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Eagles' defense focusing on eliminating 'X-plays'

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New Philadelphia Eagles secondary coach Cory Undlin narrowed his offseason focus to one key point: eliminating the big, extra yardage plays.

"We are out of the X-play business," Undlin said last week, via CSN Philly's Reuben Frank. "We're not doing that."

X-plays, as in extra yards. The Eagles allowed 12.3 yards per completion in 2014, second worst in the NFL, despite holding quarterbacks to a 58.4 percent completion percentage.

The unit allowed 18 plays of 40 or more yards, including four touchdowns of more than 60 yards.

"I believe every X-play that we're giving up, at some point in the down, was the result of poor technique somewhere in the down," Undlin said. "The guy fell down, somebody got picked, they just threw the ball over your head.

"My focus has been on, 'Here's how we're not going to give these plays up.' We're going to play with good technique and if somebody gets beat we're going to tackle the guy so it doesn't go for that many yards."

Gone are Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher, who each got repeatedly burned last year. The Eagles imported seven new defensive backs, including high-priced free agent Byron Maxwell, who can play the physical scheme Undlin desires.

"We're looking for non-impostors," he said. "Meaning guys that get up and line up in press and then the ball gets snapped and then they open the gate and they just let them run down the field."

For defensive coordinator Bill Davis, eliminating the big, extra yardage plays will make all the difference in 2015.

"When you evaluate the top defenses, it's really yards per play," he said. "You have to go per play, especially with us. How many yards per play are you giving up? And the best defenses have the lowest yards per play. But an X-play kills that. So when you give up the most X-plays, obviously your yardage is going to be awful.

"There were so many things we did well, but that was such a bad stat defensively, that we have to fix that X-play stat. It affects so many other things."

If it's not fixed, Davis' job status next year might be one of those things affected. 

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