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July 05, 2019

Eagles 2018 dropped passes tally, with analysis

Eagles NFL
070419AlshonJeffery John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports

Alshon Jeffery led the Eagles with five drops, which really isn't all that bad.

In 2015 and 2016, one of the biggest issues for the Philadelphia Eagles' lack of success was the play of the wide receivers, specifically, their penchant for dropping catchable passes. They corrected that issue somewhat in the Super Bowl season in 2017, but they still had plenty of room for improvement.

For some reason, as heavily as the NFL is covered from a statistical metric standpoint, there are no reliable sources for drops. While drops are subjective to some degree, the following is a representation of the number of drops by each Eagles player in 2018. 

We'll order them by number of drops, but the column to the far right shows the total drop percentage of what we'll refer to as "reasonably catchable passes," or drops divided by (drops plus catches). To be clear, that's not total targets, which I believe are a bad measure of drop percentage, seeing as the receiver often has no chance of catching some of those targets. Got it? No? Yes? Well whatever, here's what I came up with (regular season only):

Player Drops Catches Drop % of catchable passes 
 Alshon Jeffery65 7.1% 
 Zach Ertz116 3.3% 
 Nelson Agholor64 4.5% 
 Josh Perkins37.5% 
 Josh Adams30.0% 
 Wendell Smallwood28 9.7% 
 Golden Tate30 9.1% 
 Darren Sproles15 11.8% 
 Jordan Matthews20 4.8% 
 Corey Clement22 4.3% 
 Dallas Goedert33 2.9% 
 Others with no drops17 0.0% 
 TOTAL29 422 6.4% 

The following players with at least one reception had no drops:

  1. Kamar Aiken: 6 catches
  2. Jay Ajayi: 5 catches
  3. DeAndre Carter: 2 catches
  4. Richard Rodgers: 1 catch
  5. Shelton Gibson: 1 catch
  6. Nick Foles: 1 catch
  7. Carson Wentz: 1 catch

The Eagles' drop rate of 6.2 percent in 2018 was a nice improvement over 2017. Here's how 2018 compared with the last two seasons:

Year Drops Catches Drop % of catchable passes 
2016 43 380 10.2% 
2017 32 341 8.6% 
2018 29 422 6.4% 

The biggest offender, from a total number of drops standpoint, was Alshon Jeffery, with five. Jeffery, of course, playing through broken ribs, also dropped a pass that effectively put the final nail in the coffin on the Eagles' season. 

(That drop is not counted in his total tally.)

Still, Jeffery's drop rate of 7.1%, while not ideal, is far from awful. The Eagles' biggest drop rate offenders in previous seasons had far worse drop rates, as noted below (minimum 35 catches):

Player Drops Catches Drop % of catchable passes 
Dorial Green-Beckham (2016) 12 36 25.0% 
 Torrey Smith (2017)36 16.3% 
 Nelson Agholor (2016)36 14.3% 
 Nelson Agholor (2017)62 10.1% 
 Jordan Matthews (2016)73 9.9% 
 Trey Burton (2016)37 9.8% 

The players deserving of praise for catching the football in 2018 are Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, and Nelson Agholor.

  1. Ertz's drop rate of 3.3% on 120 catchable passes is outstanding, as usual.
  2. Goedert one drop on 34 catchable passes his rookie season. Analysis: He's good.
  3. Agholor had a very good 4.5% drop rate, after struggling with drops in each of his first three seasons. He has shown steady progression in that area as a pro.
It's also worth noting that earlier this offseason, we posted video of all of DeSean Jackson's targets in 2018. Within the analysis of that piece, I wrote that I would ding him for two drops. Because he had 41 catches, his drop rate would be 4.7% in 2018, which is very good for an outside receiver.

On the negative side, Corey Clement and Jay Ajayi excluded, the Eagles' running backs did a terrible job of catching the football, with Wendell Smallwood's third down drop in the red zone against the Vikings serving as the most costly. Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders have a low bar to clear in improving the Eagles' passing attack from the running back position.

Overall, a drop rate of 6.4 percent is good (though still not great), and their trend of improving in that area bodes well for 2019.

*We updated a previous version of this story that said Goedert had no drops. He did have one that we missed initially.

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