Eagles' 2013 Defensive Woes Examined

Some glaring aspects of the Eagles defense in 2013 almost at times led to their undoing.

The Eagles last season were known for having a high-powered, slickly-run offense that could bail out a mostly unimpressive defense.

Cold Hard Football Facts takes the further step of showing just where the inefficiency in the defense lie. Through a site metric called 'Defensive Hog Index', CHFF used three measurables to determine that the Eagles had the 21st most efficient defense in the league.

Those three metrics are as follows:

*Rushing Yards Per Attempt Allowed - very straightforward, the average amount of yards allowed per run play.

*Negative Pass Play Percentage - the percentage of passing downs that end with the defense getting a sack or an interception.

*Third Down Percentage - another simple one, the conversion rate given up on the 'money down'.

For the Eagles to rank 21st in this category (no surprise, the Seahawks were tops in Defensive Hog) isn't too surprising when you consider the signings of Malcolm Jenkins, Nolan Carroll, and Chris Maragos this offseason, not to mention how every draft pick was on defense, save for two wide receivers.

Let's delve into these three categories, and see where the Eagles struggled most.


Only the Jets (3.35 YPA), Cardinals (3.65 YPA), and Rams (3.74 YPA) fielded more impressive run defenses than the Eagles. Dallas gave up almost a yard more per attempt, ranking third worst in the league with 4.7 YPA.

Rashad Jennings, then of the Raiders, was the only rusher to reach 100 yards against Philadelphia, gaining a meaningless 102 in Nick Foles' seven-TD pass performance on November 3. Alfred Morris, Terrelle Pryor, and Jamaal Charles were the only other players to clear 90 yards.

The Eagles' propensity for scoring lots of points and building early leads (especially in the second half of the season) naturally led to opponents abandoning the run. However, this statistic speaks volumes about the defense's ability to kill the run early.

Five Eagles were credited with four or more tackles for a loss last season: Cedric Thornton (seven), Mychal Kendricks (six), DeMeco Ryans, Trent Cole (both with five), and Connor Barwin (four).


The good news for the defense ends with that running metric, as only a handful of teams were worse than Philly in wrecking the pass.

The Eagles did rank eighth in interceptions with 19 (league average: 15.7), but amassed only 37 sacks for 20th best in the NFL (league average: 40.5).

What kills this number is that the Eagles defense had the most throws in the league against them, 670 in 16 games. The next highest total was 648 pass attempts, against the Vikings. The high amount of throws makes sense, given a number of opponents played from behind (Redskins twice, Cardinals, Cowboys, among others), but the Eagles could certainly have more sacks than just 37. Jim Johnson's defense certainly would.

Not to take anything away from Bill Davis, who was only in his first year of implementing the 3-4 in Philadelphia. Players like Marcus Smith (who's proving he can cover ground) and Malcolm Jenkins (Patrick who?) should spark better numbers here than a paltry 7.92% kill rate.


Going hand in hand with inefficiency against the pass is a poor third down percentage. The Eagles were one of only ten teams to allow more than 40% of third downs to be converted, and why not? They proved to be liabilities through the air; teams in 2013 fired away to close those scoring gaps late in games.

The Eagles defense was on the field for 231 third downs, tied with the Jets for seventh most in the league. Their 93 third downs they allowed to be converted are tied for sixth most with the Giants. The Patriots are the only playoff team that allowed more third down conversions (98 out of 232), and no other playoff team gave up more than the Broncos' 83 (out of 218).

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