Third Down Holds Key to Philadelphia Eagles Turnaround

Defense DenverGetting off the field on third down has been one of the biggest issues for the Philadelphia Eagles defense and will be critical Sunday against the New York Giants. Photo courtesy Delaware Online. 

Much has been made about where blame lies for the Philadelphia Eagles three-game skid since a dynamic opening night win over the Washington Redskins

However, if one is looking for the quickest recipe for turning things around quickly in Chip Kelly's first season as an NFL head coach, it all begins on third down defensively. 

It's certainly fair to point out that the offense ranks fifth in third down conversions with a quarterback who has thrown the fewest completitions for first downs on third down in the league. However, that would skew the bigger issue of a defense that simply cannot seem to get off the field. 

Through the first four games of the season much has been made of the Eagles defense being ranked 32nd-or dead last- in the league in total defense. Yet what is much more troubling is the fact that they are also a league worst 32nd on third down, allowing opponents to convert at an alarming 44.2 percent clip. 

In 52 third down opportunities the Eagles have allowed 23 first downs. 

"I think just taking away the big plays," linebacker Mychal Kendricks said Thursday when asked how to fix the team's third down woes. "That's what we've been trying to work on. That Chiefs game we gave up those third and 15's with underneath routes and we missed tackles on that. Getting beat deep a couple of times against Denver. It comes down to taking away those big third down plays is clutch for us." 

BillyDavis's defense may have an opportunity to push it's head above water on third down this weekend against Eli Manning and the winless New York Giants. Just as the Eagles have struggled to get off the field defensively, the Giants' woes extending drives has been an issue all season, converting just 22.9 percent of third down opportunities. 

"You know it's a copy cat league and one thing we have to watch for is Eli trying to do what Peyton did against us last week." Safety Earl Wolff who likely will make his second start this Sunday in place of Patrick Chung. "It all starts for us though winning first and second down. We have to watch film and know what's coming at us on third down because if you can take care of those things it'll get you off the field. We just have to play football and make plays." 

In a game that could turn the tide of the early portion of the NFC east race, it very well could come down to effectiveness on third down that could go a long way towards deciding the outcome and setting the tone for the remainder of the season.

Matt Lombardo is the Editor-In-Chief of Eagledelphia and also an on-air personality on 97.5 FM The Fanatic in Philadelphia. Join the conversation and follow Matt on Twitter.


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