The Eagles' defense has been just good enough this season, fueling the Eagles run to an NFC East title. Credit: Getty Images
Last season the Eagles were 4-12. Their turnover differential was dead last in the NFC, at -24.
This season, the Eagles are 10-6. They won the NFC East, and they are second in turnover differential at +12.
Even though their offense is ranked second in the entire NFC, the simple fact that Nick Foles and company took care of the ball, and that the defense created 31 takeaways is perhaps the greatest reason for the Eagles' success.
Brandon Boykin is a key reason for the turnover differential. The second-year cornerback has six interceptions in 2013 and two forced fumbles. And his production on the field has made a major impact.
"Just how hard he works in practice and kind of what you see on Sundays," Eagles head coach Chip Kelly told the media Wednesday, "is what we see every day in practice. That's kind of what we preach around here is that you don't rise to the occasion; you sink to your level of training, and he trains at a very high level every day he's out there and that's evident to us and as a staff. And what you see on Sundays is what we see every day during the week."
Boykin had a pick-six on the dominating win against the Bears in week 16, and the game clinching interception against the Cowboys last week.
His ascension into the role of impact cornerback is one the Eagles desperately needed. Prior secondaries have had major problems, with Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie falling well short of expectations.
The Saints come to town Saturday, and a new set of challenges will befall the Eagles secondary, particularly from New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham.
"I think that's the one thing about Jimmy [Graham] that makes him such a special player is he's probably too athletic for linebackers to cover," Kelly said Wednesday, "but he's too big for defensive backs to cover, and he's never going to be in the same spot. He doesn't line up as a traditional tight end attached to the tackle. He could be the lone receiver; he could be in the back in the backfield."
The Saints will also challenge the Eagles' defense with Marques Colston, Robert Meachem, Lance Moore and Darren Sproles. All dynamic and multi-purpose weapons for Drew Brees' potent offensive attack.
"There's a ton of them," Kelly said of the Saints' arsenal. " That's what [head coach Sean Payton] and Drew [Brees] have a lot of toys with, too, and that's what makes them such a very difficult team because they stretch you vertically and horizontally, too."
Safety Earl Wolff can help the secondary, if he is healthy enough to play.
"Earl has to practice if he's going to play," Kelly said, seemingly unsure if Wolff would be ready to go Saturday, " so if that's your question, yeah, he's got to get out there at some point in time."