By Kevin McGuire
One of the strengths of the Philadelphia Eagles during a recent winning streak seems to be the play of the defense. Heading in to the 2013 season it was the defense that was one of the biggest question marks for the team and things did not start off well this year on that side of the football. Against the Arizona Cardinals the Eagles recorded two interceptions and sacked Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer five times, and the team came up with a late stop with the game on the line.
Maybe the Eagles defense isn’t as bad as we thought it was.
Some teams have found a way to attack the Eagles early on, but the results have been mixed, and the team has not let a game get away from them early on. Are the Eagles making the right adjustments to counter what is working for opposing offenses, or is the depth on the defensive side of the football deeper than many suspected before the season?
“I think the depth helps, but it’s notmanufactured depth where we’re just going to throw a guy in,” Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said during his Monday press conference. “And I think our staff does a good job. Once you really realize and that’s what’s going on each week is what their game plan and how it unfolds and what they’re trying to do to attack us, our coaches on the defensive side of the ball do a good job making adjustments.”
When Kelly was hired by the Eagles he knew he would need some help from a staff with some NFL experience, this being Kelly’s first venture into the NFL after establishing a solid offensive track record at the college level. His addition of Bill Davis as defensive coordinator was met with a lack of enthusiasm from fans and critics. Davis is starting to prove he may have been the right guy for the job.
The Eagles are far from playing the level of defense adored by Buddy Ryan zealots, but this Eagles defense has held six of their last seven opponents to 20 points or fewer (Arizona scored 21). In today’s NFL, those numbers will give teams more than a chance to win much more often than not. It has not happened by accident, as the Eagles defense has continued to gel together following a coaching change and a roster makeover.
“Chemistry is a very tough thing to build, and you never know when you’re going to have it and when you don’t,” Davis said Tuesday when meeting with the media. “You put a bunch of different players together and you are always hoping that the chemistry is a good one and we are very fortunate right now that we have great chemistry going on defensively. The guys work hard, and they enjoy practicing with each other and they enjoy working out with each other.”
During the off season the Eagles shook up their defensive secondary by parting with Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and moving on from linebacker Jason Babin. Some of Kelly’s first roster moves included the additions of Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams and rookie Earl Wolff. Brandon Boykin has gotten involved, and Mychal Kendricks continues to develop. It is all coming together at the best time for the Eagles, with a final stretch of games setting Philadelphia up for a shot at the NFC East title against all odds.
“You can’t coach chemistry,” Davis said. “It happens or doesn’t happen and we are very fortunate that it’s happened.”
Quotes provided by PhiladelphiaEagles.com.
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Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.