How has the Eagles' secondary gone from worst to first?


This year’s Eagles secondary and last year’s Eagles secondary don’t even play the same sport.

Remember all those quarterbacks who completed 80 percent of their passes against the Eagles last year? Remember all those quarterbacks who had career games playing against this secondary? Remember all the times teams would start chucking the ball up and down the field and the Eagles barely put up a fight?

Yeah, things have changed around here.

The Eagles have gone from worst secondary in the NFL to best, and it’s been amazing to watch.

On Sunday night, their playmaking was out in full force, with a ridiculous 12 pass deflections and three interceptions in the Eagles’ huge 26-17 national TV win over the Cowboys.

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson picked off Cooper Rush twice and Darius Slay picked him off once, and James Bradberry was all over the place with four pass breakups, including one that led to C.J.G.J.’s first interception, and the Eagles remained unbeaten at 6-0 going into the bye week.

The D-backs were all over the place making plays Sunday night, and it was the kind of performance we just haven't seen around here in a long time.

Amazing that of the Eagles’ nine interceptions, five have been recorded by Bradberry and Gardner-Johnson, both new to this defense.

“We have guys in the room who are willing to help the next man be great,” Slay said. “With myself, J.B., Chauncey - we all just took them in and treated them like family. We just try to do everything we can to put them in the best position to win and that’s how the group is. The group wants everyone to win.”

The Eagles harassed Rush into an 18-for-38, 181-yard performance with a 37.3 passer rating and his first three interceptions of the year.

He’s only the fifth QB in the last 25 years to complete less than 50 percent of his passes, pass for less than 200 yards and throw three interceptions against the Eagles. The others: Tim Ratty in 2005, Jake Delhomme in 2009, Rex Grossman in 2011 and Brandon Weeden in 2012.

The last Cowboys QB to achieve those marks was Troy Aikman in the historic 11-sack game at the Vet in 1991, a 24-0 Eagles win.

The days of Anthony Harris, Rodney McLeod and Steven Nelson seem so long ago, don’t they?

Let’s compare the Eagles’ secondary last year and this year:

Completion percentage: The Eagles allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 69.4 percent of their passes last year, not only worst in the NFL but 12th-worst in NFL history. This year that figure is down to 56.8 percent, second-best in the league, behind only the Bengals, who are at 56.6 percent. 

Takeaways: The Eagles had just 12 interceptions all last year but only nine were by the secondary. They’ve already matched that this year – in 11 fewer games. The lack of takeaways was a major focus of Jonathan Gannon’s offseason and the combination of some terrific acquisitions by Howie Roseman and more aggressive play calling from Gannon have completely turned that around. The Eagles’ nine interceptions are second in the league, one fewer than Sean McDermott’s Bills. In the last 30 years, they’ve only had more INTs through five games twice (11 in 1999 and 2009). 

Touchdowns: The Eagles were 20th in the league last year with 28 passing touchdowns allowed, and this year they’re 11th with just seven through six games. 

Passer rating: A year ago, opposing QBs had a 95.4 passer rating against the Eagles, which ranked 23rd in the league. This year that figure is down to 66.0, their lowest through five games since 2000 and by far the best in the league. The Bills are second at 71.2.

Big plays: The Eagles were actually very good at limiting big plays last year. They allowed 12 pass plays of 30 yards or more, fifth-best in the league. They’re even better this year. They’ve given up only two pass plays of 30 yards, tied with the Broncos (in one fewer game) for fewest in the league. And they led by at least 15 points when they allowed both of those plays.

Yards allowed: The Eagles are allowing 188 passing yards per game, 6th-best in the league. That’s down 32 yards per game from last year. Last time the Eagles had a top-10 pass defense was 2012, oddly enough.

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