Defensive coordinator Bill Davis faced many challenges when he took over the Eagles defense this offseason. Implementing a new scheme with a slew of new players is no easy task and it certainly takes some time. While the defense as a whole appears to be improving every week, there was one immediate goal that Davis wanted to execute right away. He wanted the Eagles to stop being a big-play defense.
Last year, only one team in the NFL allowed more big plays in the passing game than the Eagles. Twenty-five passes against the Eagles netted at least 30 yards, which tied for the second-highest such number in the league. Through seven games this season, the Eagles defense has allowed only six such plays, which ties them for fifth in that category.
From the moment Davis took over the job of redesigning the Eagles defense, he placed an emphasis on not allowing opposing receivers to get behind the defense.
"It's just something we focus on, focus on staying disciplined," said safety
Unsaid by Allen is that part of the reason the Eagles' safeties were so often vulnerable to the deep pass last season was schematic. Because of the now-taboo "wide-nine," safeties were often given primary run responsibilities, which made them much more susceptible to play action.
"It was tough sometimes, but we like what we're doing now and they put us in position to make good plays and be successful and so far we've done pretty well with that," said Allen.
Of those six 30-plus-yard passing plays against the Eagles this season, only four were actually completed deep. Clearly, the safeties have been coached to keep the play in front of them.
"Well, I think one of the biggest things is we are not giving up those deep ones and that's what one of the main goals was," said Davis. "The intermediate ones we've now got to tighten down on. The ones that are getting to the 15 to the 25s, that immediate coverage – I do believe the guys are getting a better understanding of the deep to short and coming up.
"Really the trick is to play the vertical game first and be able to break and get tighter on the slant game."
|Preventing The Big Play|
|Year||30-yard Passes Allowed ||Avg. YAC||Takeaways |
|2012||25 (t-30th)||6.2 (30th)||13 (t-31st) |
|2013||6 (t-5th)||5.5 (14th)||12 (14th) |
Aside from the positioning of the safeties, the Eagles defense has also kept opponents at bay with much improved tackling in the secondary. The Eagles have allowed an average of 5.5 yards after catch per reception, which ranks 14th in the league. That may not sound like a world-beating rate, but consider where the team is coming from. The Eagles ranked 30th and 31st in 2012 and 2011 with 6.2- and 7.0-yard averages, respectively.
The logical offshoot of making the opposing offense work harder for its points is that while the Eagles prevent the big play, they have more opportunities to create a big play themselves. If the offense can't strike quickly, they have more opportunities to make mistakes. To wit, after finishing tied for last in the league with 13 turnovers last season, the Eagles already have 12 in 2013.
"Those big plays, they can swing the game," said Allen. "They're big swing plays, momentum and all that stuff. If we can limit that, that's always a positive."
The Eagles' ability to prevent the deep pass will be tested this weekend by the Giants, who registered 26 pass plays of 30 yards or more last season, tied for the second-highest total in the league. They only have eight thus far in what has been a disappointing season, but the personnel at quarterback and receiver remains the same.
"I think that's the one thing we try to pride ourselves on is we're not getting the ball thrown over our head," said head coach Chip Kelly. "But this team more than any team we've played, and we expect it again on Sunday, is going to challenge us from that standpoint. They're going to try to take some shots over the top, and we've got to be in position to make plays."
Team Rushing Update
Prior to the start of the season, the Wulf's Den predicted that the 2013 Eagles would challenge the franchise record for team rushing yards and every week we keep track of that race. The Eagles' rushing offense has slowed a bit of late, but they still remain slightly ahead of the pace set by Steve Van Buren and the 1949 Eagles.
Franchise Record: 2,607 yards
2013 Eagles Pace: 2,640 yards
Locker Room Costume Party
Weren't we all a Power Ranger once upon a time? With Halloween fast approaching and the scramble for a last-minute costume in full force, allow the Eagles locker room to serve as an idea board as they reflect on the best costumes they've ever worn. For some, like
We'll begin with an award winner …
Clifton Geathers: I was a Mummy back in elementary school. I won the competition. My mom wrapped me in toilet paper all the way around. I left a little trash around the place.
Nate Allen: In college, I was Kimbo Slice. My sophomore year in college. I had a huge beard. I had a Tapout shirt, fights shorts on. I put blood and cuts all over my face and I had the do-rag how he wears the do-rag. The beard was good, it was a good one. And then I had a big chain, like literally like a chain-link chain around my neck. It was pretty good.
(Ed. Note -- Not sure who was Dwight and who was Creed in this Joker scenario)
All of which leads us to the Eagles Haunted House. Click to check it out up close.
Each week, we'll sit down with a member of the Eagles to discuss something you may not know about him. This week's subject is cornerback
Bo Wulf: So what was it like when you found out that your destiny had been fulfilled, that you had become a Philadelphia Eagle?
Roc Carmichael: It felt good. At first, it felt kind of weird, but like I tell people, when I got drafted, when they called my name, I had on all green and a Philadelphia Eagles hat, when I got drafted by the Houston Texans. I was at my brother's spring game, he plays for Towson, my whole family was there and they called and said, 'You're going to be playing for the Houston Texans,' and I had an Eagles hat and like a green shirt and green shoes on. I didn't even think about it, that's just what I had put on that day. So I definitely think I'm where I'm supposed to be.
BW: It's meant to be?
RC: Yeah, man, definitely.
BW: Is it funny looking back on your childhood? I guess you were 10 years old when Harold starting working for the Eagles.
RC: Crazy story about that, you remember when kids were wearing the throwback jerseys and things like that? I wanted an Eric Dickerson jersey and my dad, for Christmas, brought me home a Harold Carmichael jersey --
BW: He brought you home his own jersey?
RC: No, no. Well, yeah, that's what he said. He's like, 'This is our jersey.' So I'm like, 'Who is Harold Carmichael?' I didn't even think twice about it or whatever and I thought he had just gotten it made. Then I did my own research and started to check out some things and I ended up coming here and meeting him and telling him that story and he couldn't believe it. We're actually trying to see if we have our family, where we can link it.
BW: Wait, you're not related?
RC: I don't know, his family and my family are from the same place but they don't know each other.
BW: I thought he was your father.
RC: Yeah, right.
BW: Alright fine, I'll play along like he's not your father. But is that part of the reason that you were a defensive back, because he was a receiver? You could guard him.
RC: No, I never thought about that. Me playing defensive back, I was really an offensive guy myself. I was a running back, slot receiver, returner. I got to Virginia Tech and they were low on corners, and they said, 'You're built like a corner.' I've been over there ever since.
BW: He's 6-foot-8, do you feel like you got the short end of the stick?
RC: I definitely got the short end of the stick, man. Everyone else in my family is 6-foot-5-plus and looks just like this guy (Harold Carmichael), except for me. I'm the only one who's a little offset.
BW: I know you want to downplay the connection because you don't want other people to think twice around the office, but is it nice to come to work and he's here?
RC: It is, man, He shows all the players love and respect, man, but I always stop in there just to talk to him more than just to see how I'm doing on the field but just to talk. Just because it's a Carmichael, I feel like it's somebody I can relate to.
BW: Is it intimidating that he has such a legacy here?
RC: It's big shoes. It's real big shoes to fill. You hear it all the time from the coaches, 'You're coming in behind Harold. Our last Carmichael was this great guy.' So I'm going to try to be the next generation I guess.
BW: So he was No. 17, you're No. 21. I think that's as close as you can get for a defensive back since no one here is wearing No. 20 because of Brian Dawkins. Maybe that's a bit of a tribute?
RC: Yeah, it's definitely a bit of a tribute. It would be something big if I was making some big plays, catching some interceptions, at least I could put my hands on the ball like he did.
BW: Who's got better hands?
RC: I think I do. I think I do, man. He's still out there though every day, early and late with the quarterbacks throwing and catching the ball. But I think I could keep up with the hands.
BW: Alright last question. Jump ball in the end zone tomorrow, he's 6-8, against you. Who's coming down with the ball?
RC: I'm winning that every time. Every time. When he goes up, I'm going to wait for him to come down, then I'm going to go up and go get it.
**Harold Carmichael is not Roc Carmichael's father.