Eagles Defense by the Numbers Through Four Games

Eagles Defense by the Numbers Through Four Games

Lately we've been running Filmroom Friday around this time, but you may have noticed my plate has been a little full this week, so I didn't have a chance to really dig into the coaches' film. I expect my schedule to remain hectic next week as well, so if you've been enjoying those posts, we'll try to get back at it over the bye.

But now that some folks are finally starting to come around on Juan Castillo -- very slowly, I will add -- we thought it would be helpful to look at some of the numbers that explain why.

Truthfully, I don't think Castillo has been given quite enough credit for the Eagles' defensive turnaround yet. Sure, it's only been four games (although really eight dating back to last season), so it's understandable some are still skeptical. Then again, four games into 2011 people were already calling for the man's job, if they ever gave the hire a chance in the first place.

Another dynamic at work here is the Eagles haven't exactly seen many top offenses yet. Cleveland and Arizona have two of the least efficient attacks, and the Giants were banged up. The Steelers, Lions, Falcons, and Saints are the next four opponents, and each figures to test what this unit is made of.

Regardless of competition, nobody can say Castillo's crew hasn't their job though. Here's a rundown on some of the numbers:

POINTS PER GAME

Philadelphia is in a three-way tie for 10th as opponents are scoring 20.8 points per game -- but hold the phone. Two touchdowns against the Eagles this season were opposing defenses taking Michael Vick turnovers to the house. Even if you want insist the point after counts anyway, the Birds' D is actually allowing 17.8 points per game, which would be tied for sixth.

That number is even better going back to 2011. Per Reuben Frank, the Eagles have been the second-stingiest defense in the NFL over the last eight games, allowing 13.8 PPG. Coincidentally, only the Steelers have been better.

YARDS

By the NFL's standard, Philadelphia has the sixth-ranked defense in the NFL -- allowing 298.2 yards per game -- and they're getting it done by being solid all around. They are 12th against the run (91.5), 11th in yards per carry (3.8), and are even more impressively seventh against the pass (206.8), tied for third in yards per attempt (6.2).

Of course, the passing numbers are probably aided by the fact that Brandon Weeden and Kevin Kolb are among the four quarterbacks they've faced, but still solid nonetheless.

THIRD DOWNS

A big difference for the Eagles this year has been their ability to get off the field on third down, especially in a long distance situations. Opponents have converted just 14-of-52 tries on third down, a rate of 27% -- third best in the NFL. They've held strong when the offense goes for it as well, allowing the sticks to move one time in four tries on fourth down.

TURNOVERS

Teams were successful at protecting the football against the Birds last season, but at least quarterbacks are turning the ball over at a higher rate. Philly is tied for fourth with four other teams at six interceptions a piece, with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie owning three of them alone -- which also happens to be tied for the league lead.

Surprisingly the Eagles haven't had much luck with loose balls, recovering just one fumble so far, though they did have a second one called back due to a penalty.

RED ZONE

The Eagles have been horrible in the red zone the past few years, historically bad even. That won't be the case in 2012. Philadelphia is tied for fourth in red zone scoring, allowing a touchdown only 33% of the time. That means two out of three trips will either result in three points, or none at all. Certainly that's made a huge difference in all those tight one- and two-point victories.

Curiously, while the defense has posted some tremendous numbers through four games the defensive line hasn't really gotten it going just yet. They've certainly made an impact pressuring quarterbacks and stuffing the run, but a season ago they finished with 50 sacks. So far in 2012, seven, ranked 21st in the NFL. They're on pace to finish with almost half of last year's total.

So while you might argue the level of competition has helped skew the numbers in the Eagles' favor to a degree, imagine how much better they could be if Trent Cole and Jason Babin start to get hot. My guess is once that happens, and after a few strong efforts against some of the top-flight competition coming up, soon everybody will be happy to admit the Castillo's defense is one of the toughest units in the league.

La Salle suffers demoralizing loss to struggling UMass

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USA Today Images

La Salle suffers demoralizing loss to struggling UMass

AMHERST, Mass. -- Zach Lewis scored a career-high 37 points, including six three-pointers, and Massachusetts pulled away from La Salle 84-71 on Sunday to snap a three-game losing streak.

Lewis, whose 37-point effort was the best for any player in the Atlantic 10 this season, hit nine of his 16 field goal attempts overall and was a perfect 13-for-13 at the free throw line. Dejon Jarreau added 20 points and four three-ponters for UMass (14-15, 4-12).

Pookie Powell hit five 3-pointers and scored 24 points, and B.J. Johnson added 20 points to lead La Salle (14-13, 8-8).

Both teams shot similar percentages and had similar three-point totals, but the Minutemen finished with a plus-14 advantage at the free throw line.

La Salle remained within striking distance but a 13-4 stretch for UMass midway through the second half pushed its lead to 63-51. The Minutemen kept the Explorers at arm's length the rest of the way.

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Malik Monk, Lonzo Ball lead the way in wins

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Malik Monk, Lonzo Ball lead the way in wins

The Sixers acquired some more draft picks this weekend, including a "first round pick." Meanwhile, the Lakers still have the third-best lottery odds, meaning the Sixers have a decent shot of having their pick convey to them this season.

With that in mind, let's take a peek at who rose and fell this weekend.

Malik Monk, guard, Kentucky (6-4/185)
Saturday was pretty much peak Malik Monk. Monk can shoot and shoot he did, to the tune of 33 points in No. 11 Kentucky's 76-66 home win over No. 13 Florida. Monk didn't quite get 47 points like he did vs. North Carolina in non-conference play, but the freshman shooting guard scored a point per minute played. He shot 9 for 18 from the field, an impressive 5 of 7 from three, and got to the free-throw line with ease. He made 10 of 11 from the stripe. 

It was Monk at his most Monk, so he also had five assists to go with six turnovers. You let an offensive artist go to work like Monk and you're going to get a few turnovers to boot, and that's also to be expected when he takes some of the work left by De'Aaron Fox, who missed Saturday's game. Monk is almost surely a top-10 pick and should be near the top of the Sixers' board. He fits them like a glove if they can effectively build around Ben Simmons with shooters.

Lonzo Ball, guard, UCLA (6-6/190)
Kentucky wasn't the only team picking up a big conference win, as No. 5 UCLA went on the road and got revenge against No. 4 Arizona to the tune of a 77-72 win. Color exactly no one shocked, but Lonzo Ball had a big role in the win. He shot just 1 of 5 from three (5 of 10 from the field), but he was everywhere offensively. He dished out eight assists, picked up five rebounds and had just two turnovers. Defensively, he also provided two steals.

Ball wasn't just in the news for his performance on the court, which was certainly exemplary. His dad said that he would only play for the Lakers next year, causing an uproar before he somewhat walked back the comments. It would certainly be entertaining to see the Calif. native be the future point guard of the Lakers under the tutelage of new president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, but Ball doesn't have the clout to force his way to LA. Heck, the Lakers may not even have their pick come June.

Jayson Tatum, forward, Duke (6-8/204)
While Monk and Ball led their squads to wins on Saturday, Jayson Tatum was unable to do the same. He was stifled along with his No. 10 Duke Blue Devils in a 55-50 loss at Miami. The Hurricanes are the type of team that can give Tatum fits because they're long and can provide the mobile athletes needed to stay with Tatum. Since NBA teams are literally full of those kinds of athletes, it's a concern for the freshman as he presumably takes the leap next year.

Against Miami, Tatum played all 40 minutes and was a paltry 4 of 16 from the field, missing all seven of his attempts from three. He did have seven assists to go with eight points, but it was not a good look for the freshman. Duke can't afford a performance like that from the top-10 prospect if they're going to make a tournament run. They'll need to see more of what he did against Syracuse on Wednesday (also a loss), when he had 19 points, 13 rebounds and six assists.

Josh Jackson, forward, Kansas (6-8/203)
Ho hum, Kansas won again. The No. 3 Jayhawks seem poised to become No. 1 overall after losses by Gonzaga and Villanova this week and freshman Josh Jackson is a strong reason why Kansas will be a No. 1 seed come March. Jackson struggled from two (3 for 11) on Saturday in a 77-67 win over Texas but he was 2 for 3 from three and made 6 of 8 from the free throw line. That's important: He's struggled at times from those two areas and is now up to 37.8 percent from three. Jackson still struggles from the stripe at 57.1 percent. 

He had another all-around game against Texas, too. He had five rebounds and five assists and was his pesky self defensively. This came after a 15-point, 11-rebound effort to go with four assists against TCU on Wednesday. Jackson is versatile on both ends and seems like he could fit on any team picking near the top of the lottery.

Jonathan Isaac, forward, Florida State (6-11/205)
The No. 19 Seminoles finally broke out of a slump and Jonathan Isaac made himself heard in a 76-74 win at Clemson. That may not seem impressive since Clemson is unranked, but road wins in conference, especially in the ACC, are hard to come by and worth celebrating when achieved. Isaac was highly efficient as he scored 14 points on just eight shots. He made two treys in three attempts but had just three rebounds, likely a result of Florida St.'s size and length sharing the load on the boards.

The lengthy 19-year-old forward had just one block. However, it was the biggest block he could have made. He denied the Tigers a go-ahead shot in the final 10 seconds and helped preserve the road victory. Isaac has an enticing talent for defending the rim and it's part of why he's a major prospect. FSU does play some zone, so he'll need to adjust to full-time man-to-man defense at the next level. 

Quick Hits 
Let's look at some second-round picks this week, with the Sixers' additions to their treasure chest of picks.

While Arizona lost to UCLA, sophomore guard Alonzo Trier was on fire for much of the game, making 11 of 14 shots en route to a game-high 28 points. Trier has clear offensive talent but has some questions after a PED suspension to begin the year.

Oregon had some heroics on the road this week and junior forward Dillon Brooks played his part. He drained a three as time expired to beat California on Wednesday and had 36 points in a sweep of Cal and Stanford. 

Let's stick in the area with Villanova senior Josh Hart for this last one. The senior guard has potential as a role player at the next level and an efficient 16 points on 11 shots played a part in 'Nova's 79-63 win over Creighton.