The Eagles are firmly in the driver’s seat of the NFC East, and it’s time to start taking them seriously. According to FiveThirtyEight’s NFL Forecast, the Eagles now have a 76 percent chance of winning their division; that’s the best chance of any team finishing atop their division not named the Kansas City Chiefs. The Birds have won games with a balanced offense, and a disciplined and resilient defense. Speaking of discipline and resiliency, let’s take a look at some of the Eagles’ best playmakers on the defensive side of the ball at this point in the season:
Stopping the Run
A large key to the Eagles’ overall success this season has been the defense’s ability to bottle up opposing running games. Through week six, the Eagles’ run defense is ranked number one in the league, giving up just 66 yards per game. With the best run defense in the NFL, the Eagles have been able to force teams to become one-dimensional. Let’s take a look at the player grades for the Eagles’ interior defenders:
It’s been evident to anyone who has watched the Eagles play this year, that when Fletcher Cox and/or Timmy Jernigan are on the field, they are forces to be reckoned with. Not only have they been vital to stopping opposing run-games, they have been instrumental in collapsing the pocket on passing downs.
Behind their two stars, the backup interior defenders have played admirably as well – most notably, Beau Allen. Behind him, Vaeao, Hamiliton and Qualls have made strides and have showed that they can be trusted when out on the field.
As if the interior of the Eagles’ defensive line wasn’t good enough against the run, the Eagles have two of the best run-stopping edge defenders in the NFL:
As a team, the Eagles have been absolutely elite thus far in 2017 in terms of stopping the run. If they can continue this trend for the rest of the season, there’s no reason to think the team’s success will end anytime soon.
Resiliency in the Secondary
With the Eagles being so dominant up front, opposing teams have been forced to try their luck through the air. While Philly ranks 29th in the league in total passing yards given up per game, they rank first in the league in pass attempts faced.
Again, just to reiterate, due to Philly’s secondary being the most targeted in the league, these player grades are going to be somewhat skewed. Mills and Douglas have held their own on the corners when they’ve been in the game. Of course, though, being targeted as much as they are, they are bound to give up a lot of catches and some big plays here and there. There is no reason to be discouraged by PFF’s poor grades for these two.
As for the Birds’ safety duo, they have been impressive. Even while facing an onslaught of passing attempts each week, Jenkins and McLeod have still graded out rather well.
And then, there’s Patrick Robinson. Not only is he one of the top cornerbacks in the league right now, he’s simply been one of the best players. A former first-round pick, I think I speak for all Eagles’ fans when I say we are certainly glad to have him at this point in his career:
After an up-and-down start to his career, Robinson, through the first six weeks of 2017, has shown the coverage prowess that led to him being a first round pick prior to the 2010 season. Here’s a further look at some advanced stats (through week five) for PRob:
Robinson hasn’t been targeted much this year, which, obviously, is a good thing. Through five weeks, Robinson gave up only one reception per every twelve cover snaps.
Playmaker Index is a statistic that I love for corners. Patrick Robinson, through week five, led the league in this category.
It goes without saying that this defensive group has been impressive to begin the 2017 season. As long as their defensive front remains healthy and intact, there’s no doubt they will continue to dominate opposing run-games.
Additionally, although the Birds’ secondary has been forced to play more cover-snaps than any other team in football, it’s safe to say they have held their own up to this point. They have done this with Ronald Darby AND Sidney Jones waiting in the wings. Not only does the rest of 2017 look promising for the defense, so does the future.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports