Eagles red zone defense a reassuring positive for shaky secondary

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Carson Wentz was frustrated in Eagles training camp Wednesday.

After a streak of days that saw him and the offense dominate the defense in practices, pass after pass sailed out of the end zone, or ricocheted off a defender as the first team offense tried and score in the red zone. 

The defense succeeded no fewer than a dozen times during the set of drills, which saw Jordan Matthews drop a touchdown in the back of the end zone and more than one pass thrown away after a Wentz scramble.

It’s just what the doctor ordered for a defense and secondary in need of confidence after what most agree was a pretty bad showing a day earlier.

“We didn’t have a good practice yesterday but I like how the guys came out today and competed,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “It was a lot of red zone work which shrunk the field a little bit, it was also a little tough to defend and I thought the guys bounced back from yesterday.”

There are several explanations for the defense winning the day. One was the absense of LeGarrette Blount from red zone drills, a punishing running back many will agree will be the centerpiece of the Birds’ red zone strategy during the regular season. He was out for the second straight day due to personal reasons.

Another is the shoulder injury sidelining Alshon Jeffery, a red zone threat with hands Wentz has described as being the “best he’s ever thrown to.”

But if you talk to the cornerbacks themselves, it has nothing to do with any of that. It’s all about teamwork.

“With our offense they have a lot of crazy formations and we have to see it and have to be able to communciate,” Jalen Mills, who performed well on the outside at corner Wednesday, said. “If you can’t communicate, with the offense in the red zone, you’re going to get scored on. We communicated well, linebackers included.”

With the defensive line unable to make contact with the quarterback during training camp practices, quarterbacks have much more time than they would in a real live game situation, which is another thing that really tests the secondary. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“Everybody knows to stay off of big red, that’s it, don’t get close to him, that’s our guy but for sure,” Mills said of the red-jerseyed Wentz. “As far as the secondary goes, we embrace that. Because I know and he knows he can’t get hit. It helps on our coverge drills for when we play teams like Seattle and San Francisco and Dallas, they have a lot of time, you have to work on your downfield coverage skills.”

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