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June 28, 2020

The Eagles played from behind through most of the 2019 season

Eagles NFL

In three out of the last four years, despite compiling a cumulative record of 38-26, the Philadelphia Eagles have spent more than 50 percent of their season behind on the scoreboard, and less than 35 percent of the season leading their opponents.

Hayden Winks of Rotoworld posted the following graph, showing how often teams were leading or trailing when they had the ball. The Eagles ranked 18th in offensive snaps with a lead, and 20th in offensive snaps with a deficit.

I reached out to Winks, and asked if he had data for seasons other than just 2019, and he was kind enough to pass it along. From the Doug Pederson / Carson Wentz era:

Year Offensive snaps Snaps leading (%)Snaps trailing (%) Snaps tied (%) 
2016 1017 352 (34.6%)532 (52.3%136 (13.4%)
2017 984 497 (50.5%)285 (29.0%)205 (20.8%) 
2018 967 307 (31.7%)504 (52.1%)159 (16.4%)
2019 1022 336 (32.9%)519 (50.8%)170 (16.6%)

The numbers in 2016 and 2017 aren't surprising, as the Eagles went 7-9 in 2016, and obviously they wrecked opponents all season long in 2017. However, you won't often make the playoffs when you trail as much as the Eagles did in 2018 and 2019.

One of the continuing narratives of the 2018 season was the Eagles' anemic first quarter offense. Much of the heat from the Eagles' inability to start fast fell on the shoulders of Mike Groh, who was in his first year as the team's offensive coordinator, after Frank Reich left to become the Colts' head coach. A comparison of first quarter scoring from 2017 to 2018, to 2019:

Eagles 1st quarter points 2017 2018 2019 
 Game 1 0
 Game 2 0
 Game 3 10
 Game 410  0
 Game 521  14
 Game 614  0
 Game 7 7
 Game 8 3
 Game 917  3
 Game 10 3
 Game 11 3
 Game 12 10
 Game 1314  0
 Game 14 3
 Game 15 10
 Game 16 3
 Game 17 0
 Game 1814  N/A
 Game 19N/A  N/A
 TOTAL129 (6.8/game) 58 (3.2/game) 69 (4.1/game) 

In 2019, the "slow start" narrative died down to some degree, but the reality is that while the Eagles' first quarter points per game rose by 0.9, 4.1 first quarter points per game remained well below average, and they actually scored fewer first quarter touchdowns in 2019 (6) than they did in 2018 (7). 

Credit the team's ability, led by Carson Wentz, to come back and win as many games as the Eagles did last season, but playing from behind as much as they have and still managing to make the playoffs just isn't sustainable. From the Eagles' perspective, God bless the crappy NFC East, I guess.

To be determined if the Eagles' coaching changes this offseason will help.

MORE: Three running backs who could make sense for the Eagles in a trade | What they're saying: Ranking the Eagles roster, the state of the franchise and the latest trade rumors | 10 reasons the Eagles will be a dumpster fire this season

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