Eagles by the Numbers: 2013 Stats Philadelphia Must Improve Upon in 2014
The Philadelphia Eagles capitalized on Chip Kelly's system in 2013, setting franchise records in points scored and total yards gained en route to a 10-6 record. Along the way to an NFC East title, the team likely found its franchise quarterback in Nick Foles. All-Pro runner LeSean McCoy evolved into arguably the league's finest back, the offensive line gelled into a top-five unit and even the defense overachieved for the majority of the campaign.
Still, the Eagles can't automatically assume they're the favorites to repeat as division champions. Counting on several factors to occur again could be risky. Few, if any, teams have been able to duplicate that kind of health on a consistent basis. And both the defense and special teams will have to perform better in certain aspects to emerge as division champions again in '14.
Here are five statistics that don't look like they belonged on the resume of a 10-win team. What this means is that the Eagles will need to show improvement or a fall back to .500 or worse may be in the waiting.
Total Yards Allowed
The Philadelphia Eagles managed to finish near the middle of the pack in scoring defense (17th) despite allowing the fourth-most yards of any NFL team. That’s a classic, bend-but-don’t-break defense, and it is historically difficult to duplicate on a yearly basis.
That’s over 800 more yards than the 2012 Eagles allowed, and that team finished 4-12. Billy Davis’ defense was on the field more than any other defense in the league, and the Eagles faced an NFL-record 670 passes. Philly also led the NFL in passing yards allowed, managing to win games on a defense that came up with timely interceptions, namely ones by Brandon Boykin.
Shoring up that defense is a necessity. The Eagles’ players should be more comfortable in year two in Davis’ scheme. Adding a first-round player on defense would benefit Davis. With the average NFL team allowing around 5,600 yards in ’13, that should be the Eagles’ goal in ’14.
Kick/Punt Return Units
The Philadelphia Eagles’ return teams struggled in 2013, and it was evident to any fan that watched the games.
The kick return units were largely mediocre, finishing 26th in the pack at 21.4 yards per return. The punt return units gained just 6.6 yards per punt return, which was 27th in the NFL. There were no return touchdowns, and there was little explosiveness all season, outside of a DeSean Jackson punt return score negated by a penalty.
Whether Chip Kelly drafts a player like De’Anthony Thomas or signs a veteran free agent, a la Darren Sproles or Devin Hester, Philadelphia needs a serious upgrade from those numbers.
In the first season in defensive coordinator Billy Davis' new 3-4 scheme, the Philadelphia Eagles recorded just 37 sacks. That figure ranked 20th in the league. The only team with fewer sacks that qualified for the playoffs was the San Diego Chargers (35).
Veteran end Trent Cole paced the Eagles with eight, doing so in his first taste of playing a standing-up role as an outside 'backer. All eight of Cole's sacks occurred in the second half of the season. While it did coincide with Philly's winning streak, the Eagles may not be able to count on Cole to duplicate those numbers in his age-32 season.
Other than Cole, there was little pressure on the opposing quarterback. Connor Barwin had five sacks. DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, and Vinny Curry had four apiece, and a pair of players contributed with three. It would be nice if former first-round pick Brandon Graham developed into the dynamic presence the Eagles thought they were getting in 2010, but he's entering his fifth season and still slated as a backup.
What Davis needs for his front seven is an explosive pass-rusher that constantly requires double-teams. Philly could address that via the draft, as Dee Ford, Kony Ealy or Kyle Van Noy could all be available at pick 22. There's also free agency, with Washington's Brian Orakpo representing the top talent at his position.
The Eagles could also approach this a handful of different ways. A versatile lineman to add to the three-man front may make it easier for Cole and Barwin. If Philadelphia doesn't make any drastic upgrades, Davis may have to simply be creative with his schemes to increase the number of sacks. But it is doubtful Philly makes the playoffs again unless the Eagles record more sacks than the '13 club.
The Philadelphia Eagles certainly saw their kicker’s deficiencies exposed as the season wore on.
There was the disastrous Minnesota game when Chip Kelly inexplicably ordered Alex Henery to kick it short in a desperate attempt to contain Cordarrelle Patterson. In the playoffs, Henery’s final kickoff barely reached the end zone and was returned deep by the New Orleans Saints, aided by a flagrant foul on Cary Williams.
Henery finished 28th among kickers in average yardage per kickoff (64.7). He rated as the 31st best kicker overall, per Pro Football Focus’s standards (subscription required). Henery seemed to get worse as the season went on. He averaged 70 or more yards per kickoff in seven of the first 11 games, then just once in the final six games (including playoffs). The Eagles may need to bring in a kicker to compete for the job or just outright take it from Henery.
Average Plays Allowed Per Opponent’s Drive
Chip Kelly’s unique style of football in 2013 was to score quickly on offense and allow his defense to stop the opponent. What that did was keep the opposition on the field for extended periods of time and place a high amount of pressure on first-year defensive coordinator, Billy Davis.
Per Pro Football Reference, the Philadelphia Eagles finished dead-last in the NFL in average plays allowed per opponent’s drive (6.0). That means the Eagles were allowing too many yards and too many first downs. The result was that the Eagles finished 29th in the league in yardage allowed.
Finishing better at this statistic will depend largely on the Eagles’ ability to come up with stops on third downs. If Philly finishes dead-last again, it’s highly doubtful they qualify for the playoffs.