Five Eagles Numbers That Matter
1 – The number of incompletions on passes thrown to DeSean Jackson in the last three games. According to Pro Football Focus, Nick Foles has targeted Jackson 14 times, and 13 of those have been completions for 312 yards. On the season, Jackson has caught 68.2 percent of the passes thrown his way. That number has never been higher than 61.3 percent during his first five seasons in the NFL.
And it’s not like the Eagles are dinking-and-dunking to Jackson. He has a league-leading 19 catches of 20+ yards on the season and is averaging 17.0 yards per catch. That would be his best average for since 2010.
Chip Kelly has done a masterful job of maximizing Jackson’s ability as a big-play threat while making him a more efficient receiver.
42 – The number of big pass plays (20+ yards) the Eagles’ defense has allowed on the season. That’s tied for third-most in the NFL.
For a defense that prides itself on not giving up big plays, the Eagles have allowed their fair share. Overall, Billy Davis’ group is giving up 7.2 yards per attempt (17th).
This is a number to revisit in a couple weeks when Detroit comes to town. Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and the Lions rank fifth in the league with 43 pass plays of 20+ yards.
47.22 – Opponents’ red-zone touchdown pecentage against the Eagles. That’s seventh-best in the NFL and a big improvement from previous years. The Birds’ defense ranked 19th in red-zone defense last year and 29th in 2011.
This is where the whole “bend but don’t break” thing comes in. The Eagles are allowing 5.6 yards per play (21st) and 417.9 yards per game (31st). But they have moved all the way up to 15th in scoring defense (23.6 points per game). And the reason is they’re keeping teams out of the end zone.
4 – The number of defensive players in the league who have played 800 or more snaps this season, per PFF. Three of those four play for the Eagles.
DeMeco Ryans has played more snaps (858) than any other defensive player in the league. Cary Williams is second with 842. Connor Barwin is third with 827.
And Nate Allen has played more snaps (792) than any other safety.
Part of that is because the Eagles haven’t had a bye yet, but looking at the numbers, all those players will be first or second at their respective positions even after this weekend’s games.
And the pace of the offense hasn’t been a big factor. The Eagles’ defense has been on the field for 131 drives, per Football Outsiders. The league average is 118. But after this weekend when all teams are through 11 games, the Eagles will likely only be slightly higher than the average.
A bigger factor has been third-down defense. The Birds are 25th, allowing conversions 41.2 percent of the time.
The sports science angle has gotten a lot of play this season. It will be fascinating to see if the Eagles’ defensive players mentioned above are able to sustain their current level of play down the stretch, given the number of snaps they’re logging.
16.0 – The percentage of Foles passes that have traveled 20+ yards from the line of scrimmage, per PFF. That’s the third-highest number in the NFL. Foles has completed 50 percent of those attempts. That’s fourth-best.
It’s been the biggest difference from a year ago when only 10.6 percent of Foles’ attempts traveled 20+ yards from the line of scrimmage (24th) and he only connected on 35.7 percent of those throws (24th). He averaged 6.4 yards per attempt, compared to 9.6 this year (the best mark in the league).
There have been several factors in the turnaround: a healthy offensive line, an effective Jackson, coaching etc. But Foles deserves a lot of credit for improving on the deep balls.