By just about any statistical measure, the Eagles’ pass defense has plenty of room for improvement.
Football Outsiders had the Birds ranked 25th overall against the pass last year. Despite a focus on limiting big plays, Billy Davis’ unit was burned for 62 completions of 20+ yards, fourth-most in the NFL.
Any time the pass defense struggles, coaches point to two specific areas: pass-rush and coverage. The latter should see an improvement with Malcolm Jenkins filling in for Patrick Chung. The addition of cornerback Nolan Carroll II could help as well.
But the team did very little to bolster the pass-rush. The only significant addition up front was Marcus Smith II. And based on what we've seen in the preseason, Smith is unlikely to provide much pass-rush as a rookie. Combine that with the fact that illegal contact downfield is a point of emphasis for officials, and Davis thinks sending extra pressure might be his best chance for improvement.
"Probably," he said, when asked if the rule emphasis would lead to more blitzing. "When you put yourself as a corner, and let’s say we have quarters, which is four deep. You think if they go four deep, we’ve got four guys that are covering deep. Well, the corners are on their own either way. The corners have the ones [outside receivers], period, whether you’re rushing four or you blitz six. The corner still has the wide receiver on his own if it’s a vertical route.
"So you’re better off, if the guy’s gotta cover him the whole time anyway, let’s bring six, let’s bring seven. Let’s overload it so the ball has to come out and come out ugly if we’re gonna get flagged for any kind of a touch anyway. … More pressure will help the ball come out quicker."
According to Football Outsiders' numbers, the Eagles blitzed (defined here as more than four pass-rushers) 36.6 percent of the time last year, ninth-most in the NFL. They rushed five defenders 27.8 percent of the time and six or more 8.6 percent.
The Eagles were 19th in adjusted sack rate and 20th in overall sacks (37).
Davis constantly urges observers to look at the tape, though, not the numbers.
Asked if he felt the Eagles' pass-rush was underrated last year, Davis said: "Yes I do, yes I do. I just think that the sack numbers don’t represent… a lot of those turnovers. Take the New York Giants game at New York. Eli Manning had what, four intentional groundings? Intentional groundings, we can’t control what that quarterback’s doing when we got him. ‘I’m throwing it away, intentional grounding.’ Nobody got a sack though, even though Trent Cole or Connor [Barwin] is dumping him on his head. He got rid of it and it’s intentional grounding. ...Stats aren’t everything. It’s the film."
The Eagles have added more to their defensive package in Year 2 of the scheme, Davis said. Whether it's pass-rush or coverage, they'll need to do a better job of slowing teams down through the air if they want to build on their 2013 performance.
WHAT YOU MISSED
T-Mac has a list of potential kicker options for the Eagles.
The Rams are reportedly interested in Mark Sanchez, but a trade seems unlikely.
Why opponents could have a tough time playing a lot of man coverage against the Birds.
Game review: How the Eagles' defense performed against the Steelers. Mychal Kendricks and Brandon Graham stand out.
Chip Kelly on the plan at kicker.
The Eagles cut 14 players this weekend.
Game review: How the Eagles' offense performed. Notes on the O-Line, wide receivers and more.
Graham and Vinny Curry state their cases for bigger roles, writes T-Mac.
Some great photos from Thursday night's game.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz on the issue of so many Oregon players on the roster:
None of the guys has been forced into the starting lineup. No one is getting overpaid. Several will be cut next weekend. When Kelly puts Josh Kaddu into the lineup over DeMeco Ryans or plays Jeff Maehl over Jordan Matthews, then we’ll have an issue. These guys fit the schemes. They were drafted or signed for the right price. They are being used correctly. Why does it matter if they came from Oregon or Nebraska?
If this was Steve Spurrier forcing Danny Wuerffel on us…that would be a whole other story.
Tom Pelissero of USA Today on the possibility of Sanchez going to the Rams:
It's only natural for Mark Sanchez's name to come up in connection with the St. Louis Rams in the wake of starting quarterback Sam Bradford's season-ending knee injury, given Sanchez's experience in coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's offense.
But if Sanchez has anything to say about it, there's "no chance" he'd abandon his fresh start as a backup under coach Chip Kelly with the Philadelphia Eagles for a shot to rejoin Schottenheimer and play in St. Louis, a person with knowledge of Sanchez's thinking told USA TODAY Sports on Sunday.
We'll be at practice today and will have plenty of updates. We're all aware that two weeks from today, we'll be dissecting a regular-season game, right?