09 Dec 2008
by Ned Macey
The linked article features some of the now familiar FO talking points on why the Eagles are a better team than their record would indicate. If a combination of our writing and Sunday's game didn't convert you to believe that the Eagles are one of the league's best teams, then nothing short of a Super Bowl win would do (as you are also the type of person who probably believes the Super Bowl winner is always the league's best team).
Anyway, lost in conversations about the Eagles' relative merits is much mention of their rebuilt defense. Like Tampa Bay, the Eagles peaked with a core of defenders and then slowly declined to mediocrity. The Eagles currently rank fifth in defensive DVOA and appear likely to finish in the top ten for the first time since 2002. Philadelphia has finally completed an overhaul that struggled to gain consistent momentum. The only two starters to make it from their Super Bowl appearance in 2004 to the game on Sunday are Brian Dawkins and Sheldon Brown.
The only Eagles defenders who ever seem to get mainstream mention are the grizzled veteran (and future Hall of Famer?) Dawkins and hotshot free agent acquisition Asante Samuel. The rest of the Eagles defenders are mostly anonymous. Quick, who is the Eagles middle linebacker? Wait, it isn't Jeremiah Trotter. No, it's Stewart Bradley, who leads the team in tackles and was all over the field on Sunday, limiting the Giants' running attack. Despite the presence of Samuel, most of the team was built from within. Five of Sunday's starters were drafted between 2005 and 2007, two others were drafted earlier, and two more were signed as undrafted free agents.
They are younger and faster than Eagles defenses of recent years. Additionally, Mike Patterson and Broderick Bunkley have developed into an unheralded but highly effective interior to anchor the run defense. The 2008 Eagles currently have what would be the best rush defense DVOA of any Eagles team dating to 1995. These personnel changes should have led the Eagles to the playoffs, but alas, the offense's inability to perform well late in close games will likely leave all this talent sitting at home come January.
23 comments, Last at 11 Dec 2008, 10:44am by Wanker79
Brian Fremeau is back for his 10th season of college football advanced stats at Football Outsiders, with a lesson on average teams (like Arkansas State) and updated FEI projections for 2016.