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.

Eagles-Redskins: 5 matchups to watch

Eagles-Redskins: 5 matchups to watch

The Eagles are coming off their third straight loss and have dropped five of their last six. 

The Redskins have dropped two straight, but are still very much in the playoff hunt at 6-5-1.

The Birds are looking for their first win against the NFC East this season. Here are five matchups to watch.

Eagles defensive line vs. Redskins offensive line
In the matchup in Washington, the Redskins' O-line owned the Eagles' D-line to the tune of 230 rushing yards and nearly 500 yards total. The Eagles also failed to record a sack. And that was at a time when their line was playing fairly well.

The Eagles' line has come under serious fire and for good reason. They've grossly underperformed for a unit that's supposed to be the team's strength. As for the Redskins, their line has been very good all season and they'll get All Pro Trent Williams back after the massive tackle served a four-game suspension.

DeSean Jackson vs. Eagles' corners
DeSean has been on a roll. The Eagles' corners have not. In his last three games, Jackson has nine catches for 228 yards (good for 25.3 yards per catch) and two touchdowns. 

Last week in Cincinnati, the Eagles were burned by the formidable trio of Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd and Cody Core for 11 catches for 219 yards. Each receiver had at least one reception of 29 yards plus. It could be a long day for Nolan Carroll, Leodis McKelvin and Jalen Mills.

Carson Wentz vs. Joe Barry
It's no secret that Wentz has been struggling. In his last three, Wentz  has three touchdowns to six interceptions and has completed less than 60 percent of his passes. Equally as alarming is that Wentz is 83 of 141 over that span. That's a ridiculous 47 attempts per game. Yes, the Eagles have been behind in those games, but Doug Pederson still needs to find a way to give this offense balance.

Barry's unit hasn't exactly set the world on fire, ranking 23rd in yards per game and 20th in points allowed. They've let up 31 points in each of their last two games, but it is important to note that they've played the Cowboys and the Cardinals. The Eagles don't have playmakers like Ezekiel Elliot and Dez Bryant or David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald.

Ryan Kerrigan vs. Allen Barbre
Kerrigan looked unstoppable in the NFL debut of Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Kerrigan racked up 2.5 sacks and five quarterback hurries in the Redskins' win. Kerrigan has already reached double-digit sacks for the second time in his career and has notched a sack in each of his last three.

Barbre has performed admirably in the absence of both the suspended Lane Johnson and the injured Vaitai. It's also pretty clear that Barbre's best position is guard. It's going to be a stiff test for Barbre to contain Kerrigan. 

Jordan Matthews (maybe) vs. Josh Norman 
With Paul Turner performing well in the slot, it'll be interesting to see if Pederson decides to use Matthews on the outside more. Matthews is coming off an ankle injury that kept him out of the Eagles' loss to the Bengals and is listed as questionable on Sunday. Even if Matthews is 100 percent, it's not an ideal matchup for the Eagles.

Louisville's Lamar Jackson wins Heisman Trophy

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USA Today Images

Louisville's Lamar Jackson wins Heisman Trophy

NEW YORK -- Lamar Jackson leapt over a loaded field of Heisman Trophy contenders early in the season and by the time he slowed down nobody could catch him.

The sensational sophomore quarterback became the first Louisville player to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, beating out preseason favorite Deshaun Watson of Clemson despite some late-season struggles.

Baker Mayfield finished third and Oklahoma teammate and fellow finalist Dede Westbrook was fourth. Michigan's Jabrill Peppers was fifth.

Watson, who finished third in Heisman voting last year, led a stacked group of contenders entering this season that included five of the top seven vote-getters in 2015.

Jackson outdid them all in his first season as Louisville's full-time starter, accounting for 51 touchdowns and averaging 410 yards per game in total offense. He ultimately won going away, with 2,144 points to Watson's 1,524. By percentage of possible points received, Jackson's victory was the sixth largest in Heisman history, and he became the youngest winner at 19 years, 352 days.

Jackson is the first Heisman Trophy winner to play on a team that lost its last two games of the regular season since Tim Brown of Notre Dame in 1987. He's the first to enter the postseason without a chance to win the national title since Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M in 2012.

No matter. Jackson did so much before November it was difficult to deny him the award because of a couple of missteps at the end.

He provided a signature moment against Syracuse, hurdling a defender on his way into the end zone, and then played his best against Louisville's toughest competition.

In a romp over Florida State and a close loss at Clemson, Jackson threw for 511 yards, ran for 308 and accounted for eight touchdowns. After ripping apart Florida State in September, he earned the stamp of approval from his idol, former Virginia Tech and NFL star Mike Vick.

Jackson left that Oct. 1 game in Death Valley as a threat to run away with the Heisman, but losses to Houston and Kentucky, when he committed four turnovers, in late November provided an opportunity for others to sway voters.

Watson made the biggest surge, but ultimately fell short.

Jackson continues a recent trend of breakout stars winning the Heisman. He is the sixth player to win the award as either a redshirt freshman or sophomore, all since 2007, joining Manziel (redshirt freshman), Jameis Winston (redshirt freshman), Mark Ingram (sophomore), Sam Bradford (sophomore) and Tim Tebow (sophomore).

Jackson came to Louisville as a three-star recruit from Boynton Beach High School in Florida. Some colleges were not sold on him as a quarterback, but Jackson was such a dynamic talented Louisville coach Bobby Petrino altered his offense to accommodate Jackson's speed and elusiveness.

Jackson flashed brilliance as a freshman and showed what was to come in the Music City Bowl against Texas A&M. He had 453 total yards and led Louisville to a victory.

Still, with so many well-established stars from Watson and Mayfield to running backs Christian McCaffrey of Stanford, Dalvin Cook of Florida State and Leonard Fournette of LSU, Jackson entered the season without much fanfare.

Just the way he likes it.

Jackson spent this season adjusting to newfound fame, growing into the role of face of the team and trying to stay out of the spotlight. He said he cut down on trips to the mall to avoid the inevitable crowds he drew.

He is about to become even more popular. Especially back in Louisville, where he has another year before he can even consider his next big jump -- to the NFL.