Bill Davis has publicly stated that the defense's priority will be coming up with takeaways. Davis knows how to get this done. In his four years as a defensive coordinator, Davis' defense averaged 28 takeaways per year. In the last two seasons, the Eagles managed just a total of 37 takeaways. The defense's inability to consistently stop offenses was further reinforced by the lack of big plays.
To put these numbers in perspective, let's look back to the Eagles' great playoff teams from 2000-04. The defense averaged 31 takeaways per year over a five-year span. Davis' average of 28 is pretty good considering he wasn't working with elite talent. If Davis can get the Eagles defense to start making big plays, that will be a big boost to an offense that has struggled to score points the last couple of years. Starting with good field position would be a huge help.
Beyond takeaways, I think head coach Chip Kelly will stress to the whole team that he wants points to come from offense, defense and special teams. The best teams make big plays in all three phases of the game. The coach must instill the mindset of being aggressive and making plays. Kelly did a great job of that at Oregon. It will be interesting to see how well it works with the Eagles.
Looking To Make A Deal?
I've received questions from some readers about possible trades. Since the Eagles and the Patriots will hold joint practices in early August, some have wondered if the Patriots will have their eyes on tight ends as possible targets. Tight end is a critical position in the New England offense. With Aaron Hernandez in serious legal trouble and Rob Gronkowski coming off back surgery, the Patriots might be looking for tight end help.
The Eagles are deep at tight end, assuming everyone stays healthy. Chip Kelly will keep three or four on the final roster.
Chip Kelly isn't going to do anything until he sees his players in live action. Watching minicamps is the equivalent of watching batting practice. It is useful, but very different from the real thing. Kelly can't make true evaluations of his players until he seems them in a full-contact setting. If Kelly likes what he sees out of receiver and tight end, the Eagles might be willing to make a deal.
You can also bet that general manager Howie Roseman will have his eyes open around the league looking for ways to help the Eagles. The team isn't selling out to win this year, but you never know when a player will become available at a reasonable cost. The Eagles made some good changes this offseason, but I don't think anyone looks at this roster as a finished product. As Kelly watches the players, he'll identify areas where he thinks there is a need for help. This could be starters or just depth. Roseman and the scouts will see what they can find. Any time you have new coaches and systems, the roster will be in a work in progress for the first year or so.
A Poised Rookie
I have no idea if this will make much of a difference on the field. It just fascinates me how kids today are so advanced in such strange ways.
An Interesting Stat
Former Eagles scout and current NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah posted an interesting stat on Twitter. Six teams didn't allow a single run of 40 yards in 2012. Those teams were Baltimore, Cincinnati, Denver, Houston, New England and San Francisco. All of those teams made the playoffs, including the two that played in the Super Bowl.
This stat tells you that the teams tackled well in the secondary. It tells you that those teams had excellent pursuit on defense. Running backs are going to get loose at some point. You need 11 players to hustle to the football. You never know which player is going to be the guy to make the key tackle. I can recall Darwin Walker, Mike Patterson and Cullen Jenkins making good hustle tackles downfield over the years. When the big guys up front are hustling, you know a defense is playing hard.
The Eagles gave up two runs of 40 or more yards last year. The Falcons gave up eight long runs despite being such a good team. It is hard to believe they had as good as season as they did with that stat. Their tackling was a huge issue all year long.