I don't really like criticizing a coach for saying something nice about his players at a press conference. That's kind of their job, so I won't do that here. However, listening to a few of defensive coordinator Sean McDermott's comments yesterday I was compelled to take a bit of a closer look at the Eagles defense. Here's what he had to say.
"You know, it's an interesting group and this goes back to the earlier question, I'm proud of these guys, I really am. I'm proud of the coaches [and] I'm proud of the players because they're a resilient bunch and they give great effort every week. And I know we've given up some points and I know that there's work to be done, but at the same time we've generated turnovers. And look, we're the 12th ranked defense in the [National Football League] so there's 20 defenses behind us right now that wish they were in our position. So I'm proud of these guys. Like I said they give great effort, they play together and they play emotional football."
The Eagles are in fact the 12th ranked defense in terms of yards, however in terms of points they're tied for 21st. In fact, only 10 other teams in the entire NFL gave up more points than the Eagles this season. Shockingly though, there are two other teams in the playoffs whose defenses give up even more points than the Eagles... The Seahawks & the Colts.
Plus, it's kinda of tough to find a lot of things that this defense can hang it's hat on. They've been much better against the run in the second half than the first part of the season, but they still finished just 18th overall in that category. They're right around the same ranking in pass yards allowed, but what kills them against the pass is the 31 TDs they've given up. That's a franchise record and the second most in the NFL. The only teams that gave up more pass TDs were the Cowboys and Texans (33).
McDermott did mention turnovers as a point of pride for the D. The Eagles finished with the 3rd most picks in football, but they're one of the worst teams in the leauge at forcing fumbles ranking at #27. They're also 10th in sacks, so above average but not great.
The only thing you can say that the Eagles defense does really in relation to the rest of the league is get interceptions, but as McDermott admitted even that's dried up over the past few weeks.
"It is, and my predecessor [former Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson] always said that turnovers come in spurts. You can go on a dry run for awhile, and then all of a sudden you hit the jackpot. That said, [CB] Asante [Samuel] wasn't out there for three or four games also during that stretch where our turnovers dropped just a little bit. And then, it's about opportunities on the football, ‘Hey is the quarterback taking care of the ball or is he giving it up?' Last week I thought we had some opportunities and we didn't take advantage of them. We can do a better job there."
So where are you on this defense right now? Personally, I'm at the point where I don't trust them to do almost anything and I think it's on the offense to win games for us. I think the way we beat the Packers is to put up 30+ on them. I think this offense is potent enough to do that... but it's a scary way to have to win games.