Numbers matter. How much they matter, well, that's a specific question for different people but right here and right now I've got a batch of them (thanks John Gonoude and Tyler Gorse from the Eagles media relations department) ahead of Sunday's Eagles-Jets game. The numbers are one thing and the story behind the numbers is another ...
1. T.J. Edwards is second among all NFL linebackers with 51 tackles since Week 8 and he's the only linebacker in the league with 40-plus tackles and multiple takeaways in that period of time. Edwards has posted 10-plus tackles in three of the last five games.
What it means: A third-year player whose journey has been to take the long road to the NFL – Edwards was signed after the 2019 NFL Draft and he has steadily worked his way into a starting role on his second coordinator and set of defensive coaches – he's a very important part of what the Eagles are doing defensively. Edwards is physical, he's instinctive, and he's been playing fast football. Edwards has the system down pat and the coaching staff, led by coordinator Jonathan Gannon, has done a good job putting Edwards in the right position to make plays. Sometimes, tackle statistics can be misleading. It's not just about tackles with Edwards – he has compiled four tackles for loss, one off his career high. He has been an impact player and the best is yet to come.
"I feel that way," Edwards said. "Every day I think I'm becoming more comfortable and I'm playing faster, getting to the football, making plays. I really feel like I'm making the right kind of improvement. I feel like I'm in a good place."
2. The Eagles lead the NFL with 118 explosive plays, ahead of Cleveland, New England, Dallas, and Minnesota.
What it means: Think about the offensive picture this season: A new head coach with a new system, a quarterback in Jalen Hurts who had all of four career starts prior to September, and a bunch of injuries to contend with. And yet the Eagles have worked and improved and adapted and catered the scheme to the personnel and now it's an offense that is dangerous every time it has the ball.
Look, the Eagles didn't have the game they wanted to have last week against the Giants, but every team has one or two of those kinds of games each season. Philadelphia leads the NFL in running the football and they've complemented the ground game with a passing game that has made big plays – wide receiver DeVonta Smith ranks tied for fourth in the NFL with 11 receptions of 20-plus yards since Week 4. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has a league-best 85 explosive plays.
3. Since Week 8, the Eagles lead the league in third-down efficiency offensively, converting 35 of 67 (52.2 percent) of its third-down plays.
What it means: Clearly, the Eagles have a strong design offensively and a third-down package that is keeping defenses off balance. It also means the Eagles are doing a good job on first and second down to keep the third downs manageable. It took some time for Head Coach Nick Sirianni and Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen, and the entire offensive coaching staff, to gain a feel for the personnel here. And even with some injuries to overcome, the Eagles have been able to adapt and adjust and lean on what works.
"We all have the confidence that we are going to make plays and keep drives alive," running back Miles Sanders said. "I think we've cut down on the numbers of penalties and mistakes we're making, so that we get to third down, we know we have a chance to convert. Just make a play. That's what it's all about. It doesn't matter who is making the plays. We are playing with confidence."
The Eagles are one of only three teams in the NFL in the top 10 in both third-down efficiency (fifth in the league, 45.4 percent this season) and in red zone touchdowns efficiency (eighth, 66.7 percent), joining Tampa Bay and Arizona. That's strong company.
4. Philadelphia ranks fourth in the league in allowing points off of turnovers (24 points allowed) behind Seattle, Green Bay, and Denver.
What it means: Gannon's defense has made a lot of improvement in every area, and this category is a key statistic. It means the defense has the ability to regroup and retain the momentum of the game, get stops, and get off the field.
"We've been playing in the backfield, being aggressive up front, and getting off the ball. Guys are having fun, flying around, and when there's a change of scheme during the course of a game, it's being done for a reason," said defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. "We're excited to go out and play on Sunday. The defense is playing together. There is no selfishness on the defense."
It helps that tackle Javon Hargrave has produced a career-high seven quarterback sacks. Cornerback Darius Slay has five takeaways this season, including three scores. It's all part of a formula that has helped the Eagles get into meaningful games this late in the season.
5. Jake Elliott has led a strong special teams performance and has made 11 straight field goals and all 30 of his PATs this season.
What it means: The NFC Special Teams Player of the Month, Elliott's range has been outstanding. Having a kicker who is reliable means so, so much. The Eagles know that with Elliott on his game, they have a chance to get three points from 55 yards and in the rest of the way. There are going to be a lot of tight games down the stretch and the games are going to be played in windy stadiums. The Eagles have in Elliott a kicker who knows all of the NFC East stadiums and who is in a great groove.