The thinking goes like this: The offense plays fast all game long, but doesn’t always score or string together long drives. This leads to short breaks for the defense, too much time on the field and late-game fatigue.
On its surface, the theory seems to have some merit. The problem? There’s no real evidence to back it.
“Each team’s gonna get their number of possessions in games,” Ryans said. “I don’t feel like it’s totally skewed one way or the other.”
And he’s absolutely right.
Football Outsiders tracks such things, and their numbers show that 11 teams have been on the field for more drives than the Eagles through the first three weeks of the season. The Eagles’ D has been on the field for 36 possessions; the league average is 35.
In other words, the offense is not putting the defense on the field more. The defense is just doing a poor job of getting off the field.
“It’s getting better on third down and getting ourselves off the field,” Ryans said. “I feel like we keep shooting ourselves in the foot so much that we’re playing more plays because of the mistakes that we’re making.
“The point is we have to get off the field. We’ve been on the field you said 40 minutes a game. Most of those times we probably missed a tackle, missed a play, missed an assignment where we could have been off the field, and that time could have been shortened. So as we focus on ourselves more and play better, tackle better, communicate better, we’ll get off the field. And we’ll spend less time on the field.”
The numbers back Ryans’ sentiment. The Eagles’ D has been on the field for an average of 6.47 plays per drive. That ranks 29th in the NFL, per Football Outsiders. They’ve forced a three-and-out 11.1 percent of the time. Only the Vikings have been worse.
Again, the issues right now on defense have nothing to do with the offense’s pace. The Eagles’ defense is not on the field for more possessions than the average NFL team. Projected over a 16-game season, the D will be on the field for 192 possessions. As friend of the blog Sam Lynch points out, that’s not really different from previous seasons.
From 2008 to 2012, the Eagles’ D averaged 188.6 drives per season. If the defense keeps its current pace, we’re talking about 3.4 more drives over the course of an entire season, an insignificant amount.
The bottom line? The defense needs to do a better job of getting off the field, regardless of what’s happening on the other side of the ball.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Billy Davis is turning to the Eagles’ past for help with Peyton Manning, writes T-Mac.
“If I was a betting man, I’d take the Eagles,” says LeSean McCoy.
All-22: Behind the read option, the Eagles have turned into the best rushing team in the NFL.
A roundup of what the national media are saying about the Eagles this week.
DeSean Jackson is looking forward to his matchup with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Also, be sure to give Birds 24/7 a follow on Twitter. In addition to sending out links, there will be additional contests/promotions. Rumor has it that T-shirt giveaways may even be involved!
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Doug Farrar of SI.com gives Chip Kelly a B for his performance so far:
The grade would be lower if I was expecting the Eagles to compete for the division this season, and if Philly’s secondary could do … well, much of anything. Kelly has revitalized Michael Vick’s career to a point, but the quick-quick nature of his offense also plays to Vick’s decision-making liabilities, and it’s clear that there are times when this offense is moving too quickly for just about everybody. On the plus side, he’s got a potential NFL MVP in LeSean McCoy, and everybody knows that this will be a process that takes multiple seasons, probably a different quarterback and definitely a few new pieces on defense.
Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com offers thoughts on fixing the defense:
Time and experience will only cure so many things. Some of the errors come down to guys just being sloppy and not executing well. Mychal Kendricks is too talented to miss as many tackles as he is. I think his biggest problem is playing too fast. He ends up off-balance and reaching or diving for the ball. Kendricks needs to play more under control and keep his feet under him so he’s got a good base and can be in good tackling position. Before you get too worried about him, remember that another Eagles 2nd round pick had tackling issues when he was young…some kid named Brian Dawkins.
The coaches are working with players to fix their issues. Some of the problems will go away this year. Others will take longer. Some will never go away, which may lead the player to go away.
We’ll hear from Kelly and the players. Tonight is Birds 24/7 Radio on 97.5 The Fanatic. We’ll be broadcasting live from Smiths at 6 p.m.