How much has Eagles' defense improved since disastrous start?


We've made a big deal about how dramatically the Eagles' offense has transformed since the Raiders game, going from an inefficient, mistake-prone unit that was one of the least productive in the NFL into an unstoppable point-scoring machine over the last two months.

It's easy to forget the defense has made just as dramatic a reversal.

While the offense has improved from No. 20 in the NFL over the first seven weeks to No. 3 over the last eight weeks, the defense has similarly gone from No. 17 over the first seven weeks to No. 2 the last eight.

And if the Dolphins allow more than 295 yards Monday night to the Saints, the Eagles move up to No. 1 during that eight-week span.

First seven weeks: The defense allowed 25.4 points per game, 24th in the league.

Last eight weeks: That's dropped to 16.6 per game, 4th-best in the league.

It's easy to dismiss the improvement as simply, "Just look at who they were playing." But you can only play who's on the schedule, and eight games is nearly half a season.  

And it's pretty obvious that this is a far different unit than it was the first half of the season.

It starts with Jonathan Gannon, who's developed a better understanding of his players and what they do well and where they fit in, which has allowed him to coach more aggressively and run packages that really play to his players' strengths. And a lot of it is just players understanding their roles better, which has allowed them to be more productive. A lot of it is also personnel. Early in the season, guys like Eric Wilson and Ryan Kerrigan were playing a ton of snaps and T.J. Edwards and Tarron Jackson weren't.

Rodney McLeod has looked so much better lately after starting slowly following his ACL layoff. Fletcher Cox has started looking close to the Fletcher Cox we're used to. Edwards has added a physical dimension the defense was missing. Josh Sweat hasn't gotten the sacks but has been generating a ton of pressure.

Sure it helps when you don't have to face Tom Brady, Pat Mahomes and Dak Prescott, but after eight games the Eagles were allowing opposing QBs to complete 75 percent of their passes, which would have been an NFL record. Since then that figure has dropped to 64 percent, 13th-best in the league and below the NFL average.

Here's more:

• The first seven weeks of the season, the Eagles ranked 29th in run defense, allowing 133 yards per game and 4.1 per carry. The last eight, they're No. 3 in rush defense, allowing 80 yards per game and 3.6 per carry.

• The first seven weeks, they allowed teams to convert 45 percent of their third downs, which ranked 26th. The last eight, they're 8th-best at 36 percent.

• The first seven weeks, they allowed 22 offensive touchdowns, or more than three per game. The last eight, they've given up 16, or two per game.

• And this is unreal: The first seven weeks of the season, the Eagles allowed an NFL-high 16 touchdown drives of 70 or more yards. The last eight they've allowed just THREE. And two have come in garbage time of lopsided wins.

The Eagles have now allowed 18 or fewer points in four straight games for the first time since 2017, and overall for the season -- despite the shaky start -- they're up to No. 12 in points allowed and No. 6 in yards allowed.

Say what you want about the Giants' awful quarterback play Sunday, but the defense kept the Eagles in the game until the offense finally got going. And with tremendous pressure, a couple takeaways and a pick-6, they helped the Eagles emphatically put away an inferior team to improve to 8-7 after a 2-5 start.

If you don't want to give the defense any credit because of who the Eagles have played, you're missing the point.

When it comes to coverage, pressure, tackling and playmaking, the improvement is undeniable.

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