Last season, the Eagles Secondary was dreadful. There were far too many X-Plays and the defensive backs inability to keep up with the NFL’s elite cost the birds dearly..but amidst all of the 2015 woes, one positive that has been overlooked is that the Secondary issues might have all been dealt with.
Bradley Fletcher, Cary Williams, Brandon Boykin, Nate Allen are just some of the names that have left the Linc since Chip Kelly took over and looked to revitalise one of the weakest areas of the team. He splashed $63million on Byron Maxwell, picked up Walter Thurmond, signed Nolan Carroll and drafted a couple of potential diamonds in the rough.
Surprisingly, in a season of mediocrity and disappointment so far it has been the Eagles secondary that has been the most productive unit without fail. Not only is Malcolm Jenkins making plays all over the field from batting down passes to hitting running backs at the line of scrimmage, but the company around him is performing to an equally high standard.
Nolan Carroll whilst a little inconsistent in places has looked fierce this far and that trend has carried into Eric Rowe’s play. Carroll has proved to be the shutdown corner that the Eagles have longed for by making play after play. Here is just one example from the Jets game.
— FIRST TEAM ALL QUARANTINE (@EaglesHighlight) October 1, 2015
Byron Maxwell meanwhile has had a trial by fire however…he was left toasted by Julio Jones and struggled in his next game. Just as he began to show signs of improvement against the Jets, he exits the game early in week four with injury. His play has become much more physical over the past two games and after some worrying performances springing memories of Asomugha, has seemed to settle down and gel with the rest of his team.
The problem is that the unit is so overlooked. Why? Because there are so many problems with the team that everybody is focusing on the negatives..especially Offensively. That and statistics don’t do the unit enough justice…let us explain.
The stats for the big names in the Eagles secondary look a little like this with Thurmond also picking up two interceptions alongside Rowe:
When you compare this to the stats of the linebackers however, that’s where things get interesting. Only one linebacker (Jordan Hicks) ranks among the Eagles tackling leaders..the rest are members of the secondary. This not only signifies how well the Secondary are performing but perhaps highlighting the Eagles are in desperate need of a good pass rushing performance.
Which brings us onto our next point. The stats are impressive, sure. But the pass-rush was non existent against the Redskins, meaning that the success of every play pretty much depended on the play of the Secondary. When you have a Defense out on the field for 41 minutes against the Redskins, 40 minutes against the Cowboys and 20 minutes against the Jets and only give up an average of 308 yards per game when the majority of the attacks are coming as passing threats due to the Eagles run D then you have to acknowledge how impressive that feat is.
This isn’t to say that the secondary is perfect..but the promising signs are there. The Defense has been keeping the Eagles in matchups since week one, especially when you have an Offense that prior to their 3rd quarter rampage had gone four quarters without scoring. All four losses have come down to the final few moments of the game and all four have been lost by under 10 points….why? Because the Eagles secondary has been improved significantly.
So to answer the title question, yes..they have. The only problem is that in doing so, they’ve taken one step forward and two steps back as the rest of the team has slowly began to crumble around them.