The Philadelphia Eagles have made significant changes to their secondary this offseason, including the addition of first-round pick Marcus Peters to the roster.
The Eagles’ defensive backfield is ranked 14th in Football Outsiders’ pass-rushing DVOA, which measures run-defense value and efficiency, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
That means they rank last in the NFL, according in ESPN’s metrics.
That’s bad enough, but Eagles head coach Chip Kelly isn’t just complaining about the team’s pass-rush.
He’s also calling the secondary the most improved unit of his tenure.
The first-year head coach has been on a crusade to improve the Eagles defensive unit, which was ranked 13th last season, according with Pro Football Focus.
He was one of only six head coaches in the league to have his team ranked among the top 10 in pass-rusher DVOA and total pass-defense DVOA this past season.
That improvement has included the addition to the secondary of Marcus Peters, who ranked among Pro Football Magazine’s top five pass-defenders in 2013.
The rookie out of UCLA had two sacks in 2012.
The pass-happy Eagles ranked third in the entire NFL in pass deflections (42.7 percent) in 2013, according ESPN Stats.
That was up from the previous season’s 32.3 percent mark.
They ranked second in pass interceptions (12.5 per game) in 2012, which ranked 10th.
They were tied for third in interceptions with two in 2013 and eighth in sacks with two.
This is a massive change from the team that ranked 13st in pass defense in 2012 and ranked 27th in 2013 with a total of 12 sacks and 22.5 pass deflection interceptions.
The defensive backfield has been a focal point of Kelly’s focus this offseason.
In the preseason, the Eagles had to adjust to a new defense after the addition a second-round draft pick in 2013 to give them a more balanced scheme.
Kelly said that in 2012 the Eagles defense was “not strong enough.”
The Eagles improved their pass rush from 4.8 per game in 2013 (20th in the League) to 5.3 per game (11th in 2014).
The unit has been the envy of all NFL defensive coordinators this season.
The Eagles allowed only 1.2 yards per rush against the pass in 2014.
Kelly believes his secondary will be more dangerous than last year, according CBS Sports’ Steve Wyche.
He thinks the Eagles will allow fewer yards per pass than they did in 2012 when they allowed 8.2 and 8.8 yards per attempt.
The defense has a new set of linebackers, with linebacker DeMeco Ryans starting in place of Nick Barnett, who was traded to Tennessee after the season.
Ryans was the only player on the defense to play at least 100 snaps in each of the last two seasons.
The team signed rookie cornerback Sam Shields and second-year cornerback Byron Maxwell, who combined to make five starts at cornerback for the first time in Kelly’s tenure.
Shields was the Eagles first-ever cornerback selected in the draft, and he’s played all of three games so far in 2014 after spending his first two seasons on the outside.
He recorded three tackles in Week 4.
The secondary’s secondary has been particularly effective against the run.
Last season, the defense allowed just 2.2 rushing yards per carry (29th in NFL).
This season, that number has jumped to 5:05 per carry.
It’s also a higher average of 1.5 yards per run against the spread than it was in 2013 when it ranked 27st.
The defensive front has allowed just 13 rushing touchdowns, second-fewest in the AFL.
The Philadelphia Eagles’ front seven is the most explosive unit in the NFC, according Pro Football Weekly’s Pro Football Prospectus.
The unit allowed an average of just 6.4 yards per play (16th in NFC) last season.
It also allowed just 6 receptions for 109 yards (29.8 percent) and three touchdowns (three from receiver Zach Ertz).
The Eagles ranked fifth in the nation with an average yards per reception of 4.0 yards per target.
The Birds’ secondary also ranks seventh in pass efficiency (86.5) this season, which ranks fifth in any defensive backfield in the NBA.
The secondary allowed just 1.9 yards per completion (24th in DVOA) last year.
They allowed a total offense of just 3.1 yards per drive (18th in any offense).