In the last six weeks, the Eagles are allowing just 17.7 points per game.
Before the season started, a stretch like that seemed unlikely. After the team gave up 33 to the Chargers in Week 2 and 52 to the Broncos in Week 4, it seemed even more unlikely.
But Billy Davis, his assistants and the players have turned things around. Overall, the defensive is allowing 24.4 points per game (20th) and 5.6 yards per play (22nd). Football Outsiders still has the Eagles’ D ranked 28th overall.
So while no one would deny that there have been massive improvements from the beginning of the season, the question is: With six games left, where is this defense?
As always, we go to the tape for answers, breaking it down category-by-category. Read more »
Nick Foles’ response struck the right tone.
He knew he had gotten a little lucky. But throwing a 55-yard touchdown in the NFL, regardless of circumstances, is not easy. So he was not about to apologize.
“I need to throw it a little further, but it just so happened that the ball popped up the way it did, and that happens in sports,” Foles said when asked to describe the 55-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson against the Packers. “That happens all the time. Sometimes it doesn’t work out for you. That time it did. And I was very thankful it did.” Read more »
For the better part of five weeks, the run game left LeSean McCoy, the offensive line and the coaching staff somewhat frustrated.
Chip Kelly and company had trouble getting everyone on the same page. McCoy averaged just 3.4 yards-per-carry on 90 attempts from Oct. 6 to Nov. 3. He failed to tally a single run of 20+ yards during that span.
While we spend a lot of time in this space talking about scheme and X’s and O’s, sometimes it’s as simple as the best players doing things the opponent can’t account for.
That brings us to Sunday’s game against the Packers, which was easily one of McCoy’s best performances of the season. There have been seven instances this year where a running back has amassed 150+ yards while averaging 6.0 yards per carry or better. McCoy was the running back on two of those seven.
On Sunday, he carried 25 times for 155 yards (6.2 YPC). The blocking up front was better at times. But during other instances, it was just McCoy doing what he does best: making defenders miss. Read more »
Defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro has a philosophy when it comes to getting his guys prepared: coach during the week, and let them play on Sundays.
For the Eagles, the practice week starts on Tuesday. But that session is primarily spent correcting mistakes from the previous game. Wednesday is when the team puts the pads on and looks ahead to the upcoming opponent.
On most weeks, for the defense, that means an emphasis on stopping the run. While much of the league is focused on figuring out ways to get to the quarterback, Billy Davis has employed a two-gap 3-4 scheme that focuses on controlling the ground game. So when defensive linemen arrive at NovaCare on Wednesdays, the game-planning usually starts with the same idea.
“It’s the beginning of the workload week for us,” said rookie Bennie Logan. “So that’s the main thing going into any game is stop the run, try to get teams as one-dimensional as possible. You figure we stop the run against most teams, that pretty much changes their whole offensive plan. And that’s our main thing Wednesday, we call it our no-run day. So we make sure we focus on our technique, getting our hands on the opponent and make sure they don’t get no big runs on us during practice. Because if they get it in practice, pretty sure they’ll get it in games.
“You get your hands on people, anybody, you can pretty much stop the running game. That’s our main thing when we go into games is make sure we get our hands on our opponent and just control the line of scrimmage so the linebackers can flow.” Read more »
In the days leading up to Sunday’s game against the Raiders, Chip Kelly was asked what his message would be to Nick Foles to get him to rebound from the clunker against the Cowboys.
“Sometimes, as I told Nick, grip it and rip it, let’s go,” Kelly said. “He’s thrown a lot of really good passes since I’ve been around him, and he’s been really good with the football.
“The big thing for him is let’s just get him back in the flow. Let’s get in a rhythm. That’s the biggest thing. Can you get in a rhythm, can you get your feet set, can you throw the ball?”
Answers to those questions came against the Raiders: yes, yes and yes.
After losses to the Cowboys and Giants and a grand total of three points by the offense, Kelly emphasized that there would be no grand scheme changes. The concepts would stay the same, but the execution had to get better.
And it did. To the tune of 49 points in three quarters. So what worked? And why was there such a difference from the previous two weeks? Here’s what we saw from the tape. Read more »
With the Eagles having scored 10 points in their last two games, Chip Kelly told his offense this week to take cues from an unlikely source: the defense.
“I don’t think there’s anything else our offense needs to look at except our defense,” he said. “They’ve stayed the course. They’ve worked continually on their techniques. We haven’t added a lot of new things for those guys. We continue to let them feel comfortable in what we’re doing. On a weekly basis, I see them getting better and better and better.”
Billy Davis and his staff are employing the same tactics they used early in the season, but the results have been vastly different. The Eagles allowed 34.5 points per game in the first month of the season. In the last four weeks, that number is down to 18.3. Granted, strength of opponent has played a major factor, and there’s still a long way to go, but the improvements are showing up on tape, and it starts up front with the defensive line. Read more »
One of the fundamental principles of Chip Kelly’s scheme is to set the offense up to take advantage of one-on-one matchups.
There’s plenty of blame to spread around when it comes to reasons why the Eagles have managed just one field goal offensively in their last eight quarters. But one is the failure to capitalize and win those matchups. Read more »
Back in the spring, new Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis was asked if he had spent time looking at Jim Johnson’s scheme and concepts.
“He had some great dynamic pressures, and I’ve studied a lot of them,” Davis said. “They were out-of-the-box thinking. But when you really break him down, it was more guys up in the A-gaps with the illusion of pressure than actual [sending] more than four rushers.
“There were times that he brought more. …But he did a great job of keeping offenses off-balance through both pressure, illusion of pressure and non-pressure. And you need all elements to attack an offense because there’s some times you pressure some of the stuff Coach [Chip Kelly] does, you’re going to get eaten alive.”
Davis’ comments serve as a good launching off point to examining what’s working well for the Eagles on defense. Last week, they were able to keep Tony Romo off-balance and free up rushers all game long, both with the blitz and the threat of the blitz. Read more »
Trent Cole used to pace around his locker stall like a mad man leading up to big games. If it was Dallas week or Giants week, the look in his eyes would get a little bit crazier, his voice more animated. One time a couple seasons back he was so hyped that he did an entire interview standing on a chair while talking nonsensically.
He would get wound up and wound up some more until the band was ready to snap, then would unleash it all on Sunday.
The 31-year-old has mellowed some of late. He’ll still get wild but not as often or to the level he used to. On this particular day he did the interview seated on his chair and speaking in a measured tone, even with the New York game fast approaching. Truth be told, his new position doesn’t require the bat-out-of-hell Trent Cole. Seek and destroy has been largely replaced by read and react. Read more »
Anyone watching Sunday’s game could see that Nick Foles was off, to steal the term Chip Kelly used to describe his quarterback.
He overthrew receivers and undthrew receivers. Threw behind them in some instances and was too far out in front in others. Foles’ accuracy was quite possibly as bad as you’ll see from an NFL quarterback this year (11-for-29 for 80 yards overall).
But beyond the misses were the plays where Foles failed to see the entire field or simply hesitated to pull the trigger. Coming off a strong performance the week before against the Bucs, it’s difficult to come up with an explanation for why the second-year QB was so bad.
Read more »