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InFocus: Who Will Get More Snaps?

Posted Nov 22, 2012

InFocus

Back in September, I took a long look at the Eagles’ Week 1 snap data. Although it was nice to have one full regular season game of snaps to analyze, we’re now at Thanksgiving, which gives us 10 full games of data to investigate.

Today, I’m going to take a look at the Eagles’ offensive and defensive snap counts as the NFL season is nearly two-thirds complete.

Offense

Quarterback: Michael Vick (624), Nick Foles (140)

Michael Vick, of course, is the team’s starter. He handled every quarterback snap for the team until going down with a concussion in Week 10. Promising rookie Nick Foles has handled the job in the meantime.

Going Forward: Foles experienced growing pains vs. Washington in Week 11. He could start again Monday night against Carolina as Vick continues to recover. Head coach Andy Reid has said that Vick is the starter again once he’s healthy.

Running Back/Fullback: LeSean McCoy (610), Stanley Havili (178), Bryce Brown (117), Dion Lewis (3), Chris Polk (0)

LeSean McCoy has dominated the backfield snaps this season, but Bryce Brown has seen about a dozen snaps per game off the bench. Dion Lewis has been inactive for most of the season, but is currently working as the No. 3 back with Chris Polk out due to injury.

Going Forward: McCoy’s role won’t change under normal circumstances, but a Week 11 concussion could leave him sidelined for Monday night. That could mean a Brown-Lewis committee attack for the Panthers game. Either way, when healthy, McCoy will handle the bulk of the snaps, with Havili leading the way at fullback.

Wide Receiver: DeSean Jackson (710), Jeremy Maclin (623), Jason Avant (398), Riley Cooper (136), Damaris Johnson (126), Mardy Gilyard (6)

Snap counts can sometimes be tricky because they can tend to be deflated (or inflated) by injuries across the position. You may recall that Jeremy Maclin missed Week 3 and parts of Week 2 this year. Damaris Johnson earned a total of 78 snaps over those two games. With Jason Avant injured for all but 13 snaps over the last two weeks, Riley Cooper played 101 snaps and Johnson added 26 more to his total. Additionally, Cooper had missed the first five weeks of the season, which left Johnson to work sparingly as the team’s No. 4 wideout. DeSean Jackson’s 710 offensive snaps rank second on the team to only guard Evan Mathis (764).

Going Forward: Jackson and Maclin play almost every offensive snap. Both are still relatively young, too, so that doesn’t figure to change as the end of the season nears. Once his hamstring is healthy, Avant will return to the slot. Cooper is the No. 4 receiver and will help out in occasional red zone sets. Johnson’s only contributions will be as a situational gadget player.

Tight End: Brent Celek (677), Clay Harbor (230)

Playing from behind quite a bit this season, the Eagles’ two-tight end usage has tailed off as the year has progressed. They sit 20th in the league with two-plus tight ends on the field 27 percent of the time. Celek rarely misses a play and blocks on 53 percent of his snaps (26 percent of pass plays). On the field about a quarter of the time, Harbor blocks 54 percent of the time. The Eagles call a run play 40 percent of the time when Harbor is on the field, which makes him the second-closest tipoff that the team will run. The Eagles run when Havili is on the field 58 percent of the time.

Going Forward: Celek has struggled this season, but the team’s tight end situation doesn’t figure to change. Harbor will continue to run block and see a target here or there as the second tight end on the field.

Offensive Line: Evan Mathis (764), Dallas Reynolds (626), Todd Herremans (543), Demetress Bell (459), Danny Watkins (458), King Dunlap (447), Dennis Kelly (309), Jason Kelce (138), Jake Scott (80)

The 2012 offensive line merry-go-round has been one of the key reasons why the Eagles have only three wins to their credit. The Eagles were initially expected to have Jason Peters (Reserve/Non-Football Injury), Evan Mathis (starter), Jason Kelce (Injured Reserve), Danny Watkins (injured) and Todd Herremans (Injured Reserve). With those starters, the Eagles’ offensive line figured to be among the league’s best. Instead, injuries have ravaged the line, forcing Dallas Reynolds, Demetress Bell, King Dunlap and Dennis Kelly to take on prominent roles. Scott was signed last week and is already starting at right guard.

Going Forward: Mathis has been a dominant force at left guard, but the rest of the unit has struggled to consistently provide protection for the quarterback and running lanes for the tailback. Scott remains slotted in opposite Mathis, with Reynolds working in place of Kelce at center. Dunlap and Kelly are the starters at tackle, but Bell could figure into the mix, as well.

Defense

Defensive End: Trent Cole (448), Jason Babin (405), Darryl Tapp (203), Brandon Graham (180), Phillip Hunt (80), Vinny Curry (0)

Although they haven’t registered the sacks, pressure or turnover numbers most expected, the Eagles’ deep defensive line has stayed relatively healthy this season. Of course, the team regularly utilizes a rotation at each of the four line positions, keeping its starters fresh, while also getting its talented depth plenty of work.

At end, Trent Cole and Jason Babin have seen their snaps take a slight hit over the last few weeks, while Darryl Tapp has consistently seen about one-third of the snaps each week. After playing sparingly early in the year, Brandon Graham now works about 40 percent of the defensive snaps. Phillip Hunt wasn’t playing much and is no long active on game day.

Going Forward: The team has been going with four defensive ends over the past few weeks, but the rookie Vinny Curry is expected to make his NFL debut in Week 12. Will the Eagles sit one of the ends or a tackle to make room for Curry on the 45-man gameday roster?

Defensive Tackle: Cullen Jenkins (385), Fletcher Cox (373), Derek Landri (311), Cedric Thornton (253), Mike Patterson (55)

At tackle, Cullen Jenkins, impressive rookie Fletcher Cox and Derek Landri basically work in a committee to fill the top-two spots. Mike Patterson returned from brain surgery three weeks ago and, like Cedric Thornton, has played between 12 to 24 snaps per game.

Going Forward: Cox is the team’s present and future at the position. He’ll continue to see a big chunk of the snaps. Jenkins and Landri will remain heavily involved, with Patterson likely seeing more and more work as the year progresses.

Linebacker: DeMeco Ryans (669), Mychal Kendricks (622), Akeem Jordan (230), Jamar Chaney (68), Casey Matthews (28)

One of the league’s most dominant run-stuffing middle linebackers, DeMeco Ryans has been one of the clear bright spots for the Eagles this season. He’s a mainstay at middle linebacker. Mychal Kendricks has had his share of rookie struggles, but continues to start on the strong side and plays full-time in the nickel. Akeem Jordan comes off the field in the nickel, but still sees about half the snaps as the primary weakside linebacker. All but one of Jamar Chaney’s snaps came in place of an injured Jordan during Weeks 4-5. Similarly, 20 of Casey Matthews’ 28 snaps came in one big chunk (Week 8 vs. Atlanta).

Going Forward: Ryans isn’t going anywhere and the team has nothing to lose by continuing to get Kendricks work. It wouldn’t be shocking to see 27-year-old Jordan cede some work to 23-year-old Matthews later in the year, but, for now, Jordan remains the top dog on the weak side.

Cornerback: Nnamdi Asomugha (647), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (644), Brandon Boykin (342), Brandon Hughes (63), Curtis Marsh (16)

Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie have struggled with consistency this year, but both are locked in as every-down corners. Asomugha has seen only seven percent of his snaps at safety in 2012, which is quite a bit less than the 18 percent he spent back there in 2011. With Philadelphia playing from behind quite a bit recently, nickel/slot corner Brandon Boykin has seen his playing time on the decline over the last month. Brandon Hughes hasn’t seen action on defense since Week 6, while Curtis Marsh has eclipsed three snaps in a single game only once this year.

Going Forward: The team will want to get Boykin as much work as possible, but he doesn’t figure to get much work outside the slot. A third-round pick in 2011, Marsh could also see additional work during the final couple of weeks. It will be hard to get him in the mix, however, with Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie unlikely to cede more than a handful of snaps on the outside.

Safety: Kurt Coleman (670), Nate Allen (578), David Sims (57), Colt Anderson (35)

Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen have held down the safety positions this season, with David Sims and Colt Anderson adding depth. Allen has played in the box on 36 percent of his snaps, compared to 29 percent for Coleman. The starting duo is in on almost every snap. All 57 of Sims’ snaps came when Allen was out of action in Week 9, and all 35 of Anderson’s snaps came with Allen missing time in Week 6.

Going Forward: Neither Sims nor Anderson is likely to be a long-term starter, so Coleman and Allen figure to ride out the season in the starting lineup despite their struggles.

That’s a wrap for this week. Check out InFocus throughout the season for the most comprehensive Eagles analysis on the web.

Mike Clay, @MikeClayNFL on Twitter, is the Director and Managing Editor at Pro Football Focus Fantasy. He also works as an NFL Writer for NBC's Rotoworld.com.

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