With Chip Kelly’s Eagles, when it comes to measuring defense it’s all relative.
It’s certainly not Jim Johnson’s defense, but the 2015 Birds have been pretty good during the first three games thisseason. They head into Week 4’s match up against the Redskins ranked 8th in run defense (they were 15th in 2014), and that’s a good thing, since Washington has the league’s fourth best running attack.
“We’ve played good against the run but I am not beating my chest. We are still 2-1,” Connor Barwin said of the unit that allows 87 yards per game.”We’ve got a big challenge against the Redskins, they are probably the best running team we’ve faced this year.”
“They are a run first team,” the Eagles’ other outside linebacker, Brandon Graham said.”They really want to get the run started and that’s a challenge for us to make sure we don’t get them started.”
The linebackers have been stellar thus far — even with absences from Kiko Alonso (who will be out a few more weeks after getting his knee scoped) and Mychal Kendricks (who was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice). The front three has been all over opposing offensive lines. And when they do their job, Graham and the linebackers get to do theirs.
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“It makes it fun becausethose guys are active,” Graham said of the defensive line.”They’re not doing their job and saying ‘alright I’m good’ — they try to get to the ball too. It’s like a race to get to the ball. Whose going to make the tackle? Who’s going to make the first sack of the game? Who’s going to cause the first turnover?That’s what we talkabout and it makes it fun.”
The Eagles defense has improved in every category over last season, including points allowed, total defense and even passing yards allowed. It’s a small sample size, but the secondary — led by Malcolm Jenkins — has been creating turnovers and, in most circumstances, keeping opposing wide receivers under wraps (Julio Jones not withstanding).
“It helps us when they are doing their thing in theback end because it gives us more time to get to the quarterback,” Graham said.”For us, we pride ourselves in not letting the corners or safeties make a tackle on run plays. ‘We don’t need you in the run we need you in the back end.’ Our whole mind set is they shouldn’t get to the corner or the safety. That’s how much we pride ourselves on stopping the run.”
When a defense reaches a point of harmony, with each positional group succeeding at the task at hand, it creates an environment for success. Especially with a unit on the field as much as the Eagles ‘D.’
“Everyone isn’t trying to do other peoples jobs, that’s what you see in a lot of defenses,” Graham said. “You see people get frustrated, not making plays and they go try and make a play leaving their teammates out to dry because that’s not your play to make.”