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More thoughts on the Defense

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GCobb has a couple of notes up today about the Bird's defense.  In one, he reminds us that the Eagles were last in the league in turnovers last year.  In the other, he takes a look at the defensive assistants.  I've spent some time considering the defense recently myself and noticed some things about Jim Johnson's defense last year compared to years past that seemed oddly incongruous.

At first glance the Eagles defense last year seemed to be pretty good.  They were 9th in the league in points allowed, 10th in total yards, 7th against the run and 18th against the pass.  They even were tied for 9th in the league in sacks.  The thing is though, when you compare the Eagles to the rest of the league they look pretty good, but when you look back and compare the Eagles last year with Jim Johnson's defenses of years past...

Yahoo sports keeps data going back to 2001 from which I extracted the Eagles total defensive statistics for the last 8 seasons.

Defense_medium

Things that jump out to me from this table are:

  • Turnovers:  Not only were the Eagles last in the league last year, it was the Eagles worst performance in the last 8 seasons.
  • Passing Yards per Game:  worst performance in 8 seasons.
  • Rushing Yards per Game:  best performance in 8 seasons.
  • Tackles:  654 total tackles?  81 fewer than in 2006?...

Regarding turnovers, last year was bad as far as Eagles' defenses go, but I am fairly confident that the addition of Asante Samuel and a more aggressive linebacking corps will help with the situation.  For that matter, Asante, Lito and Sheldon should help an awful lot with the passing numbers too.  I expect to see the rushing yards per game numbers go up next season though. The Birds probably won't be as bad as '06 or '03, but I'll trade a few yards rushing for a better pass defense.

The tackle number is strange.  I think it is actually the result of the offense.  Last year the Eagles averaged almost 31 minutes of TOP per game.  The easy assumption then is the D faced fewer plays because the offense was on the field longer, but it could also be that in games the Eagles were trailing, the opposing offense took more time between plays of their own. 

Turnovers and a stingy pass defense have been hallmarks of this group throughout the years and last year, neither one was a component of the defense that the Birds fielded.  We're pinning our hopes on a high dollar free agent and a dissatisfied and injury prone cornerback to bring back some of the secondary's respectability.  The linebackers are young, but full of promise.  With luck, they'll all validate the coaches trust.