It was not easy for the Eagles in their Week 1 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons, but thanks to the defense standing tall until the final seconds, they were able to escape with a six-point victory.
The defense came out on a mission from the opening drive, stopping the Falcons on fourth and goal in the first quarter and not allowing wide receiver Julio Jones to score a touchdown.
Speaking of Jones, the Eagles’ secondary did an admirable job keeping the All-Pro wide receiver in front of them for most of the game. Despite him having a ridiculous game with 10 receptions (19 targets) for 169 yards, Philly’s secondary made sure Atlanta’s other wide receivers were not a factor.
Mohamed Sanu was the only other wideout to register a catch in the game (4 receptions for 32 yards). In addition to their defense against Jones, the Eagles secondary also came up with an interception, courtesy of second-year cornerback Rasul Douglas.
It seems like last season’s 17th-ranked pass defense (227.3 ypg) is already in tip-top shape.
However, it does not get easier for the Birds’ secondary as they now have the tough task of facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver unit on Sunday.
Unlike the Falcons, the Buccaneers have three explosive wide receivers that can make a game-breaking play at any moment. If you do not believe me just ask the New Orleans Saints’ defense, who got torched by veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and Co.
In last Sunday’s shootout against New Orleans, Tampa’s No. 1 wide receiver Mike Evans had seven receptions for 147 yards and a touchdown, while former Eagle DeSean Jackson, who is working out of the slot, had five receptions for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
Then there’s former Penn State wide receiver Chris Godwin, who added three receptions for 41 yards and a score.
Heading into this road contest, the Eagles understand the challenges that the Buccaneers trio of wide receivers pose against their defense.
“Yeah, everybody has their own little personality, so to speak, but DeSean Jackson has always been a guy that can take the top off the defense,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said.
“We played him in a game two years ago and he made a lot of big plays like that. Took us a while to get adjusted to it. And then you get a guy like Evans, even if he’s covered, he can still be open. He’s a very physical player. You have to be physical with him.”
Physicality helped the Eagles in their matchup against Jones last week and it will be up to cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills to keep that same energy against the 6-foot-5 Evans.
The last time the Eagles saw Evans was back in 2015 when the Buccaneers smoked the Eagles 45-17. None of the current cornerbacks were on that year’s team, but the former first-round pick still had a good game with four receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown.
However, third-year cornerback Jalen Mills is not worried about Tampa Bay, despite their offensive explosion in Week 1.
“At the end of the day, it’s not Tampa vs. the Saints,” Mills said (h/t NBC Sports Philadelphia). “It’s Tampa vs. the Eagles. We’re going to go out there and play defense and they have to go out there and play offense.”
The Eagles secondary is pretty confident in their abilities to get the job done and it could get easier for them as Jackson is in the NFL’s concussion protocol. If Jackson cannot go, then expect Godwin to see more targets.
But Philly’s cornerbacks should not take the second-year wideout lightly as he has the ability to take the top off the defense too.
Nevertheless, if the Eagles secondary does their job against Tampa’s trio of wide receivers on Sunday, then it should not be a high-scoring affair like it was last Sunday and Philadelphia should be 2-0.