We live in a world of numbers, and some mean more than others and, let's be honest, numbers are manipulated many ways. In the case of the Eagles, some early-season numbers need to be examined.
The only number that truly matters is 3, as in the number of wins the team has in as many weeks in the 2014 season. The rest of the numbers are interpreted in any number of ways, which is part of the discussion to have prior to the Eagles' huge game on Sunday at San Francisco.
- LeSean McCoy is averaging 2.9 yards per carry. It's a number that, ultimately, needs to improve for the Eagles to be as successful as they want to be this season. Teams are stacking the box and making it a priority to take McCoy out of the mix. The injuries along the offensive line haven't helped the running game, and the truth is that a running back needs to trust his linemen. McCoy hasn't had enough continuity to trust the offensive line. I don't blame McCoy here at all. He'll get it going, as long as the line helps him and the Eagles continue to gash defenses with the passing game and they can't load the box with eight-man fronts. Two points here: In a three-game stretch last season against Dallas (18 carries, 55 yards, 3.1-yard average), New York (15-48-3.2) and Oakland (12-44-3.7) McCoy put up tepid numbers. He still led the league in rushing. And another thing: Chicago's Matt Forte (3.2-yard-per-carry average) and Green Bay's Eddie Lacy (3.1) are two other big-time backs with small early-season numbers.
- The Eagles rank fifth in the NFL in third-down efficiency on defense, with a 40.5 percentage. The performance against Jacksonville, 2 of 14, certainly helps the numbers. But the key to Sunday's win over Washington was keyed by a second half during which the Eagles held Washington to 1 of 6 third-down conversions in the second half. Key an eye on that third-down success rate for the defense. It means so much to the Eagles.
- Conversely, the Eagles really need to improve their pass rush through the course of the season. They've recorded 3 sacks this season, and rank 31st in the league in sacks per pass play. Pressure is good, and moving the quarterback off his spot is vital, but putting the quarterback on his back is what the Eagles are working to better.
- Ball security is huge, and the Eagles know that one of the key statistics is turnover differential. Last year the Eagles had a plus-14, tying for third in the NFL. They're at minus-1 right now. Clearly, the better the ratio, the more ideal the picture for this football team.
- The Eagles have been in the red zone 12 times this season and have generated 53 points. They were 2 of 4 in the red zone on Sunday to help beat Washington, and they want to be much better than that. They've got 5 touchdowns in those 12 trips, with 6 field goals and the Nick Foles interception in the back of the end zone on a pass intended for Riley Cooper against Jacksonville.
- Cody Parkey has been absolutely magnificent, Fourteen of his 21 kickoffs have been touchbacks and 19 of his kickoffs have reached the end zone. Parkey has made 8 of 9 field goals and leads the league with 35 points. What a fantastic first three games by the rookie placekicker.
- Just call him big-play Jeremy Maclin. He's averaging a whopping 18.5 yards on 16 receptions, and he's scored 3 touchdowns. There were plenty of opportunities for big plays in the first two games. Maclin is thriving in this offense, as it appeared he would in 2013 prior to suffering the season-ending knee injury.
- Foles leads the league in passing yards and is sixth in average gain per pass attempt (7.95 yards), but perhaps where he has been most impressive is his play in the fourth quarter. Foles ranks second in the NFL with a 143.0 quarterback rating in the fourth quarter. He's thrown 3 touchdowns and zero interceptions, completing 13 of 22 passes in the final 15 minutes of games.
So those are some of the numbers to think about three games into the season. What do they mean? Truth is, they mean that the Eagles have so much work to do, and so many areas to improve. They're off to a 3-0 start, and that is all that matters at this point.
Chip Kelly doesn't much matter about the statistics. He's preparing for the 49ers on Sunday, knowing that the Eagles must step up their game in every phase to win on the road. The numbers will take care of themselves, step by step and over the course of a long season that more about the daily march than the period glance at the statistics.