfeld
 Jason Kelce
 Isaac Seumalo
 Brett Toth
 Richard Rodgers
 Boston Scott
 Corey Clement
 Kept clock running late in game
 Shouldn't have been called a sack
 Lane Johnson0.5 
 Dallas Goedert0.5 

For the purpose of showing one's work, here's a pair of videos of each sack, with an explanation of what we saw on each sack thereafter: 

Sack 1: Football Team safety Troy Apke comes down from his safety spot and blitzes to the outside. Driscoll abandons his responsibility in Ryan Kerrigan to pick up Apke, and Kerrigan has a free run at Wentz. Meanwhile, Apke is double-teamed by Driscoll and Boston Scott. Wentz makes the sack worse by retreating further back into the pocket, but this one is on Driscoll.

Sack 2: On the very next play, Kerrigan isn't sold that Dallas Goedert is actually trying to block him, and he quickly realizes a screen is coming. With nowhere to throw it, Wentz tucks the ball and tries to run it, but Matt Ioannidis brings him down for a loss of 2. If you'll recall, Wentz was concussed on a similar play in the playoffs last year against the Seahawks. If the screen isn't there, just chuck it into the dirt like almost every other quarterback in the NFL. That's on Wentz.

Sack 3: Corey Clement chips Chase Young on the edge, and it's actually too effective, as he propels Young into an unplanned-but-nasty spin move to the inside, and Jason Peters is left blocking the air. Still, Peters shouldn't be getting beaten inside when he knows he has chip help from the running back on the outside. That’s on JP. Wentz makes the situation worse by trying to make a play that isn’t there, and fumbling.

Sack 4: It's Richard Rodgers' job here to get enough of Montez Sweat to force his pass rush inside so Wentz can get out on a naked bootleg to the right. However, Sweat owns Rodgers at the point of contact, and he is able to cut off the boot action. Wentz tries a pump fake to get Sweat in the air, but Sweat isn't buying it. A throwaway here is easier said than done. This one is on Rodgers.

Sack 5: Wentz holds it, and holds it, and holds it, until it's a loss of 13 yards. Once he bounced off of Nate Herbig, that's it. End of play. Get rid of it and salvage the field goal. Instead, he retreats an extra five yards and gets tracked down by three defenders. Wentz.

Sack 6: It's 4th and 4, and the Football Team is sending Jon Bostic on a blitz up the middle. Doug Pederson placed blame on Boston Scott for not identifying the blitzing linebacker, and blocking him.

Sack 7: In order to sell play action, the Eagles are having Isaac Seumalo pull across the formation, and he is tasked with blocking Ryan Kerrigan. Kerrigan isn’t fooled, and Seumalo doesn’t really have much of a chance of blocking him. Clement doesn’t offer much help. Easy to blame Seumalo here, but I’ll put this one on scheme. Unwilling to concede the sack, Wentz holds the ball carelessly as he goes down.

Sack 8: Matt Ioannidis gets a step on Nate Herbig, causing Wentz to move to his left, while Young and Da'Ron Payne collapse the pocket well enough that Wentz has nowhere to escape, and they swallow him up. We’ll give this one to Herbig, for causing Wentz to move off his spot.

Sack 9: Nothing is open in the end zone, and Wentz takes a sack after having almost 5 seconds to throw. This was third down, so there was no difference between a sack and a throwaway. We’ll call this one a coverage sack.

Sack 10: Oof. Jason Peters.

Sack 11: Peters again. If Peters’ guy hadn’t gotten there, Lane Johnson’s guy would have.

Sack 12: Slow-developing pass rush by the Niners gets home, as DT D.J. Jones eventually finds his way to Wentz, unblocked, as he loops around the left side. This was a 2nd and 27 play with slow-developing routes down the field, and nobody got open. We’ll ding Driscoll for not coming off his double-team and blocking Jones.

Sack 13: 3rd and 8, Eagles go empty set. Niners are blitzing their slot CB off the edge, so the ball has to come out quickly. It doesn’t, and in this case, he had options to throw to. We’ll go half Wentz, half Herbig for slow recognition of the looping DE inside.

Sack 14: 3rd and 9. Sack is essentially the same as an incomplete pass, so we won’t ding Wentz for not throwing this away. Jordan Mailata doesn’t block anyone, and Jason Kelce’s guy eventually finds his way to Wentz, but if something were open, the ball would have come out already. Coverage sack.

Sack 15: Ertz, Hightower, and Fulgham all eventually get some separation in their routes, so this isn’t a coverage sack. It’s either on Wentz for not getting the ball out, or on Mailata, for getting bull-rushed deep into the pocket by Bud Dupree. If Wentz tries to throw this under heavy duress, and a Steelers pass rusher gets the ball out, we’re killing him for that. I think this one is on Mailata, for forcing Wentz to flee the pocket.

Sack 16: 2nd and 12. Wentz’s first look is a throw to the flat to Miles Sanders, and it’s there. He doesn't take it, and it might’ve gotten 5 or more yards, depending on whether Sanders could’ve broken a tackle or not. Instead, he resets, and eventually goes down. A potential 3rd and 7 (or maybe better) becomes 3rd and 17. Wentz.

Sack 17: A blitzing DB runs right by Clement as the Eagles are running play action. We’ll put this one on Clement, as he probably should have seen the blitz coming. (It looks worse from the “All-22” angle.)

Sack 18: The Eagles are running a stop-and-go to Fulgham, and it’s there before the pressure gets to Wentz (as shown in the All-22 look). Throw it!

Sack 19: Mailata beaten around the edge.

Sack 20: Calais Campbell beats Jamon Brown.

Sack 21: Greg Ward is definitely either No. 1 or No. 2 in the progression here, and while not wide open, he at least had a chance (as shown in the all-22 look). Wentz either didn’t like it or didn’t see it and instead took the sack on 3rd down. This is of course the play in which Jamon Brown sacked Wentz, but this one is on Wentz.

Sack 22: The Ravens take advantage of Jamon Brown by sending a blitz his way. Brown lets Campbell go to try to pick up the blitzing LB, even though Jason Kelce isn’t really blocking Campbell, and both defenders come free, with Campbell getting home first. This is what happens when you have no continuity, and you’re on your fourth RG of the season. We’ll give it to Brown.

Sack 23: Brown gets thrown out the club.

Sack 24: Brown is beaten by Campbell again, but Campbell doesn’t get home. On the opposite side of the line, Patrick Queen (48) is playing a little game of peekaboo with Mailata, pretending to blitz to occupy Mailata so that the blitzer on the edge gets a free run. The Eagles typically want to be sure the inside guy (48) is accounted for. We’ll be kind and call it a scheme sack.

Sack 25: Brett Toth can’t get to the corner blitz.

Sack 26: Wentz runs around for a while before he’s sacked. It’s 3rd and 9, so he’s trying to keep the play alive, but even on 3rd down there are times you just throw it away. Being this deep in your own is one of them. But also, he had open receivers.

Sack 27: Loss of 0. Meh. Nobody clearly open down the field, no lineman beaten. We’ll call it a coverage sack.

Sack 28: Mailata beaten around the edge.

Sack 29: Mailata whiffs badly on the inside move by DeMarcus Lawrence.

Sack 30: This is just a totally unacceptable play by Wentz. He had almost eight seconds to throw, but worse, he was out of the pocket and could have easily thrown it away, and it’s not as if he couldn’t have seen the defender coming. Careless football. Careless turnover. These are the types of plays that cost games, but Wentz was lucky Brandon Graham bailed him out with a strip sack on the Cowboys’ ensuing possession.

Sack 31: There’s a lot going on here, but I’ve landed on Matt Pryor mistakenly blocking 99 instead of 55, though you kind of can’t fault him for blocking 99. Jason Kelce seems to recognize it and probably would have gotten to 99 in time, but Pryor did not. Tough one to give to Pryor, so we won’t. We’ll call this one a scheme sack.

Sack 32: Eagles are up 14, and just trying to run clock. The Eagles call a play that allows Wentz to hit a wide open receiver if it’s wide open or just go down to keep the clock running if it’s not there. Aldon Smith picks up a garbage sack.

Sack 33: Sua Opeta steps on Wentz’s foot.

Sack 34: The Eagles have Opeta pull from his LG spot to block a defender on the right side of the line. Opeta and Boston Scott block the same guy, while a down lineman gets a free run at Wentz. It feels like Scott made the correct read (picking up the blitzer), while Opeta should have blocked the lineman. We’ll ding Opeta here, but I don’t love the idea of giving an already overmatched lineman making his first ever start difficult reads like this.

Sack 35: Kyler Fackrell (51) is looping inside here, and Matt Pryor is too slow to recognize it. Wentz has nowhere to move, and the rest of the Giants’ line finishes. This one is on Pryor.

Sack 36: JP beaten soundly by Olivier Vernon.

Sack 37: JP beaten soundly by Adrian Clayborn. If Clayborn hadn’t gotten there first, someone else probably would have.

Sack 38: Lane Johnson is pushed back into the pocket, so he is not blameless here, but where is the pocket awareness by Wentz? It’s a three man rush, and when he feels pressure, he steps in the direction of the only pass rusher who is being single-blocked. Johnson and Wentz can split responsibility here.

Sack 39: Not pictured, Goedert is wide open down the seam, and Sanders is open in the flat. At a minimum, Sanders is there as a target for a throwaway. When you’re backed up in your own end zone, you have to get the ball out quickly, and there were options. Yes, JP doesn’t do a great job on Vernon, but from snap to sack, Wentz had 3.3 seconds to get rid of it. This is on Wentz.

Sack 40: Mailata is dusted around the edge. We’ll ding him here, clearly, but Wentz should be stepping up in the pocket here too to help his OL.

Sack 41: At first glance, this looks like it should be on Seumalo, but I’m not sure what else he could have done. Seumalo blocks his man well initially, and when Mailata is not in position to make the switch (Mailata blocking the DT, and Seumalo taking the stunting DE), Seumalo is left in a no-win situation, having to decide whether to leave his man free to kill Wentz by picking up the DE, or staying with his guy and letting the DE kill Wentz. He chooses to pick up the DE, and Mailata compounds his poor positioning by pushing the DT right into Wentz, lol. We’ll give this one to Mailata.

Sack 42: Pryor barely even gets a hand on Carlos Dunlap, and yet, Wentz still has 3.7 seconds from snap to sack. Can’t really blame Wentz here, though. It’s 3rd down, and a sack is only slightly worse than a throwaway, and nobody is open downfield, so who cares? Pryor deserves to be dinged here for getting beaten with speed by a power DE.

Sack 43: Wentz has single coverage options all over the field, and he’s protected reasonably well (just under 4 seconds) before Poona Ford eventually gets to him. This is on Wentz. Throw it.

Sack 44: The Eagles are in 3rd and 10, and they’re running a screen to Boston Scott. Normally, you’d love to see a blitz against a screen, but it develops slowly, and Jamal Adams is too good of a blitzer to allow the time needed for this play to be successful. We’ll put this one on scheme.

Sack 45: The Seahawks send 6, and Wentz has 3.5 seconds from snap to sack. That should be plenty of time to get the ball out against 5 in the secondary. Of course, that doesn’t excuse Goedert getting dusted on the edge by a LB. Wentz and Goedert can split this one.

Sack 46: Pryor just isn’t a RT. We’ll ding him here, but (a) this is a pretty useless chip by Sanders, and (b) Wentz’s complete lack of pocket awareness shows up again.

Sack 47: Not pictured, nothing is open down the field. Coverage sack.

Sack 48: This was the game in which Wentz got benched, and it was the first time you can see his head come down and watch the rush. Obviously, he has plenty of time to throw, and his focus is not down the field.

Sack 49: The Eagles keep 6 in to block 5. Wentz feels a little contact from a blitzer, and his eyes again immediately come down. Down the field, Hightower has single coverage on a stutter-go that’s promising, and Ward will come open on a dig. Wentz.

Sack 50: On the outside, Goedert is running a quick slant. Wentz is looking right at it, and he doesn’t pull the trigger. Why not? It’s first down. Take the easy throw. I would guess the second look is Ertz, who isn’t open, and by the time Wentz gets to his third progression, he is gobbled up by Kingsley Keke, who puts on a “big man shake-and-bake” to dust JP. Yes, JP is beaten here, but this ball should be out. This is on Wentz.

Sack 51: Jalen Hurts time. No real pressure. Hurts rolls to his left and runs out of bounds for a short loss. Stat-padding stat for the defender.

Sack 52: Hurts gives up on his progressions really quickly, as rookies often do. I’ll put this on him as well.

Sack 53: Hurts is well-protected, Hightower is wide open in the turkey hole, and Goedert is open in the flat. Hurts sees a lane up the middle though, and makes a break for it, but it closes up. This one is on Hurts.

Sack 54: 3rd and 15. Alshon Jeffery is open for a short completion, but there’s no way he gets the first down here. Hurts passes up that throw. Maybe Jeffery gets enough for a long FG attempt? Anyway, again, Pryor is not an NFL RT. We’ll ding him.

Sack 55: Pryor gives number 48 a death stare that makes him retreat in terror, but Hassan Reddick is left alone to kill Hurts. OK, in all seriousness, as we noted above with the Mailata example in the explanation in "Sack 24," Eagles O-linemen are taught to take the inside guy when there's no RB help behind them and they're left to choose, but come on, man. It can’t look like this. The LB does a terrible acting job, and you can't just leave Hassan Reddick open to crush the QB. I can't call this one scheme. This has to be on Pryor.

Sack 56: Interesting play design. Scott is running a wheel, and the orbit motion WR (Ward) is running a wheel behind Scott, and then there’s a screen coming behind the two wheel routes. It doesn’t work. Seumalo’s job is essentially to slow down No. 94, but also let him run himself out of the play. He doesn’t slow him down at all. We’ll give this one to Isaac.

Sack 57: See explanation for Sack 51.

Sack 58: Jeffery and Ward are both open, and Hurts has time. Ball has to come out.

Sack 59: Again, Pryor just isn’t an NFL RT.

Sack 60: This was initially ruled a TD, but was overturned because Hurts stepped out of bounds at the 4. If we have to ding someone, I guess this goes against Hurts?

Sack 61: Shot play (out and up to Goedert), and it would have been there, but it’s slow-developing and requires outstanding protection. Mailata oversets, and DeMarcus Lawrence beats him inside.

Sack 62: Hurts thinks he sees a big juicy lane up the middle, so he runs for it, but Lawrence is stunting, and Hurts runs right into his path.

Sack 63: This is a run play. The two receivers on the left side are blocking. This shouldn’t have been counted as a sack.

Sack 64: Nate Sudfeld tank time. Suds’ first look isn’t there, and neither is the checkdown. The three receivers on the right side of the field never get a look. Jack Driscoll’s man eventually gets there, but it’s not on him. He can’t reasonably be expected to protect a spot 12 yards behind the LOS. This is on Suds.

Sack 65: Weird moment from Kelce here seemingly not seeing the blitzer run right by him.

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