How good is This Philadelphia Eagles Defense?
It Started Off So Well
I can't decide whether the Philadelphia Eagles defense is better than everyone expected or if the Washington Redskins and quarterback Robert Griffin III were just really off their game on Monday night.
The Eagles defense was a train-wreck last season and they are trying to convert from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme without all of the necessary pieces. The defense looked downright horrible in the preseason as teams alternated between picking apart their pass defense and running wild through their Swiss cheese run defense. The expectation was that the offense was going to have to score a ton of points because the defense was a work-in-progress.
But then the Eagles defense held a Redskins team that led the entire NFL in rushing yards last season to only 74 yards rushing. Part of that was because Washington had to almost completely abandon the running game in the second half, when they found themselves down 33-7, but they did hold Alfred Morris to only 3.8 yards per rush. That's amazing when you consider that Morris was the best running back in the NFL last season not named Adrian Peterson.
They also held RG3 to a pedestrian 77.7 passer rating. Part of that can be attributed to the fact that RG3 looked rusty in the first half. Coming off of ACL surgery, Washington head coach Mike Shanahan held his quarterback out of the entire preseason. That means that Monday night was the first live game action RG3 had seen in eight months. He threw two interceptions and made an errant pitch to Morris in the endzone that gift-wrapped a safety for the Eagles defense.
The Redskins only had 75 total yards and three first downs in the first half. Heck, the Redskins offense didn't even reach Eagles territory until the third quarter. Of course, the second half was a different story.
How Good Do You Think This Eagles Defense Really Is?
Second Half Woes
The Eagles defense gave up 20 points and 382 yards when it was all said and done. And if the Redskins could have recovered that onside kick, you got the feeling that they would have been able to drive down for winning touchdown.
The big question is which defense is the real Eagles defense. The defense that looked unstoppable in the first half when the Redskins couldn't get out of their own way, as Morris fumbled on their very first offensive play. Or the defense that looked more like what we expected in the second half, when they allowed 20 straight points.
It's possible that the second half failure was due to the offense not keeping the pressure on the Redskins? The offense was running plays every 24 seconds in the first half, but once they got up 33-7, they ran plays every 39 seconds. That was the right thing to do, but did it allow the Redskins defense and offense time to catch their breath?
The Redskins started to load up in the box to try to stop the Eagles running game. Being up 33-7 and with passaholic Andy Reid gone, it was a sure bet that Chip Kelly would try to use the running game to ice the game. Of course, when that didn't work, it left the Eagles defense on the field too long and they were the ones that looked gassed. I have a feeling that Kelly didn't like how this game evolved and he won't be taking his foot off the pedal again anytime soon.
Unfortunately, I think that the Eagles defense we saw in the second half is the defense we're going to see for the majority of this season. RG3 was obviously rusty in that first half. He was also not the same rushing threat that he was last season, which allowed the Eagles to zero in on Morris. Patrick Chung mistimed a jump so badly I bet they were giving him an eye exam on the sideline after he gave up that final touchdown. Rookie Jordan Poyer looked like a rookie when the Redskins targeted him every time he was in the game. And I don't know if I heard Nate Allen's name called once during the game.
Cary Williams' gambles paid off in this game, but he gave up six touchdowns last season, which was more their either Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie or Nnamdi Asomugha gave up last season. He might not get so lucky when he gambles in the future. Bradley Fletcher left with a concussion and it isn't known how long he'll be out. The defensive line did their job and the linebackers looked excellent, especially Trent Cole and Mychal Kendricks. But again, the Redskins offense couldn't find their rhythm until the second half, and when they did, they scored 20 points in the final 15:11 of the game.
The Eagles defense exceeded all expectations in their first game and the team got the win. That's great. I just don't see them being able to repeat that performance again. That's not being negative, that's just being realistic.
What do you Think?
So what do you think about this Eagles defense? Are they going to be good or was this just a mirage?