Wake-Up Call: Key Stats On Eagles ‘D’
For all of the statistical categories the Eagles defense is excelling in, two are of particular interest to Billy Davis.
“We’re really focused on turnovers and points allowed. That’s what we talk about often and that’s what we know the best defenses do,” he said. “Right now, we’re getting turnovers at a high rate and the points are down.”
Thanks in part to three takeaways against the Giants and seven forced turnovers over the last two games, the Eagles rank second in the NFL in that department (16) behind only the Broncos. And they are currently first in the division and sixth overall in points per game (18.3).
Some other stats of note on the Eagles defense:
* Davis’ unit has not allowed an individual 100-yard rusher in the last 18 games and just one in their last 29.
*Opponents are averaging just 3.5 yards per carry against them, the second lowest mark in the NFL.
*They are first in fumble recoveries (8) and third in interceptions (8) and passes defensed (40).
* The Eagles rank fourth in yards per play allowed (5.0).
By just about any measure, they’re grading out well — and that’s before you factor in the curve. Playing opposite Chip Kelly‘s tempo offense, this defense continues to log the most miles in the league. They have faced a league-high 427 snaps (or 71 plays per game) this season, yet remain among the most dominant.
While acknowledging that personnel upgrades are a part of the reason for the uptick in production, Kelly credits the continuity up front for much of the success to date.
“Brandon [Graham] is here for three years, Connor [Barwin] is here for three years. That front seven basically with the exception of Jordan Hicks has been here for a while,” he said.
“Those guys understand the system to a point where they can make tweaks, they can make adjustments when the offense presents something to you. When Billy or Cory [Undlin] or Azz [Jerry Azzinaro] or one of those guys is talking about the adjustment, those guys are finishing their sentences…they already understand what the counter is to it.”
Perhaps that’s part of the reason why the Eagles have been able to diagnose and repair in-game so efficiently over the past two games. As they did against the Saints, the defense made the proper adjustments after yielding an early score and proceeded to shut New York’s attack down.
The back end might not be finishing each other’s sentences with the same regularity as the front seven, but it appears they’re becoming increasingly more fluent in a common language. They allowed zero x-plays against Odell Beckham and company Monday, and now rank 12th in pass plays of 20-plus yards against (17) after finishing dead last in that category a year ago.
“This is a unit that I knew had a chance of doing something,” said Brian Dawkins, “because you have a lot of playmakers. But it takes time to jell. The d-line has been together longer than the secondary has and so the secondary still has some jelling to do and some things to iron out.”
As the secondary gains more experience playing together, Kelly sees the defense “really coming together.” The players seem to agree.
“Our goal is to be the best in the league, be elite,” said Byron Maxwell. “Obviously we have work to do but we’re headed that way.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
“The 27-year-old can still gain the corner.” A roundup of the Eagles’ offseason departures, including a big day for LeSean McCoy.
An inauspicious start to Sam Bradford‘s shaky night, and plenty more in the comprehensive Day After notes.
“We have this outlook that we have to win on defense.” Josh takes another look at Billy Davis‘ dominant unit.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Kelly admitted that quarterback Bradford needs to be more consistent, writes Philly.com’s Rob Tornoe.
“I just think it’s inconsistency,” Kelly told Sportsradio 94.1 WIP host Angelo Cataldi on Tuesday. “There’s times when you watch the tape and you’re like, ‘Wow that’s a helluva throw, helluva play.’ He’s just a little bit inconsistent right now, I think we can build upon it.”
Kelly noted that part of Bradford’s slow start stems from his recovery from that second ACL injury he suffered while with the St. Louis Rams last season.
“He just still got here, didn’t benefit from a full spring with us as he was going through his medical rehab at that point in time,” Kelly said, noting that Bradford is past the rehab phase of his recovery and is still getting acclimated to a new offense.
The Eagles are good enough for now, writes Tommy Lawlor, but there’s plenty of improvement needed as the season moves along.
The Eagles are now 3-3 and atop the NFC East. That’s great compared to where they were, but even the recent hot streak hasn’t solved all the issues. The Eagles have won 3 of 4, but they are still playing very sloppy football. They have been good enough to win. That’s not going to be good enough to get them where they want to be.
Chip Kelly didn’t build this team to win the NFC East. He wanted the team to be a championship contender. Obviously the level of play right now looks more like, “Hey, if we get lucky we can win a wild card game!” than anything close to championship level.
Davis and Pat Shurmur address the media at 10:30. Plus, a look at the Key Plays from Monday night.