Eagles Wake-Up Call: The Mileage On ‘D’

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Close your eyes, Cary Williams. You’re not going to want to see this.

The defense was on the field for 42 minutes, 17 seconds Sunday and played 76 snaps. The workload is actually up a tick from last season. In 2013, the Eagles were last in the league in opponent snaps per game (71.6) and time of possession (33:40). Through four games this season, those numbers have risen to 73.8 plays and 35:38  TOP.

We know that Chip Kelly isn’t a time of possession guy, but is he at all worried about the miles being logged on defense?

“No, I’m not,” he said. “I thought our defense ‑‑ when I watched them, I don’t think they’re winded.”

“I tell you what, I thought they held up outstanding,” added Billy Davis. “When you watch the fourth quarter of that game and we just got done watching the clip as a group, you couldn’t tell if it was the third play or the 77th play as far as playing the run and not getting knocked back and effort to the ball and finish. There was a clip of Trent Cole running across the field to get [Colin] Kaepernick out of bounds, I think it was the 71st play.  I think the 75th play was Cedric [Thornton] busting through a double‑team and making the tackle for loss.”

The defense put forth probably its finest performance of the season against the Niners, and has risen to the occasion late in games so far this year. They’re trained for the “Have a half a sip of Gatorade and, ‘Hey, defense is back up!'” way of life, as Davis put it. They are well conditioned and frequently rotate their defensive front in the name of staying fresh.

But what about the cumulative effect?

DeMeco Ryans leads all inside linebackers in snaps (317), just like last season. Connor Barwin has played more than any other 3-4 outside linebacker in the league. Malcolm Jenkins is tops amongst safeties. And yes, Williams is No. 1 amongst cornerbacks. Ryans claims that he felt great at the end of last season and isn’t being negatively impacted by all the reps. Others, as you know, disagree.

“It does take its toll, truthfully,” said Williams. “But we still have to do our job, man. It doesn’t matter if we’re out there 50 minutes or we’re out there the whole 60, we have to get our job done.”

As Davis and others have pointed out, some of the pain is self-inflicted. If they were better at getting off the field on third down or didn’t commit costly penalties, the numbers would shrink.

“What we have to do is break down and get rid of the mistakes, get rid of the penalties that extend downs and that’s where us getting us off the field lies,” said Davis. 

True, but the fact remains that even if you get off the field in short order, there’s a good chance that you’re a half sip of Gatorade and back in. Kelly’s offense can be three-and-out or three-and-in in a blink with little clock burned. That means plays, plays, plays. The Eagles rank first in average overall plays per game (141), which factors in the amount of offensive plays in a contest for both a team and its opponent.

Now seems like a good time to point out that the Eagles are 3-1 and coming off a division title, so this is hardly a recipe for disaster. But it does bring two questions to mind: Will all this mileage eventually catch up with them? And can a defense be dominant under these conditions?


A look at what’s behind Nick Foles’ inconsistent play. 

Lane Johnson goes from spending Sundays on his buddy’s couch to starting at right tackle. Sheil catches up with the lineman.

Jeremy Maclin was a surprise spectator at Tuesday’s practice.

A player-by-player breakdown of the Eagles’ offensive performance Sunday. 

Five things to know about the Rams, courtesy of Mr. Kapadia.  


Linebacker Jake Knott and offensive lineman Kevin Graf have re-joined the practice squad. More from CSN Philly.

After beginning the season on the practice squad, Graf was added to the Eagles’ 53-man roster on Sept. 9 after Evan Mathis went on injured reserve-designated for return. Graf was inactive for each of the last three games.

Knott, who played 12 games and made six tackles for the Eagles last season as an undrafted rookie out of Iowa State, was suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2014 season. Knott’s PED suspension ended after this past weekend’s games, even though he was unemployed. He can start practicing Wednesday.

Might the Eagles be playing a game overseas next year? Could be, writes Peter King.

The NFL’s international committee discussed plans for 2015 about two weeks ago. The Jaguars, who made a four-year commitment to the International Series, will be one of the “home” teams in London each season through 2016. Who else could be in the mix? Well, the league’s international committee has reps from nine teams, six of which have played in the International Series, and three that have not: Chiefs (Clark Hunt is the committee’s chair), Bills and Eagles. Those teams will be prime candidates in 2015.


Kelly speaks at 10:45 prior to practice. Sheil has some All-22 love coming your way.