Reason to Believe

Posted: October 8th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

When we think back to 2017, most of the memories are of Carson Wentz or Nick Foles, Alshon Jeffery or Zach Ertz, or maybe even a dominant O-line that could take over some games. That offense was special.

That defense was pretty darn good as well, finishing 4th in points and 4th in yards allowed. Beyond that, they made game-changing plays all year long. Washington had a chance to win the opener, but Fletcher Cox ran back a fumble for a TD to seal the game. The Eagles came out flat vs SF, but a Jalen Mills pick-six late in the first half woke up the team and led to a blowout win. A Ronald Darby INT helped the Eagles to beat the Raiders on Christmas night.

The defense was even more critical in the postseason. They kept the Falcons out of the end zone on the final play to seal the divisonal round win. Then Patrick Robinson came up with an all-time great moment in the NFC championship game. His pick-six opened the flood gates and the Vikings got destroyed. That might be the single greatest moment in the history of The Linc. And then there was the Super Bowl. Brandon Graham’s strip sack all but sealed the deal and brought the Lombardi to Broad Street.

The 2019 defense got off to a slow start. They gave up 27 points and 398 yards to Case Keenum and the Skins. Matt Ryan threw for 310 yards the next week. Green Bay piled up 491 yards in their Thursday night showdown with the Eagles. Philly won the game, but Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams sliced and diced the Eagles secondary for most of the game.

There were some glimmers of hope in the Packers game.

Derek Barnett came up with a strip-sack that set up the Eagles offense to score an easy TD. The defense had a goal line stand that kept the Packers from scoring. At the end of the game, the defense came up with an INT to seal the win.

The defense really came alive against the Jets. They had 10 sacks, 3 takeaways, multiple TFLs and scored a couple of TDs. They were dominant.

The question now is whether the defense is starting to come together or if this is still a leaky unit that will be a problem for the foreseeable future.

It feels like the defense is headed in the right direction. They lead the NFL in run defense. They have multiple takeaways in 3 of 4 games. The DL seems to be coming alive. Fletcher Cox is getting a bit better every week. Brandon Graham had a breakout game. All three of his sacks came from playing DT in the Nickel or Dime. Derek Barnett has sacks in consecutive games. The young guys, Josh Sweat and Daeshon Hall, both got to the QB. Tim Jernigan will return to the mix sometime in the near future.

Eagles LBs are starting to make plays. Nigel Bradham dropped an easy pick-six in Green Bay, but then got the tipped ball at the end. Nate Gerry came up with a pick-six against the Jets. Kamu Grugier-Hill is the best athlete the Eagles have in the middle of the field and he’s getting healthier each week. That should improve the LB play.

Rodney McLeod has played at a high level the past two weeks. He came up big on multiple goal line plays against the Packers. McLeod blew up a short yardage run, just missed a sack and had an INT vs the Jets. He’s all over the field and making his presence felt.

Rasul Douglas seems to have settled in at RCB. Orlando Scandrick played well on Sunday and that could allow the coaches to move Avonte Maddox when he comes back. Sidney Jones should play this week. Ronald Darby is on the mend and Jalen Mills might make it back on the field. Cre’Von LeBlanc might be coming back. And Craig James has been serviceable since being forced into action.

There are issues.

Pass coverage still needs to get better, no matter who is on the field. Starters have been burned for big plays, not just backups.

Penalties have got to stop. Barnett has gotten flagged for unnecessary roughness at least three times. Just can’t have that.

It is fair to wonder if the pass rush will fade or if this game was the start of a hot streak. I do think pass rushers need to have some success to keep from getting frustrated. This game could be an anomaly or it could be just what the doctor ordered. We’ll find out a lot this week. The Vikings don’t have a great OL. If the Eagles can’t get to Kirk Cousins, that will be a bad sign.

The Eagles offense has looked dominant for stretches of games. The defense had their coming out party on Sunday. If this team is going to get to the postseason and make a run, they need the defense to step up and play better. Recent games have given us some good signs.

Keep your fingers crossed.

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Fran Duffy wrote an excellent piece on the defense and just how well they played.

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For your viewing pleasure.

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