The performance by Nick Foles and the offense in the loss to the Cowboys was disappointing to say the least. The thing that may be the most disappointing is that they performed that way and the defense played very well. Dallas had the second highest scoring offense coming into Sunday and the Eagles defense only allowed 17 points.
After allowing nearly 35 points a game through their first four games, the Eagles defense has allowed just under 20 points in their last three games. You can argue that their competition hasn’t been that great, but it’s still nice to see a positive trend as the Eagles approach the midway part of the season. There’s no denying that the defense was clearly the weakness heading into the beginning of the season, but I was hoping to see them improve as the season went on and they had more time to adapt to the new system. I think we’re seeing some improvements.
Are they a great defense? No. Are they a good defense? It’s debatable. However, I don’t think anyone expected them to turn into a dominating defense at any point in the season. With the high powered offense they have (minus their last effort), the defense doesn’t need to be outstanding. They can be a middle of the pack unit and still be able to win a decent amount of games.
Over the last few weeks, I think they’ve made some real improvements in their run defense. Against the Cowboys, they held the run game to under three yards a carry on 27 attempts. They were also solid on third downs, an area that they have struggled with throughout the season. Dallas was just 5 of 16 on third down conversions. You can make the argument that the Cowboys were without some of their top rushers, but they did a good job the week before in slowing down Doug Martin.
I think one of the big contributors in the run game over the last few weeks has been DeMeco Ryans. He seems to be every on the field lately. He had 12 solo tackles against the Bucs and followed it up with nine tackles, an interception, and a sack against Dallas. The Eagles have needed him to step up in the middle of the field and he seems to have found a certain comfort level in the new scheme.
The secondary is still struggling, but it has been able to force some turnovers in the last few weeks. Cary Williams continues to be a target, but I do like what I’ve seen out of corner Bradley Fletcher. The Eagles really seemed to struggle when Fletcher was out for a game earlier this season, but I think he has played pretty well as of late. He’s not an elite corner, but he’s been a good addition.
One of the things I’ll look for the Eagles to improve upon as the rest of the season unfolds is getting better pressure on the quarterback. It seemed like they were in RGIII’s face a ton the first week but have really been on a downward trend since then. In this league, you need to be able to get consistent pressure on the quarterback and that really hasn’t been happening. There’s still a lot of season left, so I hope to see the Eagles improve upon this as they approach the second half of their schedule.
Again, I’m not praising this defense as an elite unit. I wanted to see them improve as the season continued. This season is more about evaluating what they have and fitting the scheme to their personnel. They should be able to strengthen that personnel in the offseason, but you want them to do so around some core players who can perform.
As they continue through the next few weeks, it’ll be interesting to watch how the unit continues to progress. Have they taken advantage of weak competition or are they truly trending in the right direction? Only time will tell.