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State of the Eagles’ defense: By the numbers

Philadelphia Eagles v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Thank you for the feedback on last week’s piece on the Philadelphia Eagles offense. If you missed it, you can read it here. This is all using Sports Info Solutions. Just a quick note, I wrote this over the weekend which means all the stats include each team after 6 games so they don’t include the games from this weekend as I wanted to compare the Eagles to other teams who had played 6 games too.

  • 17.5 Points per game (6th)
  • 297 Yards per game (4th)
  • 4.7 Yards per play (5th)
  • -0.094 EPA per play (4th)
  • 56.7% Completion (31st)
  • 4.9 Yards per attempt (2nd)
  • 188 Passing yards per game (6th)
  • -0.143 EPA per pass (2nd)
  • 5 Yards per rush (27th)
  • 109.8 Rush yards per game (15th)
  • 0.007 (25th)
  • 44.59% 3rd down conversion (29th)
  • 2.3 Takeaways per game (1st)
  • 6.91% Sack (12th)

Overall, the basic numbers are very strong. The turnover, sack, and 3rd down numbers are very good. The Eagles pass defense obviously stands out as a real strength and allowing only 4.9 yards per attempt is really strong. Incredibly, the Eagles are allowing more yards per carry and the run defense has a few worrying signs (looking at the yards per rush and EPA per rush) but overall I am not panicking too much and a lot of this is still impacted by a terrible week 1 against the Lions.


As we did with the offense, let’s look at some tendencies of the Eagles defense as we have done all season and begin by looking at personnel. If you’ve read these articles each week, this will be no surprise to you as we know the Eagles basically never play 3 linebackers and their ‘base’ front against teams who want to run the ball is a 5man front with 2 linebackers and 4 DBs. THat would count as the 3-4-4 below as the EDGE defenders will count as linebackers.

Moving on, let’s look at where these defenders line up. A Jonathan Gannon defense will always favor a light box over a stacked box, and this is why the rushing numbers against will never likely be elite. It’s just not the way the Eagles play. However, what has been a very pleasant surprise is how much one-high shell coverage the Eagles have played. A lot of modern NFL defenses are predictable with their two-high shell looks (think of the Eagles/Vikings week 2) but the Eagles are much more unpredictable than they were last week.

This is a big surprise - the coverage numbers. The Eagles still play more zone than man (as does basically everyone) but they are currently playing man coverage at the 5th highest rate in the league! I love this for a few reasons. Firstly, it keeps the defense unpredictable as we mentioned above. Also, the Eagles have exceptional cornerbacks this year so why would you not trust them to play man coverage with single-high over the top? They are good enough to do it so why not do it?

If you are interested in how this compares to last year, the Eagles played 128 total snaps of man coverage all season which ranked 29th. It’s a big change.

Finally, the Eagles also play a lovely mix of MOFC/MOFO coverage (middle field open/closed. MOFO = no deep defender in the middle of the field. MOFC = there is a deep defender in the middle of the field). I am glad to see the Eagles blitzing at a good rate too as the Eagles last year were far too passive and didn’t blitz enough.

Specific Areas

Now, let’s look at some specific areas of the Eagles defense and some strengths and weaknesses.

1st Down

On 1st down, the Eagles really like to use man coverage and blitz! You always expect teams to blitz at a higher % on 3rd down but the Eagles are the opposite. Let’s see how successful

1st down is obviously vital, so let’s look at the Eagles numbers on 1st down. When looking at the rankings here in brackets, they are ranked from highest-lowest no matter the statistics.


  • 55 completions (9th) on 97 attempts (4th).
  • 481 yards (25th - wow).
  • 3 TDs and 2 INTs.
  • 30 pressures (9th)


  • 68 attempts (30th)
  • 317 yards (25th)
  • 10 1st downs allowed (18th)
  • 3TDs

What’s interesting about these numbers is you can see how having a good offense impacts your defense. Teams will absolutely want to run on the Eagles more on early downs, but they can’t because they are chasing games and want to play fast. If the Eagles offense struggles more in games, you will see good teams run on them more on early downs.

3rd Down

On 3rd down, the Eagles basically run a 50/50 split of man and zone coverage. The blitzing numbers are far lower as the Eagles prefer to keep more defenders in coverage on 3rd down.

The Eagles 3rd down numbers are good and are nearly identical to the 1st down numbers except for the rushing numbers which are a little concerning.


  • 27 completions (25th), 51 attempts (20th)
  • 332 yards (21st)
  • 3 TDs, 3 INTs
  • 33 pressures (11th)


  • 16 attempts (25th)
  • 110 yards (6th)
  • 9 1st downs (20th)
  • 0 TDs

The Eagles run defense on 3rd down is pretty bad, we saw this against the Cowboys, but I think you have to consider the game state as the Eagles are normally leading as the game progresses and don’t worry too much about giving up rush yards. I do think the Eagles run defense could be a concern as we progress if the offense has a bad game and the defense doesn’t adjust.

Red Zone

So, after looking at 1st/3rd down, I just had a look at a number of different things to see what stood out. This stood out instantly! The Eagles are running man coverage in the Red Zone at the highest rate in the league. Teams will certainly know this by now so expect to see some man-beating concepts (pick routes etc) in the Red Zone the next few weeks.


The Eagles struggled to get pressure last year and didn't blitz much, as we all know. I wanted to look at the Eagles pressure numbers this year to see the improvement and also whether the blitz is working or not.

4 or fewer rushers

  • 102/167 (61%)
  • 1031 yards
  • 6.2 yards per attempt
  • 3 TDs, 5 INTs
  • 13 sacks
  • 60 pressures (pressure on every 2.7 dropbacks)

5 or more rushers

  • 28/62 (45% - wow!)
  • 232 yards
  • 3.7 yards per attempt
  • 4 TDs, 4 INTs (no other team has more than 2)
  • 3 sacks
  • 29 pressures (pressure on every 2.1 dropbacks)

Well, it turns out the Eagles are incredibly effective at blitzing. Wow. Those numbers are sort of ridiculous and despite the 4 TDs allowed (which proves the boom/bust nature of the blitz) the Eagles are blitzing really effectively this year.

Run Defense - Motion

I wanted to have a look at the run defense in a bit more detail and I thought I found the minor issue with it. I looked at motion stats quickly because last year the Eagles struggled against motion. The good news is that it doesn’t impact their pass defense as I checked the numbers but it is impacting their run defense.

With no motion

  • 52 attempts, 224 yards (4.3 yards per carry), 1 TD, and 1 1st down

With motion

  • 80 attempts, 435 yards (5.4 yards per carry), 5 TDs and 24 1st downs

Those numbers are incredibly different. The 1st down numbers are wildly different! This is not something, in particular, I’ve noticed watching the film but I will absolutely be watching this closely over the next few film rooms and I will be checking the stats weekly to see how the Eagles deal with motion. This play did come to mind...

Overall, the Eagles defense has been really good but like every team, they aren’t perfect and they do have some things to work on over the bye week. Any questions as always just comment and ask!

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