A lot has changed in the past 12 months. Last season the Eagles came into their week 6 showdown with the Giants on a 4-1 record and this year they come into the NFC East rivalry with a 2-3 record. But with so many changes inside the team, it’s almost like comparing apples and oranges. But one thing remains the same, Chip Kelly and his goal to take the Eagles to the top. So take away the record, how are the Eagles playing in the categories that arguably cost them a playoff spot last year?
In 2013, Nick Foles had an astonishing year. Over 300 passes and just 2 interceptions gave fans hope that Foles would be the man to lead their Offense…but the next season, things turned sour. It wasn’t entirely down to current Rams Quarterback as he fell injured in week 9 and handed the reigns over to Mark Sanchez..but overall, the Eagles turned the ball over 36 times last year….36..that’s an average of over 2 per game.
So how is the turnover problem that plagued the Eagles in 2014 looking so far? The team have 10 turnovers in four games, 6 interceptions and 4 fumbles. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Two interceptions (against the Saints) were simply terrible reads early on and after making them, Bradford didn’t throw another. He was able to turn the ball over 0 times in the two weeks beforehand so this could be considered an anomaly..it also doesn’t help that the receivers have dropped and tipped so many passes that could have easily prevented an interception from occurring either on that play or one as a consequence later.
Nick Foles through five games however last year had five interceptions and two more touchdowns..so the two are relatively close on that front. But Bradford did throw over 50 times against the Falcons and has only had five NFL games under his belt since returning from his second ACL tear..the signs of an accurate and consistent passer have blossomed in recent weeks and have turned from flashes into sustained drives and deep passes. As of right now, the Eagles have made a minor improvement..but with sloppy fumbles and some poor Quarterback reads, the team are JUST ahead of where they were last year based upon merit and circumstance. It’s a move forward, but it isn’t a convincing one just yet despite having all the potential to be.
The Eagles conceded 30 passing touchdowns last year and over 1800 yards were lost between Williams and Fletcher ..1,072 of those came from Bradley Fletcher alone..who has now been released from the Patriots (surprise, surprise). With 4,238 yards against the pass for the team, The duo also combined for 14 total touchdowns allowed..but they have now both been sent packing along with Nate Allen and we have a new look secondary in town…so how are they looking so far?
The Eagles have lost 1,398 yards through the air in five weeks and average 280 yards lost per game. Last season’s total average stood at 375 per game. That is a HUGE drop..but even more encouraging when you look at the differences in season
Sure the numbers are slightly worse and the teams faced have had lost talent, but this is a new system..an entirely new corp of players (some of which have been injured) at least three have converted to a new position since their time in Philadelphia and they have spent WAY more time on the field..in fact, this year, the Defense has been on the field for 59% of the time compared to the 44% of the time faced last year. So the team have given up almost 100 yards less so far on average per game and have been on the field 15% more of the time..not to mention all of the above.
Whilst we’re on the topic of the Secondary..let’s take a moment to mention the Toxic Differential. (Big Plays For – Big Plays Against) + (Takeaways – Giveaways). The Eagles had a -6 record last season…that stat now stands at +6..again further highlighting the big steps this unit has taken.
This year has seen a huge improvement and I really don’t think Bill Davis is getting enough credit right now. The Eagles secondary could well be primed to become one of the best in the NFL if all the cogs continue to turn.
Now this is a tricky one because the situations on the surface are similar yet different once examined more closely. The Eagles Offensive Line suffered huge setbacks in the opening part of last season, causing LeSean McCoy to have some big problems. Everyone was very quick to fire off at DeMarco Murray when his rushing numbers were at an all time low but fans failed to remember LeSean McCoys 22 yards off of NINETEEN attempts against Washington just a year ago..and the 10 yards on 17 carries just a game later..
The Eagles have had trouble running the ball behind an underperforming line for a while now (either through injury or player changes) but the Eagles have gone to a committee type backfield this year and whilst again the surface stats don’t show much improvement..there are ones that do.
Last season the Eagles rushed for 16 touchdowns, the team have five in five games this year. The stats are typically similar or around the same for most categories, give or take a few percent…but the real improvement is in versatility. Last season LeSean McCoy received for only 155 yards on 28 catches and no touchdowns..here are what the Eagles running backs are looking like after FIVE games..
So the Eagles might have struggled RUNNING the ball, but this backfield has taken HUGE steps forward in driving this Offense down the field. It’s taken a few games but the Eagles have finally worked out how to rush the ball efficiently. partner that with these explosive stats compared to last year and it’s easy to see that even despite a slow start…it’s a big step.
How do you think the Eagles are performing in comparison to last season? Let us know in the comments!