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Spadaro: What do the numbers say about the Eagles' defense?

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro
Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro

The coordinators met the Philadelphia media on Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex as the Eagles prepare for Monday night's game against the Washington Commanders. Here is what they had to say ...

Jonathan Gannon gears up for a Commanders offense with a different QB

Statistics don't tell the whole story, but they can provide a very telling snapshot. So how does this snapshot of the Eagles' defense look nine weeks into this 2022 regular season?

1. The Eagles are 1st (most) in the NFL in takeaways (18) and 1st (lowest) in opposing quarterback rating (68.0)

2. This defense is 2nd (fewest) in the league in passing yards per game (177.6)

3. Philadelphia has allowed the 3rd-fewest total yards per game (299), which by that metric means the Eagles have the third-ranked D in the NFL

4. The Eagles have allowed the 4th-fewest points per game (16.9 ppg) among the 32 teams

5. With 26 quarterback sacks, the Eagles rank tied for 5th-most in the league

6. Opposing teams have converted 37.9 percent of their third downs against the Eagles, ranking Philadelphia 12th in the NFL in that category

Impressive, right? When Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon met the media on Tuesday for his weekly press conference, he answered four questions about his run defense/tackling/Jordan Davis' absence before a new topic, Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke, was broached. Gannon spoke briefly as he opened up the media session with a recap of last week's win in Houston and then, eventually, moved on to the Commanders and the Monday night NFC East game at Lincoln Financial Field.

"Seems likes a long time ago, but good win on the road, battled hard, did some good things in that game, got some things to clean up as always," Gannon said. "We'll work on improving those things, and I thought our guys in a 14-14 game in the third quarter made some big plays to step up and help our team have a chance to win. So, I like how we finished out that game (two second-half takeaways, three points allowed), and looking forward to playing Washington at the Linc."

On Heinicke, who is 2-1 in his starts this season, Gannon said: "I think he presents a certain challenge because he can make a lot of off-schedule plays. He doesn't have a lot of fear of throwing the ball into coverage, and he's got good skill guys around him and he gives them chances to make plays on 50/50 balls, which you've seen him do as he's come back in a little bit. It's basically the same offense to me. It's just that he can move around and make some off-schedule plays, which that presents a different challenge to us when we rush and when we cover. We'll have a good plan ready to go, and we have to execute at a high level to give ourselves a chance to win the game."

Gannon understands that there are things to improve on with the defense and he and his coaching staff will work on consistency and the execution of the defense. By and large, though, as the Eagles cross over into the second "half" of their 17-game regular season, the defense has been on point.

Michael Clay praises Arryn Siposs

An unsung standout from Thursday night's win in Houston was punter Arryn Siposs, who was just terrific as he averaged 49.7 gross yards on three punts that netted to 50.3 yards thanks to some great coverage. Special Teams Coordinator Michael Clay lauded Siposs' performance.

"Arryn did a really good job against a very good unit," Clay said. "Houston, their record probably doesn't show what they have, but that was a very, very good special teams unit. For Arryn to get off a punt, one it all starts with the protection. You can't have a good punt if it's blocked, obviously, so the protection gave Arryn a nice pocket.

"Then I can't speak enough about Zech McPhearson thus far this year. In a one-on-one, given that opportunity to beat a good player in (Texans defensive back) Tremon Smith on the outside to one arm to knife to stack, then make a play on Desmond King who was a Pro Bowl returner with the Chargers in an open field setting, make a 47-yard punt turn into a 49-yard net. That was a heck of a play out of them.

"Once again, Arryn, we're just going to keep building and building. He's on the right trajectory, but it's all the work he does from after the game all the way up to the game, his preparation. It starts with the protection with (long snapper) Rick (Lovato) snapping a good ball for him, for him to come through with the ball, good foot-to-ball contact, and the gunners go make a play."

Shane Steichen is preparing for Chase Young's potential return

When the Eagles played at Washington in Week 3, they scored all 24 points in the first half of a 24-8 victory. It was a battle through and through against a very strong Washington defense featuring one of the best fronts in the league. Washington could have defensive end Chase Young back from injury this week and if that's the case, the Commanders will be even more formidable at the line of scrimmage.

Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen and the Eagles have a challenge on Monday night, for sure.

"They're really good. I think it starts up front, obviously, with (defensive tackle Jonathan) Allen, (defensive tackle Daron) Payne, (defensive end Montez) Sweat, and then obviously if Chase Young comes back, it's a really good group. They're very powerful inside. You have good play strength up front. They're good against the run and they can rush the passer," Steichen said. "I think with any football team it starts up front with offensive and defensive lines, and that's how they set the tone defensively with their defensive line. And the good thing is we have a great offensive line to counter that that we feel good about, too. We know it's going to be a heck of a challenge every week, especially when you are playing a division opponent. You get to play them twice a year, so they know about us, we know about them, but it's a challenge that we're looking forward to."

Philadelphia has been among the league's best teams in the red zone and running back Miles Sanders, with six touchdowns, has been a force. Steichen credits Sanders with bringing it on every carry to reach the end zone after being held without a score last season.

"He's running hard. I think he's finding his way in the end zone," Steichen said. "A couple of those that popped for big ones. He had the one against Pittsburgh that was awesome, and then he's finding his way inside the 10-yard line getting in there, and he's doing a heck of a job. He's been doing a great job all year and seeing the holes and great vision. I think it's just turning out that way this year that he's scoring touchdowns. It's been good."

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