Eagles 3rd Down Defense A Big Reason For OptimismBREAKING NEWS, Eagles, General News, News Wednesday, October 19th, 2011
Forget the fact that the offense put up zero points in the second half. Forget the fact that Rex Grossman reminded us that he’s Rex Grossman, and definitely forget the fact that Vince Young reminded us that he’s Vince Young. Remember this however, on Sunday the defense came to play, and it is in large part because of that defense that this week is all about an Eagles win, and not another 4th quarter self destruction.
Despite the win, there’s still some cynicism surrounding Philadelphia. It’s a kind of understandable cynicism though, the glass half empty type made possible by the fact that, well, the Eagles’ glass isn’t full.
Philly is indeed 2-4 and still have a lot of ground to make up after their big win at Washington, leaving them a huge task for the rest of the season. But give them credit. Whatever way you slice, the defensive unit turned in a performance that was truly worthy the win on Sunday and most days in the league.
Now in the classic case of a team underachieving, especially in football, a typical problem involves finding a way to get the squad playing at a level that their sheer talent alone they should, never mind of how the team will play on “their day”.
If we are to go by the evidence presented to us in the game vs. the Redskins, it looks as if Juan Castillo, Jim Washburn, and the rest of the defensive coaches have made a huge stride towards making their team play at that level, and nothing shows that more than Washington’s 3rd down conversation rate on Sunday.
The Redskins went 1-10 on third down on the day, and the one conversion that the Eagles did give up came well into the 4th quarter, while protecting a 14 point lead.
The Eagles’ biggest and most consistent strength is their pass rush. If you’re looking for any indication than the Eagles are truly learning how to play towards their strengths then look no further past the fact that on many of those third down situations, never mind the instances on which there were turnovers, the Eagles rushed four men after the quarterback. They trusted their line, playing without Trent Cole, to generate a good enough pass rush and cause problems, both of which they did which lead to great success.
With the Eagles not having to blitz heavily on 3rd down, the middle of their defense was able to focus on suffocating the backs and tight ends, a task which they haven’t exactly been brilliant at doing recently. On Sunday however, it worked as Rex Gross tried going to Fred Davis, Ryan Torain, and, before Nnamdi Asomugha gave him the day off, Chris Cooley, but all to no avail.
Any win with four interceptions forced is going to be a win worth celebrating. Now add to that the fact that a completion to a Washington wide receiver was not completed until late in the second quarter, the fact that the rushing game was finally (FINALLY!) stopped, and most importantly, a performance that shows that Juan Castillo is showing signs of an understanding of how to play to his players’ strengths and you’ve got a win that should give fans a heightened sense of optimism going into this impeccably timed bye week.
There’s still a lot of work to be done, but during a slump, as a fan, there’s nothing that can make you feel better than the type of common sense, expectation meeting, “that’s what I’ve been talking about!” type of play that the Eagles defense showed in great flashes on Sunday.
Oh and don’t worry, about that work needing to be done, the players themselves know about it too.
“We know we have a long road to go,” said safety Kurt Coleman. “But if we continue to play like we did today, then I think we’re on way.”
Can’t argue with that.
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