Eagles Wake-Up Call: Don’t Blame Offense For Struggles On ‘D’

DeMeco RyansDeMeco Ryans doesn’t buy the theory making the rounds that suggests the Eagles’ offense is putting its defense in a tough spot.

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.


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!


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.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

Around The Web

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • knighn

    Sheil – I love when you find Facts that challenge commonly held assumptions! Good stuff!

  • Brent E. Sulecki

    Birds sacked alex smith 5 times. if they can keep tight on those receivers and backs and the te and still get the same pass rush they did on KC, I think they can be effective. PM cant move the way AS was in that game avoiding rushers and scampering down field. PM will look to get rid of the ball not rush so playing tight coverage and consistent constant pass rush is key. love being the underdog. Birds and the over ALL DAY!!!

    • EaglePete

      thats why you always bet against the public. Watch, it will end up 20-17 because everyone expects 42-38.

  • Brent E. Sulecki

    and…More increased snaps for Ertz and Casey please. Utilize ALLthe weapons you have.

  • Kevin

    Great stuff as usual Sheil! This is why Chipper believes time of possession is a meaningless stat. It correlates to defensive efficiency, but it isn’t a good indicator. Items such as as plays per drive, points per drive, etc., are much better as they rate to performance and can directly be influenced by the D. Time of possession is skewed by incompletions, time between snaps, etc.

    Also, plays run is a better way of measuring the potential ‘tiredness’ of a defense instead of time of possession. Would you rather run 10 – 40 yard dashes with 15 seconds of rest or 30 seconds? If you condition for 15 seconds, your recovery is even better for 30 seconds, and of course the reverse is true. It will be interesting to see how Knighton and the other big guys on Denver’s line hold up if we can maintain an offensive rhythm. And if PM decides to play tempo too… how much will that impact the Broncos D?

  • PaoliBulldog

    If the Eagles’ D was forcing a lot of three-and-outs, would anybody complain that Vick, McCoy, DJax, et al., were spending too much time on the field? Gawd, I hope not.

  • defroe81

    ok sure the man mans up and says its our own fault and sure i get it. but when the offense turns the ball over 5 times and you just got off the field that doesnt affect anything? really? cool… lol

  • defroe81

    and i dont mean averages i mean just the chiefs game they stopped the chiefs on 3rd down for most of the game but couldnt seem to do it in the fourth… why is that?

  • anon

    I think the D was ok this game, except for generally in the 4th quarter. They were really good for 3 quarters, but to expect them to be great in 4 would be overachieving i think. We just need to get a game where the O and the D BOTH play at a high level. But i’ve seen good things from both sides — it’ll come together.

  • distantfires

    Perhaps, but the Eagles are giving up about 2X more points in the 4th quarter than they are scoring. They are approximately even or slightly ahead in points scored in the first three quarters.

    We’ve seen this before and it’s how games are lost.