I will be the first to admit that I wasn’t a big fan of the hiring of Bill Davis and the move to the 3-4 defensive scheme this past off-season. The Eagles personal didn’t match the 3-4 and they’d be moving players like Trent Cole out of position. It seemed like it would be a long season and at that time I gave the Eagles a shot at winning no more than five games.
Well, now the Eagles have have 7 wins and still have 4 games to play, what do I know? I could save some face and say I was right about the defense. Come on now, the only reason the Eagles are 7-5 is thanks to Nick Foles and the Philly offense, right? They’re ranked 31rst out of 32 teams on defense, no need to say more.
While those points hold some validity, in truth, the Eagles are a much improved defense that are playing the system as a whole, not as individuals. Let’s take a look at some key stats from the first six games and compare them to the last six games and see just how much the defenders have improved. Remember, the Eagles changed their defensive scheme this year and it takes a while to learn a new system, under a new coach.
For most analyst’s the key stat and how the defenses are ranked are by total yards. Bull,I hate this stat, it doesn’t take into account the score of the game and how a lot of the final yardage may be made against a defense playing soft. That point being made, the Eagles have still made strides in this area. 1rst half; 439.83 ypg compared to 402.66 in the 2nd half. Not a huge difference but still trending down.
The biggest difference for me, and how a defense should be ranked is easy, just look at the scoreboard. Count any scores made only against that defense and add them up.
First half; 25.1 ppg (ouch!) 2nd half; 17 ppg, (yes!)
A huge improvement from the first half to the second half and a sign that this defense is showing progress.
Opposing QB rating might not be a stat you consider when judging a defense, but it is important to account for because the QB position is probably the most significant on a football field and if the rating is low, it probably has something to do with the defense.
First half; 95.86, very high. Second half; 74.53,
I have taken the six starting QB ratings and divided the total by six in each half to show the difference. Huge, if the QB’s playing poorly, your defense is doing their job. In the last six games it is a terrible rating for the opposition.
The last stat I’d like you to consider is a personal one that I keep track of for my enjoyment, TPS average. I was looking for a way to rank defenses on big plays. First I had to ask myself, what is a big play? I settled on four; interception, fumble recovery, sack and punt. I know what your asking yourself right now… punt? I consider a punt a huge play for the defense, they’ve turned the ball over to the offense. A punt is as good as a takeaway in my book.
First half; 7.67 per game, one every 10.21 plays. Second half; 10.33 per game, one every 8.17 plays.
Huge difference and more big plays means more opportunities for that team’s offense.You could also add stuffs, hurries and stops on fourth down to the equation, but the first four give you the numbers you need.
So now you get an idea of how much the defense has improved. The Eagles defense is making big plays and holding the oppositions biggest weapon to minimal gains, thus improving the teams chances of winning . That’s great, but how does the defense stack up against some of the dominant defenses in the league, you ask? Let’s take a look.
TEAM(last 6 games) PPG/QB RATING/TBSPG/TBSPP’S/TOTAL YARDS
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 14.83/74.2/9.33/7.50/278.83
CAROLINA PANTHERS 12.33/73.95/10.00/6.16/277.50
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 17.00 /74.53/10.33/8.17/402.66
DALLAS COWBOYS 24.00/87.61/8.16/9.12/430.00
This is the first, second, 31st and 32nd ranked defenses in the league respectively, with the stats only showing the last 6 games. Ignore the total yards and the Eagles would rank closer to the top defenses(Seattle, Carolina) then to the bottom(Dallas).
It is obvious that the Eagles have made some huge strides on the defensive side of the ball, and if they can learn how to put away teams in the 2nd half, these stats will become even more impressive in the stretch run of the season. Players like Trent Cole, Cary Williams and Bennie Logan have been making an impact in the last half dozen games. Others like Bradley Fletcher and Fletcher Cox have been solid all season. It looks like the defense is forming trust in one another and gelling at the right time.
If this defense can continue this play and the offense can keep firing on all cylinders, this may be a very hard team to compete with come December and January.