The Front: Eagles Defense Coming Through

Even with DeMeco Ryans out, Philadelphia's defensive front figures to still be one of more disruptive forces in today's NFL.

The loss of DeMeco Ryans will undoubtedly hurt the Eagles defense. It's unlikely you're going to find a trusty veteran with a well-rounded skillset out on the street. A month ago, Philadelphia could've had a shot to lure James Harrison out of retirement before Pittsburgh plucked him. Harrison may not be a scheme fit, but he's a proven winner, despite (and because of) his short fuse.

Ryans did have his weaknesses, however. Difficulty covering tight ends was his most glaring weakness, and Ryans wasn't always effective in the pass rush. His run-stuffing instincts will be hard to replace at a singular position. Overall, the defensive front-seven has enough components to keep the wheels turning.

Despite the occasional foul-up from the secondary, Philadelphia's defense has actually been exceptionally strong in 2014, grading high in a trio of categories that Cold Hard Football Facts uses to comprise a metric known as Defensive HOG Index.

The categories that make up Defensive HOG are as follows:

-Rushing Yards Per Attempt Allowed - self-explanatory

-Negative Pass Play Percentage - percentage of dropbacks that end in a sack or an interception

-Third Down Percentage - also self-explanatory

As far as the push from the front-seven goes, Philadelphia grades very well in this trio of categories, comprising one of the stronger defenses in the league. If the offense didn't put the team in dire straits with careless turnovers, they'd probably give up less than 22.1 points per game, their average after eight outings.

Here's how the Eagles grade out in all three categories.

RUSHING YARDS PER ATTEMPT ALLOWED: 4.05 YPA

In four games, Philadelphia held the opponent under four yards a run: Jacksonville (2.56), Washington (3.00), New York (3.58), and Arizona (3.09). Since giving up 5.43 yards a run to the Rams on October 5, the Eagles have allowed just 3.67 YPA across three games. The only individual runner to clear 100 yards against the Eagles was Frank Gore, managing 119.

NEGATIVE PASS PLAY PERCENTAGE: 8.41%

Only four interceptions on the year (three by Malcolm Jenkins, one by Ryans that cost him his leg), but 23 sacks will pick up the slack, certainly. Not picking up a single sack in games two and three had the defense pointed south, but Davis' group would rebound with 20 over the last five games. Of those 20, 14 have come from linebackers: seven for Connor Barwin, three from Brandon Graham, two and a half from Trent Cole (another was in Week 1), one from Mychal Kendricks (who also had another opening day), and half a sack from Casey Matthews. In that same time frame, the defensive line added the other six, including four from the explosive Vinny Curry. Averaging four sacks per game over the last five outings is helping get the job done.

THIRD DOWN PERCENTAGE: 36.44%

Twice, the Eagles held opponents to a staggeringly-low percentage: the Jaguars and Giants were each held to two conversions on 14 attempts (14.29%). The Redskins (53.33%) and Rams (50.00%) were the only two opponents to convert at least half of their tries. Since that Rams game, the Giants, Cardinals, and Texans were downed on an average of 31.81 percent (14 of 44).

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