Philadelphia Eagles: Projections for Eagles' Defensive Stats Leaders in 2012
Usually, it is fairly easy to predict the stats leaders on offense, as they tend to be the team’s No. 1 quarterback, running back and wide receiver. On defense, however, many more players are able to post different numbers, which makes it more difficult to predict who will lead the team in a particular category.
One thing is certain, though: The Eagles have made significant changes on the defensive side of the ball, which means players who led the team in a category last year may not repeat.
Tackles: DeMeco Ryans
Rob Carr/Getty Images
The wide-nine scheme that the Philadelphia Eagles use on defense allows for defensive ends to get after the quarterback, but it also leaves open lanes up the middle of the defense for running backs to exploit.
That means that whoever is manning the middle of the defense will see plenty of tackle opportunities.
Enter DeMeco Ryans.
The former Houston Texan is expected to be the Eagles’ starting middle linebacker, and he will be tasked with wrapping up any running backs who try running it up the middle.
Also working in Ryans’ favor is that he is expected to be an every-down linebacker, which means he will help in run support as well as in obvious passing downs. He will likely see the most snaps of any defensive player and will have plenty of opportunities to pad his tackle numbers.
Given the extensive amount of playing time he is likely to receive and the scheme in which he will be playing in, it is a safe bet that Ryans will post triple-digit tackle numbers his first year in Philadelphia.
Projection: 90 solo, 40 assists, 130 total
Sacks: Jason Babin
Rob Carr/Getty Images
As was stated in the previous slide, the wide-nine scheme allows defensive ends to focus on rushing the quarterback. In Jason Babin’s case, that is essentially his only focus.
Whereas fellow starting defensive end Trent Cole may be asked to play a bit in coverage or help in run support, Babin’s primary focus will be trying to put as much pressure on the opposing quarterback as possible.
Playing next to a talent like Cole will also free Babin up and place him in favorable matchups, which will equate to another season of high sack totals.
Babin has thrived the past two seasons under defensive line coach Jim Washburn, and that trend will likely continue in 2012.
Cole may get double-digit sacks, but Babin will be the one who leads the team in that category. Either way, the two will make a formidable duo for yet another season.
Projection: 13 sacks
Interceptions: Nate Allen
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
As a rookie in 2010, Nate Allen looked like a safety with surprising ball-hawk abilities. He regressed in his sophomore campaign after struggling to come back from injury, but now he should be fully recovered.
With the Eagles’ strong defensive line applying heavy pressure, opposing quarterbacks will be forced into making errant throws downfield. Allen has shown a knack for taking advantage of those kinds of opportunities and should have plenty of chances to pick off weak throws.
And with Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie hopefully having bounce-back seasons, more throws will be directed away from them and toward Allen and whichever safety ends up playing next to him.
Asomugha and DRC are both cover corners, which means that they are more likely to break up passes and force an incompletion rather than go for the interception. That leaves Allen more chances to make the big play.
2012 is a prime chance for Allen to prove he can be an elite safety in this league, and picking off a handful of passes will go a long way toward him reaching that goal.
Projection: 5 interceptions
Passes Defended: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Many fans would think Nnamdi Asomugha would win this category, considering he is the best cover corner on the team. But it is exactly because he is the best on the team that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will win this one.
With Asomugha in a more comfortable defensive scheme this year, he will be able to regain some confidence and play better. Opposing quarterbacks will notice this and actively try not to throw in his direction.
This means more passes being thrown at DRC, who will also be playing in a scheme that better suits his talents. More passes equates to more opportunities to showcase his cover abilities, and I expect him to swat away quite a few passes in 2012.
Asomugha will also get his fair share of deflected passes, but DRC will have the higher number of opportunities to break up a pass.
Projection: 18 passes defensed
Forced Fumbles: Mychal Kendricks
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
Mychal Kendricks still has yet to play in an NFL game, but the talent is there for him to make an immediate impact this season.
The rookie linebacker has already been inserted into the starting lineup at strong-side linebacker, which shows just how much confidence the team has in the second-round pick.
Kendricks is relatively undersized but has plenty of talent and physical ability, as was showcased by his performance at the NFL Scouting Combine earlier this year.
After watching some game film of him, it is clear to see that he plays fast and hard. He has tenacity and seems to have a nose for the football, which are two qualities to look for when searching for a playmaker.
I could also see Trent Cole making a push for this category win, but Kendricks will have more opportunities to deliver punishing hits that knock the ball loose. He will be an exciting player to watch progress from training camp to Week 1.
Projection: 4 forced fumbles