Philadelphia Eagles: A look at the skill players

Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

John Breitenbach takes a look at the performance of a few notable skill position players so far in 2012

Last week I looked at five Eagles who failed to step up, and including in that list was Jeremy Maclin. In contrast to his teamate, Desean Jackson looks like he's much improved as he's cut down on the drops and broken more tackles. With injuries to Maclin, Riley Cooper and Jason Avant, Damaris Johnson has gotten on opportunity and flashed some ability in limited snaps. Another player who needs more snaps is Clay Harbor, who's performed adequately as a receiver and made some good blocks in the ground game. Finally to the backfield where Bryce Brown has seen most of the number two's reps. I'm not sure he's the best option though, as he's struggled a little in pass protection as well as with ball in hand. I'd like to see a little more of the explosive Dion Lewis to really tell who deserves the job.

Wide Receivers - Desean Jackson and Damaris Johnson

First let's take a look at Jackson's improvement in performance since he's been drafted:

Year

Targets

Receptions

Catch %

Yards

TDs

INTs

DPs

MTs

2009

119

66

55.5

1182

10

5

5

5

2010

96

49

51.0

1103

6

2

12

4

2011

95

58

61.1

961

4

7

9

1

2012

67

43

64.2

695

2

2

1

7

*All statistics courtesy of PFF

Jackson's projected numbers this year are up across the board. He's improved his catch rate by nearly 5% since last year and is projected to get close to his career high in yards. The number of INTs when targeted are also down, which is especially surprising considering how many turnovers Michael Vick has had this year. The solitary dropped pass is probably the most encouraging statistic considering Jackson has dropped 26 of them the past three years. He has also improved his career high forced missed tackles despite having played only nine games.

Johnson meanwhile has only run 81 snaps but he's caught nine of 14 passes for 156 yards with one missed tackle. That's very good production in limited reps as only 19 players (with more than 50% of snaps) have averaged more.

Tightends - Brent Celek and Clay Harbor

First let's compare their receiving numbers:

Player

Snaps

Targets

Receptions

Catch %

Yards

TDs

INTs

DPs

MTs

Celek

281

58

36

62.1

467

1

3

6

3

Harbor

83

19

14

73.7

104

1

2

1

3

Each player has some positive numbers and some less so. Celek has made big plays when he has made the catch, but he's been left wide open a number of times as just three forced missed tackles shows. He's also dropped six of 58 targets including some balls that have ended up as interceptions and what would have been a crucial touchdown in the Detroit game. Although the sample size is small, Harbor's gotten open and made the catches when he's been on the field as the 73.7% completion rate shows. He has also forced the same number of missed tackles as Celek despite being on the field for less than three times as many snaps.

Player

Run Snaps

Stops allowed

Pass pro snaps

Sack

Hits

Hurries

Celek

234

12

101

2

2

4

Harbor

90

1

30

0

0

1

The blocking department is where Harbor really distinguishes himself. He's been much more consistent than the man currently starting over him, allowing just one stop in the run game and one hurry in pass protection. Sample size issues again apply but Celek's simply made too many mistakes in a year when the offensive line needs all the help it can get.

Running Backs - Bryce Brown or Dion Lewis

Brown's rushing numbers:

Attempts

Yards

Average

Yards after contact (YCo)

YCo/Att

TDs

MTs

Fumbles

28

96

3.4

87

3.1

0

2

2

To be fair Brown's only had 28 carries, and we didn't get to see much of Lewis last year, but what stands out is the lack of forced missed tackles and pair of fumbles. The high average yards after contact per attempt is impressive and suggests his low yardage per carry has at least something to do with the struggles of the offensive line. If Reid only used his backup backs more it would be easier to identify the superior player. The fumbles are especially concerning though and two in just 28 carries is unacceptable.

Pass protection:

Snaps

Sacks

Hits

Hurries

19

0

1

3

Brown rightly deserves praise for picking up Orlando Scandrick on Nick Foles' deep touchdown to Maclin against the Cowboys but aside from that he's been pretty poor when asked to take on rushers. To put his numbers in perspective, McCoy has allowed three hits and four hurries on 125 drop backs when he's stayed in to block. Typically Reid doesn't play backs that aren't good backfield protectors so it may be a sign that Lewis is even worse. Ironically Brown has two targets in the receiving game, one of which resulted in an easy drop and the other where he forced a missed tackle. Obviously more is needed to tell what kind of a receiver he is.

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