The story of the Eagles' 2013 defense was not one that people saw coming. Entering the season, it was clear the Eagles clearly lacked premium talent on that side of the ball. There was also the fact the Eagles were transitioning from a 4-3 scheme with a wide-nine alignment to a two-gapping 3-4 scheme. Expectations were low. A rough start to the season sure didn't do anything to change minds. But then shortly after that things did change. After surrendering a season high 52 points to the Denver Broncos in Week 4, the Eagles put together a nine game streak of allowing 21 points or less. They were the only NFL team to do that in that time.
While the Eagles weren't close to being one of the best defenses in the league, they simply found a way to be "good enough". Enter the "bend-but-don't-break" (BBDB) opportunistic defense mantra, as coached by Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis. Back when Davis was hired by the Eagles in early February, fans weren't exactly thrilled with the move (read through these comments for a fun time!). It wasn't hard to blame them. Davis's resume was hardly impressive. I think it's fair to say Davis exceeded expectations, especially since they were low to begin with. But did to what extent did Davis really succeed?
The numbers aren't necessarily in Davis's favor. Philly's defense ranks 23rd in DVOA (although more relevantly 15th in Weighted DVOA) and 29th in total yards allowed. More specifically, the Eagles allowed the most passing yards in the NFL with 4636, or about 290 yards pass yards per game. Where the numbers do come in favor is the fact the Eagles only allowed the 17th most points allowed and ranked third in takeaways with 31. It also must be considered that since the Eagles run their offense at such a fast pace, along with the fact the defense doesn't get off the field quickly due to their BBDB style, the Eagles run a lot of defensive plays. That means that volume stats, such as yards allowed in this case, aren't the best indicator of defensive performance. Shift the "total yards allowed" into "yards allowed per play" and the Eagles rank 20th. It's still below average, sure, but it's not a league-worst type of performance.
The talent wasn't ideal, but it seemed like Davis made the most out of his unit. Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher showed up as capable starting cornerbacks. Connor Barwin proved to be a critical "glue guy" thanks to his versatility as an outside linebacker. Many wrote off Trent Cole as a guy who had lost his pass rush ability and/or didn't fit in the new scheme, but he finished the season strong as a pass rusher and played strong against the run all year long. The young defensive line core featuring Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton, and Bennie Logan looks like something to build on moving forward. DeMeco Ryans quarterbacked the defense next to his second year counterpart Mychal Kendricks, who came on strong towards the end of the season. Speaking of second year players, how could you forget about clutch slot corner Brandon Boykin? Even rookie safety Earl Wolff looked capable when he was healthy, and the much maligned Nate Allen had a decent year as well. Outside of veteran safety Patrick Chung, who mostly struggled to play well, it's hard to say there were underachievers on the Eagles defense.
So with all of that said, do you approve of the job Bill Davis is doing as the Eagles defensive coordinator? Vote now in the poll below and leave your thoughts in the comments.