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Which NFC East defense is playing the best through the first two weeks of 2017?

Which disappointing unit will rise above the rest?

Washington Redskins v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Two games is not a particularly large sample but it does represent 12.5% of each NFL team’s entire season. So it seems fair to review where the NFC teams stand defensively. Here are the raw numbers:

And here’s each team’s rankings among the NFL’s 32 teams:

A few observations:

  • Only seven points separates the four teams in points allowed
  • Only 80 yards (40 per game) separates the four in yards allowed
  • Dallas ranks best in yards per play allowed
  • Washington’s 6.0 yards per play allowed is a worrisome number for Redskins’ fans

Dallas

The Cowboys’ Jekyll-and-Hyde performance from week 1 to 2 has left the team with middle of the pack metrics. Unlike previous years, when Dallas has ranked better in points allowed than yards allowed, this year those numbers are flipped. Giving up a touchdown on offense in a small sample contributes to the 22nd ranking.

It’s generally recognized that the young Cowboys’ secondary would be exposed at times; the hope was that youth would introduce some much-needed playmaking to a defense that has lacked sacks and turnovers in recent years. Early signs are good. The Cowboys are on pace for 24 turnovers and 40 sacks. Dallas hasn’t reached such turnover numbers since 2014 season and hasn’t generated 40 sacks since 2011.

Philadelphia

The strength of the Eagles’ team lies with their talented defensive front-seven. Philadelphia has done a good job of pressuring the quarterback (seven sacks) and generating turnovers (four). However, the Eagles give up a full half-yard more per play than the Cowboys and rank in the bottom ten in terms of yards per play and plays per point. Big plays have plagued the Eagles as they’ve surrendered touchdowns of 53, 29 and 15 yards.

New York

A unit that was touted as potentially dominant has been pedestrian thus far. Yes, the team’s dismal offense hasn’t done them any favors but the Giants are middle-of-the-pack in yards per play and plays per point and have generated only a single turnover and four sacks. Much went right for New York’s defense in 2016 and simply repeating last year’s success was a tall order; it’s not looking good thus far in 2017.

Washington

Considering the team’s 1-1 record it’s surprising to see how poorly the team’s defense has fared. The Redskins are in the bottom five off all the major metrics: points, yards, yards per play and plays per point. That’s across-the-board ineptitude and has to be a major focus for the team’s players and coaching staff.

Passing game

Combined the four NFC East teams rank in the top 10 of only three of 16 passing statistics; Dallas ranks 9th and 10th in net yards per attempt and interception rate and Washington ranks 7th in interception rate. Otherwise the entire division is looking for defensive answers. The biggest issue is 12 touchdowns allowed through the air with each team surrendering at least two.

We clearly see pass defense is the Redskins’ primary issue as they rank near the bottom in three of four major statistics. The Giants do all right as far as yards but give up touchdowns and don’t generate interceptions; opposing quarterbacks have a nearly 100 passer-rating. Philadelphia is mediocre across-the-board. Dallas doesn’t surrender a lot of yards per attempt but the four touchdowns surrendered sinks the team’s defensive passer rating (94).

Rushing

That supposedly elite Giants defense has been bullied in the ground game. First Dallas ran for 129 yards then a notoriously pass-happy Detroit team followed with a 138 on the ground. If New York can’t stop opponent’s running game their entire defensive scheme becomes vulnerable.

The Eagles have interesting numbers as they’ve surreneder the fourth fewest rushing attempts but have one of the league’s worst yards per attempt against numbers. It’s largely the result of giving up a 53-yard touchdown run to Kareem Hunt; otherwise the Philly rush defense has been stout. The Dallas numbers are so atypical for a defense that ranked first in the category in 2016. Like New York, if the Cowboys can’t stop the run the entire defense is going to struggle.

Overall it’s been a very underwhelming start for all four of the East’s defensive squads. The big investments in New York are not paying off right now, the youth in Dallas is having early-season struggles, the Eagles lack consistency and the Redskins are an overall mess.

What do you think? Which unit is most likely to turn it around?

Poll

Which NFC east defense will emerge to be a top-10 unit?

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    Dallas Cowboys
    (149 votes)
  • 46%
    Philadelphia Eagles
    (211 votes)
  • 16%
    New York Giants
    (77 votes)
  • 3%
    Washington Redskins
    (18 votes)
455 votes total Vote Now