Sick of talking about QBs? Me too. So let’s shift over and talk about the defense.
Bill Davis and his players aren’t exactly Gang Green, but they are making progress. Look at the last 3 games.
* allowing 19.3 points per game
* 7 takeaways
* allowing just 74 rushing yards per game
The defense is still 32nd in yards allowed and 31st in passing yards allowed. They are up to 26th in scoring defense. Interestingly, the defense is 20th in opposing passer rating. It feels like that number should be worse.
Davis likes to focus on not giving up big pass plays. The Eagles have given up quite a few plays of 20 or more yards, but are one of the stingiest teams in allowing pass plays of 40 or more yards. The Eagles have only allowed 3 such pass plays. The Eagles are 20th in yards allowed per pass attempt.
If Davis is focusing on taking away the deep ball, it is a very good sign that the defense is doing that well. Every coach has a few things he focuses on. He better be able to get players to at least do those things well. When players can’t, it does make you question how good a job the coach is doing.
There isn’t one thing to point to in regard to the improved defense. Fletcher Cox has picked up his level of play. Earl Wolff has played better. Bradley Fletcher has had some good moments. Vinny Curry has remained disruptive. It does seem like the whole defense is more cohesive.
I also think Davis is doing a better job of using his players and coming up with gameplans. Davis is a veteran coach, but hasn’t run a defense in a few years and he’s totally new to the Eagles and these players. It was bound to take some time. As the players and Davis get more on the same page, the defense should continue to improve.
I’m still waiting for the one game when the defense plays great. For now, it just feels good to have some sense of encouragement. If the Eagles can tighten up their coverage on short and intermediate routes, the defense can take another step forward.
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Here is a good column by Paul Domowitch on the same subject. He used stats as well as some good quotes from the players and Bill Davis.
“All of it is a growth that is happening,” Davis said yesterday. “Knowing what the strengths and weaknesses of the individual players are now that we have almost half a season under our belt. So that’s growing.
“More importantly, we as a staff see the players understanding the concepts of the coverage, the techniques within the coverage, and how they work with the concept. All of that is growing.
“We just got done doing the tape evaluation of the [Dallas] game with the coaches and players together. The biggest thing we came away with is we’ve got to make sure that individually, we’re getting better on the little things, then collectively the defense gets better. Effort to the ball has to be there. Tackling has to be there.
“Our turnovers [12 takeaways, including eight interceptions] are in a good place. We’ve got to continue to take the ball away. Our third down was a little better [against Dallas, 31 percent]. We’ve had some struggles with that. So that’s improving. The red zone [62.5 percent, 28th in the league] has to get better. The points per game are at 24 right now. That’s not good enough. We’ve got to get that lower and play really good enough defense to win the game. And last week we did.”
There is still a ton of room for improvement, but it does feel like there is a sense of hope now. That’s big. It’s hard for people on the inside or outside to buy into something new when the results are awful. Success, even a little, means hope and that can have a big impact.