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June 29, 2015

There's an argument to be made that the Eagles' defense was better than their offense in 2014

Eagles NFL
062915BillDavis Matt Rourke/AP

Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis, left, and head coach Chip Kelly.

We have weekly Eagles chats here, and it feels like someone asks me if defensive coordinator Bill Davis is on the hot seat during every chat. The reason why is because many of the Eagles' basic defensive numbers were gross in 2014. Conversely, Chip Kelly looks like an offensive mastermind because the offense often puts up eye-popping numbers.

Because of Chip Kelly's fast-paced offense, the Eagles are always going to be among the bottom teams in the league in time of possession. In fact, in the last 15 seasons, 14 teams have possessed the ball for less than 27 minutes per game.

 YearTeam Avg T.O.P. Wins Losses 
 1999Browns 23:56 14 
 2000Cardinals 26:32 13 
 2000Browns 26:00 13 
 2002Lions 25:44 13 
 2004Raiders 26:47 11 
 2005Jets 26:37 12 
 200749ers 26:51 11 
 2008Lions 26:59 16 
 2008Seahawks 26:30 12 
 2010Cardinals 26:14 11 
 2010Titans 25:51 10 
 2011Colts 26:13 14 
 2013Eagles 26:24 10 
 2014Eagles 26:40 10 

If you'll note, every team above other than the 2013-2014 Eagles had at least 10 losses, and they had a combined record of 42-150 (0.219 win percentage). Those teams had bad time of possession numbers because they stunk. The Eagles have had poor time of possession numbers because they probably run the fastest-paced offense in NFL history, and they couldn't possibly care any less about time of possession.

That leads to incredibly skewed stats on both sides of the ball. For example, the Eagles' basic offensive stats:

Category Stat Rank 
 Yards per game396.8 
 Points per game29.6 
 Rush yards per game124.5 
 Pass yards per game272.2 

Pretty good, right? And the defense, in those same categories:

Category Stat Rank 
 Yards per game375.6 28 
 Points allowed per game25 22 
 Rush yards per game110.7 15 
 Pass yards per game264.9 31 

Pretty bad, right?

However, the reality is that the offense was not as good in 2014 as it appears on paper, and the defense wasn't as bad. The offense's numbers were helped incredibly by two very important factors:

1) The fast pace with which they run allow them to run more plays than any team in the league, and cause the defense to face a high number of snaps as well.

2) The special teams units and defense scored 11 touchdowns, which on paper benefits the offense, but distorts the reality of how they actually scored 29.6 points per game.

A much better measure of how efficient the Eagles' offense and defense has played, which factors out their fast-paced offense are "points per drive," and other drive stats.

Offensively, according to Football Outsiders, the Eagles scored 1.98 points per drive, which was good for 13th in the NFL. That is certainly nowhere near as impressive as the basic numbers above would suggest. Other drive stats:

 OffenseStat Rank 
 Yards per drive31.43 14 
 Points per drive1.98 13 
 Turnovers per drive0.174 32 
 INT per drive0.104 28 
 Fumbles per drive0.070 29 
Plays per drive 5.79 22 
T.O.P per drive 2:07 32 

Defensively, again according to Football Outsiders, the Eagles allowed 1.85 points per drive, which was 15th in the NFL. They allowed the seventh fewest yards per drive.

 DefenseStat Rank 
 Yards per drive29.34 
 Points per drive1.85 15 
 Turnovers per drive0.134 15 
 INT per drive0.059 26 
 Fumbles per drive0.074 
Plays per drive 5.57 
 T.O.P. per drive2:37 11 

If we're factoring in the hand that Bill Davis was dealt last season as a result of Chip Kelly's fast-paced offense, there's an argument to be made the Eagles' defense was actually better than the offense.

Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski