Don't overlook improved Eagles defense

So much talk has centered around the loss of DeSean Jackson and the departure of a major offensive piece for the Philadelphia Eagles.

When Michael Vick was replaced by Nick Foles at quarterback, even the most optimistic Eagles fan likely couldn’t have predicted the offensive juggernaut that would be produced by coach Chip Kelly.

The Eagles averaged 27.6 points per game on their way to a 10-win regular season, the NFC East title and a playoff berth, which ultimately ended with a divisional round loss to the New Orleans Saints. Philadelphia averaged 413.2 total yards per game and 6.3 yards per play, which was impressive in the aftermath of a four-win season in 2012 under coach Andy Reid.

This much is known: Kelly was able to turn around a team with an unproven quarterback. Even without Jackson, the Eagles will likely be able to score points.

Since that playoff loss, the Eagles have made numerous additions on both sides of the ball, but much of their focus has been on defense. The biggest move was the signing of free-agent safety Malcolm Jenkins, but they’ve also added the likes of linebacker Bryan Braman, safety Chris Maragos and cornerback Nolan Carroll. Braman and Maragos are expected to be cornerstone players on special teams as well. The Eagles also re-signed safety Nate Allen.

Rushing the passer was an issue all season, as the Eagles ranked 20th in the league with just 37 sacks.

“I think our pass rush got better as our players got better, just like I think our defense got better at the end of the year than it was at the beginning of the year,” Kelly told reporters at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Fla. “So I think our players will continue to improve. We’re excited about where we are as a defense going into Year 2, in terms of those guys having a wealth of knowledge and understanding what we’re doing. But can we improve our pass rush? Yeah.”

Fletcher Cox managed only three sacks while Bennie Logan and Cedric Thornton combined for three sacks.

The defense was a work in progress last season, and it looked a bit bleak after allowing 52 points to the Denver Broncos in the fourth game. But the Eagles rallied under defensive coordinator Bill Davis and went through a stretch of nine straight games where they gave up no more than 21 points per game.

The process continued to improve the defense immediately after the playoff loss and there may be more moves coming in the NFL draft.