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.

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.

COMING UP

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.
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  • knighn

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

  • 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.

  • Richard Colton

    Yeah, I get the “take what the D gives you” and exploit mismatches approach. But why sign Casey to be the swiss army knife fullback/TE if you’re not going to use him to do either? And where is Ertz? They target stone-hands Cooper 7 times in a game, why not run a few plays for Ertz?

  • Brent E. Sulecki

    Im with you. hes clearly a talented kid. and when it comes to casey. I mean you sign him the first day of free agency. for what?? to play 8 snaps in 3 games..thats ridiculous. obviously they aren’t telling us something. I mean why do us as fans have to tell this brain trust what to do….from the grumblings from us for playing Curry to now with Ertz and Casey..this has me worried

  • Adam

    Combination of things. Casey was brought in before they had Ertz, so their plans for him may have changed. Ertz and Casey aren’t good enough to put them out there just for the sake of getting them the ball just yet. D

    Vick comes into play as well. Better to keep things simple and familiar. Clearly doesn’t have trust/chemistry with those guys yet. When you start throwing a ton of different looks and personnel at him it just makes more room for error.

    Plus, the offense is average 450+ yards a game. Not having Ertz and Casey out there isn’t the problem whatsoever. It’s the turnovers and the defense.

  • JofreyRice

    Even with the mistakes aside, this didn’t look like a game where a healthy dose of plays to exploit the middle of the field and the seams might have been more productive than throwing it to Riley Cooper?

    It’s kind of like the San Diego game. You can look at the yardage and touchdowns and say Vick played really well. He did, but he could have been even better. He missed throws that might have given Jackson the all time yardage mark for a Wide Receiver. I mean, that’s how good Kelly’s offense can be, at its best–like redefining limits good.

    For as good as the offense is, I think there is room for improvement, besides the turnovers. They are only around the middle of the pack for 3rd down conversions. Converting and stopping the other team from converting are really crucial to winning, in my mind.

    For me, having their plans change about Casey is not really a great explanation. Besides, Ertz is only playing about a quarter of the snaps, himself. If you believe in a guy enough to pay him 8 million guaranteed, I think you find some role for him other than ST’s.

    It may come off as incongruous to praise Kelly’s scheme on one hand, then criticize the underuse of the TEs on the other, but they–including Kelly–spent some serious resources to get the guys in green. I really want to see them put to use to score points.

  • Dutch

    There’s been 3 turnovers in 3 games. The turnovers in the KC game were a factor in that loss, but in the San Diego game it was all defense and nothing more that cause that game to be a loss.

    Point of the matter is Casey was not and is not now a threat in any offense other than as a blocker.

    He’s proven that in dropping a sure touchdown wide open. Houston never relied on Casey to move the ball and it’s not a healthy expectation the Eagles in this offense should either.

    Ertz should come along and begin to show some consistency. But there’s nothing to expect from Casey other than what we have seen so far.

    As teams commit to doubling DJax Ertz is going to have to raise his game and become a reliable target up the seams. Ertz may be the only weapon to take the safety off of D Jax

  • UKEagle99

    PM may not be able to run like Smith but do not under estimate his ability to move around in the pocket whilst keeping his eyes downfield. If the Eagles are going to have success against him they need to get a good push up the middle, I don’t see Soap being ‘that guy’ so may be Logan gets some more playing time at NT.

  • Brent E. Sulecki

    Logan for sure

  • UKEagle99

    I totally agree, I have been one of the people giving the offence a hard time around here. Too often promising drives have sputtered to an end with disappointing plays, dropped passes, penalties etc. Sacks, missing on 50 yard passes are going to happen but the silly mistakes need to be ironed out.

    Yes, they are averaging somewhere just under 30 points a game which compared to last year is a vast improvement. However when compared to how many points they could (should) have scored, it is scary to think what can be achieved once this thing starts firing on all cylinders.

  • Dutch

    It’s a brand new concept and scheme in it’s 4th game, up coming. What is familiarity in that case? Where has Casey shown himself to be a weapon, in what offense and where? At Rice University?

    Casey’s best season saw him catch 33 balls and so far he’s playing in this offense as a 33 ball maximum reception tight end who is depended upon to block. That’s as close to being a weapon that Casey has ever been in a NFL Offense.

  • Dutch

    The Casey signing by Roseman was blowing smoke up the tails of the gullible fans. This guy was not then and is not now a receiving threat from the tight end position. As disappointing as some are with Celek, he’s still the best option down the seams on this roster.

  • defroe81

    I WOULD RATHER HAVE KEPT HARBOUR WHY DIDNT WE KEEP HARBOUR AND PICK UP GHOULDSON OR SOMEONE WORTH WHILE ON D…