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June 23, 2015

NFL rookie snap counts: Eagles rookies used sparingly in 2014

Analyzing the Eagles' 2014 rookie snap counts

Eagles NFL
062315MarcusSmith Michael Perez/AP

Marcus Smith played the second fewest snaps among all rookie first round picks a year ago.

In 2014, Eagles draft picks played just 1295 combined snaps, which was the seventh-lowest total in the NFL. The league average for drafted players (playing with the team that drafted them) was 2162 combined snaps per team.

Here's a graph of each NFL team, and how many snaps they got out of their drafted players (Snap counts via ProFootballFocus):

 TeamDrafted rookie snap count Team Drafted rookie snap count 
 Jaguars4947 Dolphins 1946 
 Raiders4265 Seahawks 1937 
 Bills3526 Colts 1888 
 Packers3294 Cardinals 1884 
 Rams3108 Redskins 1816 
 Giants2864 Texans 1756 
 Panthers2817 Buccaneers 1729 
 Browns2759 Chiefs 1712 
 49ers2700 Patriots 1485 
 Ravens2468 Eagles 1295 
 Vikings2446 Jets 1188 
 Bears2305 Steelers 1087 
 Titans2290 Lions 1044 
 Cowboys2056 Broncos 1013 
 Falcons2027 Chargers 981 
 Bengals1991 Saints 567 

Rookie snap counts can be looked at a number of different ways. Are your rookies only getting playing time because you're a young team that is building? That argument can certainly be made for Jaguars, who drafted nine players, all of whom played at some point in 2014, and six of whom played at least 500 snaps. Are you a very good team that drafted well and got key contributions from a number of rookies? The Packers could be an example of that kind of team. Then there are teams that stink, and drafted horribly. The Jets, for example, were a 4-12 team that had a whopping 12 draft picks. Half of them never played a snap, and only two played more than 100 snaps.

The point is that each team has its own individual story. In the Eagles' case, it's fair to say their 2014 class produced disappointing returns last season. Here are the Eagles' rookie snap counts, by player:

 RoundPlayer Snaps played 
 1Marcus Smith 74 
 2Jordan Matthews 779 
 3Josh Huff 210 
 4Jaylen Watkins 31 
 5Taylor Hart 
 5Ed Reynolds 
 7Beau Allen 201 


Let's look at each player individually, and project their playing time in 2015:

 Marcus Smith: Smith played the second fewest regular season snaps (the fewest if you include the playoffs) among all first round picks a year ago:

Draft position Player Team Snaps played 
 17C.J. Mosley Ravens 1101 
 16Zack Martin Cowboys 1076 
 19Ja'Wuan James Dolphins 1069 
 4Sammy Watkins Bills 1051 
 5Khalil Mack Raiders 1034
 6Jake Matthews Falcons 962 
 21Ha Ha Clinton-Dix Packers 960 
 28Kelvin Benjamin Panthers 948 
 3Blake Bortles Jaguars 909 
 14Kyle Fuller Bears 877 
 31Bradley Roby Broncos 818 
 32Teddy Bridgewater Vikings 813 
 9Anthony Barr Vikings 793 
 12Odell Beckham Jr. Giants 793 
 7Mike Evans Buccaneers 790 
 2Greg Robinson Rams 749
 13Aaron Donald Rams 724 
 27Deone Bucannon Cardinals 705 
 18Calvin Pryor Jets 699 
 20Brandin Cooks Saints 545 
 10Eric Ebron Lions 452 
 8Justin Gilbert Browns 373 
 11Taylor Lewan Titans 359 
 29Dominique Easley Patriots 270 
 20Jimmie Ward 49ers 270 
 15Ryan Shazier Steelers 260 
 25Jason Verrett Chargers 230 
 1Jadeveon Clowney Texans 146 
 23Dee Ford Chiefs 122 
 22Johnny Manziel Browns 79 
 26Marcus Smith Eagles 74 
 24Darqueze Dennard Bengals 61 

When the Eagles drafted Smith, he was a player who was thought to be a high upside guy who might take some time to develop. However, with those types of "projects," you at least want to see something encouraging, but Smith never flashed potential the same way a guy like Josh Huff did as a rookie. 

Obviously, Smith's lack of playing time is a major reason why the Eagles had one of the lowest overall rookie snap counts in the NFL. Smith will almost certainly be on the 53-man roster once training camp shakes out, but he will also almost certainly not start Week 1 in 2015, barring an injury to Connor Barwin or Brandon Graham. Even in the event Barwin or Graham go down, it's no guarantee that Smith would be the first man up, although he got some first-team reps during OTAs and minicamp.

• Jordan Matthews: Matthews was very good as a rookie, finishing fifth in receptions and yards among a rookie wide receiver class that may have been the best of all time:

 PlayerTeam Draft position Rec Yards TD 
 Odell Beckham Jr.Giants 12 91 1305 12 
 Mike EvansBuccaneers 68 1051 12 
 Kelvin BenjaminPanthers 28 73 1008 
 Sammy WatkinsBills 65 982 
 Jordan MatthewsEagles 42 67 872 
 Jarvis LandryDolphins 63 84 758 
 John BrownCardinals 91 48 696 
 Allen HurnsJaguars UDFA 51 677 
 Taylor GabrielBrowns UDFA 36 621 
 Brandin CooksSaints 20 53 550 
 Martavis BryantSteelers 118 26 549 
 Allen RobinsonJaguars 61 48 548 

Matthews' snap count should go up in 2015, as he is likely to get more opportunities on the outside when the Eagles aren't in their typical 3-WR sets.

• Josh Huff: Huff had his share of bad moments in 2014. He had a pass deflect off his hands for a an interception against the Texans, and he had a key fumble against the 49ers in the red zone. On the other hand, he also had some moments where he flashed explosive talent, such as his kickoff return against the Titans, and an impressive catch and run against the Cowboys:

Expectations are much higher for Huff this offseason than they were a year ago, as many (myself included) see him as a player who will receive far more opportunities to play in 2015.

• Jaylen Watkins: Watkins was a bit of an afterthought last season, as he didn't play in the regular defense until the meaningless Week 17 game against the Giants. Watkins bulked up a bit this season, preparing for a potential move to safety, but with Walter Thurmond emerging as the favorite to start at safety and the Eagles having drafted three corners, Watkins will have to battle just to make the team. If Watkins is able to stick, he's unlikely to play much again in 2015.

• Taylor Hart: Hart didn't play at all last season, and he's part of a crowded group along the defensive line. Chip Kelly reportedly wanted to draft the former Duck in the third round, so it's possible he still has some level of support from the head coach. However, like Watkins, Hart will have to earn a roster spot, and even if he does, snaps will be hard to come by in 2015.

• Ed Reynolds: Reynolds was cut in 2014, and I suspect he'll be cut again in 2015.

• Beau Allen: The Eagles got a good return on their seventh round pick a year ago, with Allen getting 201 snaps. He'll likely return as a rotational NT.

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