Power Rankings: Sanchez boosts Eagles

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Jordan Matthews and Mark Sanchez have formed a productive combination.

The Philadelphia Eagles were No. 5 in the weekly ESPN.com NFL Power Rankings before Nick Foles’ injury. Since then, the Eagles have improved to No. 4 in the rankings with Mark Sanchez as quarterback.

The Eagles are 3-1 and averaging six more points per game in Sanchez’s starts this season, but are they really better with him at quarterback? The numbers say yes, but with games against the Seahawks and Cowboys the next two weeks, those numbers will be put to the test.

Offense moving better

Under Sanchez, the Eagles’ offense has been better at finishing drives and limiting turnovers. Granted, the Eagles still lead the NFL in turnovers this season (28); they were averaging more than 2.6 per game in Foles’ starts this season. In Sanchez’s starts, that rate has dipped below 2.0 (1.8).

Fewer turnovers mean more opportunities to score, and Sanchez has been able to convert. The Eagles are scoring on nearly half of their drives with Sanchez after scoring on one-third of their drives with Foles.

Eagles’ Drives by QB – This Season

Not only is the Eagles’ offense scoring more frequently under Sanchez, but they’re scoring more touchdowns as well, especially in the red zone.

The Eagles scored a touchdown on 35 percent of their red zone drives under Foles, which would be the lowest in the NFL this season (49ers currently are lowest: 39 percent). Under Sanchez, the Eagles are closer to the league average (55 percent), scoring a touchdown on 52 percent of their red zone drives.

But why is Sanchez doing better?

Sanchez may be working the Chip Kelly offense more to design than Foles had been this season. Sanchez is getting rid of the ball quicker, throwing shorter and getting more yards after the catch than Foles was.

Sanchez’s passes have been thrown an average of 2.45 seconds after the snap this season, quicker than Foles’ 2.73-second average. The difference might seem minimal, but of the 39 quarterbacks with 100 passes this season, Sanchez’s time from snap to release ranks as the 11th-quickest. Foles’ ranks 33rd.

Eagles’ QB Comparison - This Season

One of Foles’ biggest faults this season was his deep passing. Foles threw the ball at least 30 yards past the line of scrimmage 22 times this season. He hasn’t played since Week 9, and that’s still within three of the league lead. Foles completed four of those passes (18.2 percent), and although three of those were touchdowns, he also had four interceptions deep.

Sanchez has done a better job of picking his spots, going 3-of-6 on passes thrown at least 30 yards downfield with no interceptions. And by picking his spots better and getting the ball out quicker, Sanchez has been more effective passing to the Eagles’ biggest play-making receivers.

Targeting Jeremy Maclin,
Jordan Matthews This Season

Sanchez has completed 74.0 percent of his passes to Jeremy Maclin and Jordan Matthews this season after Foles completed 55.9 percent of his passes to the duo. Sanchez has especially taken a liking to Matthews, who has caught five of his eight pass touchdowns this season. Matthews had two touchdowns with Foles at quarterback.