Statistics say a lot of different things about the Eagles defense. The Eagles rank 31st in yards allowed per game, giving up an average of 417.9 yards. They are tied for sixth in the NFL with 13 interceptions, and they are tied for 21st in sacks. At the end of the day, however, the only number that truly matters for a defense is points allowed, and the Eagles defensive coordinator is pleased with where the Eagles rank in that regard.
"With a defense, the statistics can go a hundred thousand different ways," Davis explained on Tuesday. "You can make those things say what you want to say a lot of times. Points are the points, and that is what dictates the wins of the losses, and I'm very happy with the direction we are moving."
The Eagles rank 15th in the NFL in points per game, allowing 23.6 points on average. As of late, though, that number has been on a steady decline, as the Eagles have held each of their last seven opponents to 21 points or fewer – something no other team in the league can say. The defense has certainly grown into their new 3-4 scheme, but Davis knows that there is still a long way to go.
"When you look at it through our eyes, there is so much work to be done," Davis said. "There are so many areas that we can get better and we have to get better in, but if you had asked me early in the season if I would take where we are right now with the points, I'd say yes.
"I like where we are in (at this) stage, but we are so far from the finish line and far from being the defense that we want to be. It's a collective effort from the players and coaches. We just want to put our heads down and get better against Arizona then we were against Washington."
One facet of the defense that has gotten better each and every week is the young defensive line, led by defensive ends Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton. No member of the six-man rotation up front is older than 25, and Davis likes where the group is headed. With five games left, the key for the young guys up front will be maintaining their high standard.
"The ceiling (for young players) always has a lot of variables with it," said Davis. "I love where we are starting though, and I love the direction and how fast we're climbing with the young group. The ceiling, I don't know. I've seen a lot of guys take big steps in years two, three, and four, and I've seen some guys hit a slump in two, three, and four."
With the Eagles now on their bye week, Davis's group has time to rest and refocus for the remaining five games on the regular season schedule. When they do get back to the NovaCare Complex to prepare for the home stretch, Davis hopes to see the same intensity and passion from his players that he has become accustomed to this season.
"The thing that jumps off the film to me is the effort that our guys are playing with," Davis said. "We keep talking to them about it, and that's how they kind of view themselves as a high effort defense. We're not a bunch of Pro Bowl names and pretty faces and all of that, we've just got a bunch of guys that are scrapping it out with a lot of effort, and that's how we're coming up and keeping people out of the end zone. It's hard work and high effort that is getting it done."
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