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The Eagles have allowed 447 yards per game and are on pace to break the NFL record in yards allowed. (AP)
The numbers are ugly. Billy Davis knows that. The stats are hideous, Davis is well aware. The rankings are embarrassing. Davis understands that quite well.
He won’t deny any of it.
Davis, the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, does believe that hidden behind all the big plays and missed tackles and blown assignments is a young defense that is improving.
It’s just nobody can tell right now.
Not after the defense allowed 38 points in Denver and is on pace to allow more yards than any team in NFL history.
“The results did not show in that game, obviously, so I’m asking you to trust me,” Davis said Tuesday.
“Even though there’s not the results, the guys know through the daily work, it’ll turn, it’ll turn. It hasn’t turned yet, it’s not where we want it to be, but we will continue to put our heads down and work, and I really believe it will turn.”
The Eagles are last in the NFL in yards allowed at 447 per game, last in first downs allowed (28 per game), last in yards per play (6.0), 31st in pass defense (325 yards per game), 26th in third-down percentage (44 percent) and 26th in rush defense (122 yards per game).
Four games in, the Eagles are on pace to allow an NFL-record 7,148 yards.
So that’s a lot of trust Davis is asking for.
“Right now, we’re at a stage of four weeks of live football where we’ve tested the defense,” Davis said.
“And we’re not where we want to be and I know the results are not there, but behind the scenes -- and I’ve watched that [Broncos] game probably 10 times on tape, as well as every other game we’ve played -- the fundamentals, the techniques, the understanding, the players playing with each other, it is moving forward.”
Davis’ point is that the Eagles are just four games into transitioning from a 4-3 to a 3-4 and they have six new starters and a new staff, and while going through all this, they’ve been asked to face Philip Rivers, Alex Smith and Peyton Manning, whose teams are a combined 10-2.
Davis believes that while the product might be ugly right now, there is improvement going on behind the scenes.
“We’re very inconsistent right now in applying the techniques and understanding of the overall scheme,” he said.
“We have days and stretches of plays where it’s very exciting to watch as they’re getting it, then we have these lulls where it’s not where we want it to be.”
Much of the focus on the Eagles’ struggling defense has been on that new 3-4 front, which is still stocked with some classic 4-3 players, like Trent Cole, Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham.
But Davis said the Eagles remain committed to the 3-4, even though so far it’s been gashed for 382, 539, 394 and 472 yards the first four weeks of the season.
“We’re taking some punches on it right now as we’re pushing through to the other side,” he said. “We as a staff believe with all our heart we’re going to push through to that other side, we just have to get through the transition part and the hard part that we’re living right now. The 3-4 is what we’ve decided to be.”
The Eagles try to end their three-game losing streak Sunday afternoon against the winless Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.
The Giants are having problems of their own, sitting at 0-4 for the first time in a non-strike season since 1979 and with an offense that’s scored just eight touchdowns in four games, just one the last two weeks.
That’s the first of eight straight games for the Eagles against teams that currently do not have a winning record.
It’s a chance for the Eagles to turn their season around and for this defense to show that they’re not as bad as the numbers look.
“We’ve got the talent, we just have to get them playing together within the scheme,” Davis said.
“I don’t care what you run, a wide 9, a 3-4 two-gap, every player is attached to each other. The defensive line’s technique is attached to the linebackers’ technique, who is attached to the safeties’ technique.
“And when you have inconsistency in any one spot, the defense breaks down. It doesn’t matter the scheme, it matters that the techniques within the call, within the scheme, are played as 11-as-1, we always talk about.
“And that’s where we have to get to, and we’re not there yet. And that’s probably what shows up more than anything else. It is moving in the right direction. It is better each week.”