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Jalen Hurts is getting a little help from his friends in short-yardage

Dallas Goedert

Photo Credit by John McMullen/JAKIB Sports

The Eagles have the league’s fourth-best success rate on third-and-one and fourth-and-one this season. They’ve converted 72.2% of their and-1s on third/fourth down. They’ve converted 9 of 13 on third down and 4 of 5 on fourth down.

Quarterback Jalen Hurts is their primary weapon in those situations. He has converted 12 of 14 and-1s. He’s 8-for-10 on third down and a perfect 4-for-4 on fourth down.

Hurts is next to impossible to stop on quarterback sneaks. He has fullback size and fullback strength, along with one of the best offensive lines in the league in front of him.

But it’s what’s been behind him on many of those plays that has been getting a lot of notice. The Eagles have been lining up a player in the backfield about a foot behind Hurts on sneaks – usually tight end Dallas Goedert – and having him push Hurts once he takes the snap.

In case you were wondering, this is indeed legal, although for many years it wasn’t. Prior to 2006, it was illegal to push or pull a teammate with the ball to help him advance.

In ’06, the league took the push restriction out, making the assistance Hurts has been getting from Goedert perfectly legal.

With one exception. On one of Hurts’ two rushing touchdowns in the Eagles’ 20-17 win over Arizona, Goedert got in front of his quarterback and actually pulled him into the end zone.

According to Dean Blandino, the NFL’s former supervisor of officiating who now works for Fox Sports and The 33rd Team, a penalty should have been called, but seldom is.

The Eagles already have 13 fourth-down attempts this season. That’s the sixth most in the league. They have the league’s fourth-highest fourth-down success rate (69.2%, 9-for-13). Last season, they had just 24 fourth-down attempts (tied for 14th) and had the league’s eighth-lowest fourth-down success rate (45.8%, 11-for-24).

Head coach Nick Sirianni didn’t use Hurts very much on and-1 plays last season, even though the quarterback had a high success rate. He converted six of seven third-and-ones and both of his fourth-and-one tries.

Hurts report

–Five of Hurts’ six touchdown passes have come in the second quarter. The Eagles have scored 112 of their 161 points in that quarter. Hurts has a 123.2 second-quarter passer rating and is averaging 9.7 yards per attempt. He has an 83.1 passer rating in the first quarter (66.1 completion percentage, 7.9 yards per attempt), 84.8 in the third quarter (62.9, 7.3), and 87.5 in the fourth (75.0, 6.8).

–Hurts has thrown just one pass in the last three games that has traveled 20 or more yards in the air. That was 22 yards to DeVonta Smith against the Cardinals in Week 5. Hurts threw eight deep balls against Washington in Week 3 but has thrown just four in the other five games. Most of that has to do with the plethora of zone coverages the Eagles have been seeing from opposing defenses.

–In the first six games, 54.5% of Hurts’ pass attempts and 47.0% of his passing yards have been on throws of 0 to 10 yards. Last year, just 45.4% of his throws and 37.0% of his passing yards were on 0-10-yard throws. He had seven TDs and three interceptions on 0-10-yard throws last year. He has three TDs and no interceptions from that distance so far this year.

–Hurts has completed six of his 12 deep balls (throws of 20 yards or more). DeVonta Smith has caught three of those six deep-ball completions for 111 yards. A.J. Brown has two of them for 92 yards and Quez Watkins has the other for 53 yards.

–Hurts has improved in almost every significant passing category this season. He’s jumped from 22nd (87.2) to sixth (98.4) in passer rating, from 26th (66.8%) to 9th (66.8) in completion percentage, and from 15th (7.3) to third (8.2) in yards per attempt. He’s sixth in third-down passer rating (107.9) after finishing 22nd last year (82.0). Fifteen of his 35 third-down attempts (42.8%) have produced first downs. Last year, just 38.3% of his third-down throws (41 of 107) resulted in first downs.

Good hands

–The Eagles have just 10 drops in their first six games, according to Pro Football Focus. Four players have two – DeVonta Smith, A.J. Brown, Dallas Goedert, and Kenny Gainwell. Miles Sanders and Noah Togiai each have one.

–Twenty-three of A.J. Brown’s 33 receptions have produced first downs. That’s the most on the team. DeVonta Smith, who also has 33 catches, has 21 receiving first downs. The only other Eagle with more than four receiving first downs is tight end Dallas Goedert, who has 17.

–The Eagles have not used their running backs much in the passing game so far. Miles Sanders has 11 catches, Kenny Gainwell has just four and Boston Scott has one. Sanders and Gainwell each have just one receiving first down. Sanders caught 50 passes as a rookie in 2019 (19 first downs), but that was a different offense and coaching staff, although Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen was the Chargers’ offensive lieutenant in 2019-20 when running back Austin Ekeler caught 166 passes.

–Goedert leads the league’s tight ends and wide receivers in yards-after-the-catch average (11.3). Patriots tight end Jonnu Smith is second (10.5). Two hundred ninety-three of Goedert’s 357 receiving yards have been after the catch. A big reason for that has been his increased role in the Eagles’ screen game. Eleven of Goedert’s 26 catches have been screens. He’s gained 126 yards on those 11 screens.

–Goedert is 11th among tight ends in receptions, but fourth in receiving yards and first in yards per catch (13.7).

–A.J. Brown is averaging 6.9 yards after the catch. That’s the second-highest of his career. He averaged 8.9 yards after the catch as a rookie with Tennessee in 2019. Last year, he averaged just 3.6. Smith, who averaged just 3.3 yards after the catch as a rookie last year, is averaging 5.0 this year.

Personnel-ly speaking

–The Eagles used 11-personnel (1RB,1TE,3WR) a season-low 57.3% (39 of 68 plays) in their pre-bye win over the Cowboys. That was the lowest use of 11P this season. They used 12-personnel (1RB, 2TE, 2WR) 22 times and 13-personnel (1RB, 3TE, 1WR) seven times.

–In their first six games, the Eagles have used 11 personnel 68.2% of the time (289 of 424 plays. They’ve used 12P 22.9% (97) and 13P 8.5% (36). Last year, they used 11P 63.8%, 12P 25.3% and 13P 9.2%.

–The Eagles are averaging 4.9 yards per carry with 11 personnel, 3.7 with 12P, and 1.8 with 13P, which they typically use in short-yardage situations and end-of-game kneel-downs.

–Jalen Hurts has a 97.7 passer rating with 11 personnel, including a 68.7 completion percentage and 8.4 yards per attempt. Four of his six touchdown passes have been with 11P. So have all 15 of his sacks.

More good stat stuff

–The Eagles have scored 19 offensive touchdowns in their first six games. Just one of those TD drives has been four plays or less. Seven have been 5-7 plays, four have been 8-10 plays and seven have been 11 plays or more. Their longest touchdown drive play-wise was 16 plays against Arizona in Week 5.

–The Eagles had nine missed tackles against the Cowboys. That actually was the third-fewest of the season. They had only four against Washington in Week 3 and six against Jacksonville in Week 4. For the season, they have 57. Typically, linebackers and safeties have the most missed tackles because of the fact that they also have the most tackle opportunities. And that’s the case with the Eagles. Safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and linebacker T.J. Edwards both have a team-high nine missed tackles. Safety Marcus Epps and linebacker/edge-rusher Haason Reddick each have six. Three safeties are at the top of the league’s missed-tackles category, according to Pro Football Focus – the Texans’ Jalen Pitre (16) and the 49ers’ Talanoa Hufanga, and the Cowboys’ Donovan Wilson (both with 12).

–In their first five games, the Eagles ran 51 RPO (run-pass option) plays. That was the second most in the league. Atlanta was first with 70. Just 18 of those 51 RPOs were runs.

–The Eagles had 16 quarterback pressures against the Cowboys. Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave had five, Reddick had four and defensive ends Josh Sweat and Brandon Graham each had three. Reddick leads the team in quarterback pressures with 21, followed by Sweat (19), Hargrave (17), and Graham and Fletcher Cox (15).

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