Still the Most Concerning Position Group, but Improvement is Noticeable
Entering the season, the Eagles main concern was the secondary, but a little over halfway through the season, you can see the improvement. The improvement is noticeable, all across the board, virtually every player is improving from last season. They still rank 29th in the NFL, giving up 2,245 yards on the season, which is 249 yards per game. This is only giving up nine more yards per game than they were last season. Although this isn’t where they would like to be, they are still growing.
Last season, the Eagles finished 13th in the league in Pass Defense, which is much better than where they are at right now. They also are statistically worse this season in total defense, but the stats do not matter on this one because the Eagles are making much more big plays than they were a season ago. Already, they have 25 sacks on the season, which is 8 less than they had all last season. Adding to that, they have already forced seven fumbles, and last season they only forced 12. Also, they have 10 interceptions to the 14 they had last season.
All of these numbers don’t account for the injuries either, Ronald Darby has only played in one game and he might be the best corner on the roster. This has caused Rasul Douglas to play much more than expected, and to only be a rookie, he is showing his potential. No one has been able to have a glimpse of what second-round draft pick Sidney Jones can do either due to injury. Despite the stats, the Eagles secondary is coming on strong.
The Philadelphia secondary just played their best game of the season yesterday. I know it was Brock Osweiler and the Broncos struggling offense, but they held them to 191 yards and one touchdown through the air. Patrick Robinson and Rodney McLeod both had interceptions, and the secondary held Osweiler to a staggering 21.2 Quarterback Rating. But let’s take a look at the individual improvements from last season to this season:
- 2016 Stats: 51 tackles, 7 pass deflections
- 2017 Stats: 34 tackles, 10 pass deflections, 3 interceptions, 1 touchdown
Jalen Mills has vastly improved over the course of a year. In fact, he might be the most improved player on the Eagles defense this season. Already halfway through the season, Mills is on pace to destroy his performance last season. If Mills can keep progressing every year like he has, he could become a pro-bowler. He still has his weaknesses, but those weaknesses look stronger in year two.
- 2016 Stats: 19 tackles, 5 pass deflections, 1 forced fumble
- 2017 Stats: 24 tackles, 11 pass deflections, 3 interceptions
Patrick Robinson has been a big surprise for the Eagles this season. The 8-year Veteran looked washed up in the preseason, but he has played great when it matters. He has already topped every category from last season with the Indianapolis Colts (seven games), and if he keeps this up he might have his best year since 2012 with the New Orleans Saints. Robinson without a doubt is having one of his best years as the Eagles primary slot corner.
- 2016 Stats: N/A
- 2017 Stats: 17 tackles, 9 pass deflections, 2 interceptions
Rasul Douglas is playing much more than expected due to Ronald Darby’s injury, but the rookie is holding his own. Douglas is a long, rangy corner that has impressive intangibles that will keep him in the league for a long time. He is young and has his rookie moments, but all in all, he isn’t an absolute mess out there. I know it is very early in his career, but Douglas’ potential is showing and looks to have a promising career in the league on the horizon.
- 2016 Stats: 60 tackles, 12 pass deflections
- 2017 Stats: 1 tackle
Ronald Darby is a young corner with a very promising career, he was a huge pickup for the Eagles. Darby hasn’t had the time to showcase his talent this season after getting injured in week one. It will be very hard for him to outperform his last season with the Buffalo Bills, but it is only because of the missed time. Darby will be a huge asset for the Eagles going forward.
- 2016 Stats: 68 tackles, 7 pass deflections, 3 interceptions, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble
- 2017 Stats: 16 tackles, 5 pass deflections, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble
Stats don’t show how well Rodney McLeod has played this season. His tackle numbers aren’t up like they were a season ago, which is a good sign of improvement of the rest of the defense. He has already registered two interceptions and forced one fumble. McLeod is a leader and a big piece of the Eagles secondary.
- 2016 Stats: 44 tackles, 9 pass deflections, 3 interceptions, 2 touchdowns, 1 sack
- 2017 Stats: 40 tackles, 5 pass deflections, 1 sack
Malcolm Jenkins has a lot of mileage on him. The 8-year Veteran isn’t having a career season, but he is a massive part of the secondary. Jenkins’ veteran leadership role goes unmatched, and the Eagles need him if they want to reach their goals. It is a testament to the overall improvement of the defense that you don’t need Jenkins to be the game changer he once was.
The Eagles secondary has improved from last season. Over half of them are on pace to statistically outdo their numbers of last season. It is a testament to how good the front seven is when looking at the safeties tackle numbers. The constant pressure from that fresh defensive line takes some heat off of the secondary, but you must give credit where credit is due, they are improving every week.
Why does in not show up in the team numbers? That is the million dollar question… Despite the evidence that shows the individual improvement, the translation to the passing numbers they allow is mind-boggling. However, they are only giving up nine more yards per game than they were last season, so maybe why they are statistically 28th in the league is due to the rise of other secondaries as well. This is still the most concerning position group on the team, but the Eagles are 8-1, and the secondary has only given up 14 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, which isn’t a horrible ratio. All I know is that if the secondary keeps improving the way they have been this season, that pass defense number will slowly go down.
Photo Credit: AP/Michael Perez
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