What’s Not to Like?
They had a successful first season under Chip Kelly. They have one of the best RBs in the league, a dynamic WR coming off a career year, an intriguing TE, and a hot young QB. Of course the Eagles are a good team, both for real life and fantasy purposes. But there’s another reason why I like them a lot. Injuries… or lack thereof.
Secret Agent Man
I know, I know, “injuries are a part of football”, and “you can’t predict injuries”. I’m sure that’s true. But it’s also true, apparently, that you can reduce the risk of injury. Consider this report about the Eagles’ Mystery Man:
The premise is simple: Teams invest millions in players; why not devote significant resources, including a dedicated position on the coaching staff, to a cutting-edge approach that will help keep players on the field and maximize their performance?
OK, that sounds reasonable, right? I mean, other teams are doing it, and seeing benefits. In soccer, one team saw a 75% reduction in soft tissue injuries thanks to using good training technology. But the Eagles didn’t stop with just technology. They hired a really interesting guy to be their “Sports Science Coordinator”:
In August 2007 Huls, a civilian, became the first strength coach hired to work in the human performance program at Special Warfare Group 2. A practitioner of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, he’s the type of trainer who wants to experience the demands on his athletes, so he would do seven-mile ocean swims or carry around the SEALs’ 70-pound backpacks to feel the strain on his body. His hiring was part of a push by the Navy to train SEALs smarter, so his most important challenge was to reduce the non-combat-related injuries that were taking highly trained operatives away from their units during wartime.
The “human performance program”. Pretty sure the Seals aren’t fucking around. The entire articlee quoted above is worth a read, for more background on Huls and the program he brought to the Eagles.
The last sentence of the quote above is the key part: his main job was to reduce injuries. So, how did the Eagles fare in the injury department?
- They had the fewest man games lost to injury in the NFL.
- They were near the top in fewest starter games lost
- They had the most 16 game starters in the league (total 14).
I’d say they did pretty well. Take a look at this chart:
I combed through the weekly NFL injury reports to get a sense of how players were reported. The obvious caveat is that many teams (allegedly) play games with the injury report, to glean whatever competitive advantage they can. Still, I think it’s interesting. The right most column shows the percent of players listed on a team’s injury report that had “full participation in practice”. Over 80% of the Eagles players who were on the injury report were able to practice fully, compared to less than 50% for the league overall. The Eagles also listed a higher percentage of players as “Probable” for games, and fewer as “Questionable” compared to the league overall.
What Does it All Mean?
I think for now this is mostly just interesting information. I’d consider using it as a tie breaker though, when choosing between two players for your fantasy roster. For example, I’m probably putting LeSean McCoy at the top of my RB list in part because of this information. I might also choose DeSean Jackson over a similarly-rated WR. Could they still suffer some major injury that causes them to miss games? Of course. But this does appear to be a potential competitive advantage the Eagles have.