You know the drill. Here are three Eagles numbers that matter.
4 – The number of “close” interceptions by Nick Foles in 2013, as charted by Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders (via ESPN Insider). We know that Foles only threw two interceptions in 317 pass attempts during the regular season for a ridiculously low rate of 0.6 percent. But a fair question is: How much of that was luck, and how much of that was good decision-making?
Per Kascmar's research, Foles didn't need a lot of luck in this category. He charted zero dropped interceptions by opponents. The four close INTs included: one that DeSean Jackson broke up against the Cardinals; one that was negated by a questionable holding penalty against Arizona; and one against Green Bay where two defenders ran into each other.
Even if all four of Foles' near-picks were turnovers, he still would have had an interception rate of 1.9 percent; that would have been eighth-lowest in the NFL.
Some might point to 2012 and say Foles' propensity to take care of the football is nothing new. But that's a bit misleading. Foles threw five interceptions in 265 attempts as a rookie for a rate of 1.9 percent. But luck played a bigger role in his first season. In 2012, Foles had eight would-be interceptions dropped by opposing defenders, per Football Outsiders. His adjusted interception rate was 4.2 percent.
Bottom line: Foles deserves credit for real improvement in this area, and Chip Kelly deserves credit for hammering home the "Take care of the football, and let the offense work" message to his quarterback.
1,189 - The number of snaps played by DeMeco Ryans in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus. That was the most of any front-seven player in the NFL.
Ryans, who turns 30 in July, did a lot of good things for this defense. He made the calls and checks before the snap; he was effective against the run; and he is one of the most respected/well-liked guys in the locker room. But ideally, I don't think Billy Davis and Kelly want Ryans on the field as much going forward.
The obvious point is anyone who plays that many snaps could use a breather. But more importantly, Ryans' strength is playing the run, not the pass. He has issues at times in coverage and wasn't particularly effective as a blitzer (although a lot of that is scheme). Ryans is due $6.8 million in 2014. I still think he's back one way or another, but the Eagles will likely tweak their sub packages depending on personnel.
Last season, they played almost exclusively nickel, bringing Brandon Boykin in and taking an interior lineman off. Ryans and Mychal Kendricks always stayed on the field. The Eagles have several options going forward. They could add (or develop) more defensive backs and play more dime (six DBs, one inside LB), or they could add more of a hybrid LB who spells Ryans.
One way or another, the guess here is that Ryans comes off the field more in 2014.
8 - The number of safeties who have started at least one game for the Eagles over the last three seasons. Can you name them all?
OK, time is up: Nate Allen, Patrick Chung, Earl Wolff, Kurt Coleman, Colt Anderson, David Sims, Jarrad Page and Jaiquawn Jarrett.
They've tried every avenue: the draft, free agency and trades. But among the eight names listed above, there's a chance that only one (Wolff) is on the roster in 2014.
We know Kelly has preferred measurables for each position, but what does he want from safety? The two guys the Eagles added last offseason - Wolff and Chung - were about the same size (5-11 and 209/210, respectively). Wolff tested very well athletically at the scouting combine.
A 2012 ESPN.com article indicated that Kelly really wanted size from his defensive backs towards the end of his tenure at Oregon:
The way the Ducks rotate defensive players will allow them to use different combinations to see where their younger and bigger athletes will fit in the future.
By the time the 2014 season comes around, the Ducks could line up a secondary that includes Seisay (6-2) and Tyree Robinson (6-3) at the cornerback spots -- with a combination of Tyrell Robinson (6-3), Reggie Daniels and Oshay Dunmore (both 6-2) at the safety spots.
Size isn't everything, as the Ducks have proved over the years, but if they are able to roll out a lineup in the secondary that looks like that, size no longer would be an issue.
One free agent safety who has some size is Miami's Chris Clemons (6-1, 214). Clemons is 28 and has started every game the last two seasons. He ran a 4.41 coming out of college in 2009.
I need to do a lot more homework on Clemons, but he should cost less than top-tier guys like Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward. Given his size and experience, Clemons could be a name to watch in March.