NFL Wire News

Consistency is key to Eagles’ staunch run defense


The Sports Xchange

PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Eagles’ run defense has been exceptional in the first three games, holding opponents to a league-best 3.1 yards per carry.

The Eagles have given up only 11 rushing first downs, which is the fewest in the league, and only four double-digit-yard runs.

This is not an all-of-a-sudden thing. The Eagles finished fifth in the league in yards allowed per carry last year (3.7), and third over the season’s final eight games (3.5).

“Consistency,” defensive coordinator Bill Davis said when asked what stands out to him about his team’s run defense.

“The technique that the d-line is playing with (has been outstanding). And it starts with the d-line. You watch those guys hit the sled every day, every day without exception, and it shows up on Sundays.

“They are striking with their hands. They are reading their keys. They are doing a great job with it, and it’s real tough to run on us right now because of the consistency of technique that the inside guys are playing. And then behind them, you are looking at some real disciplined linebackers that are playing patiently behind the two-gappers.”

Led by defensive end Fletcher Cox, a second-team All Pro, the Eagles have one of the top 3-4 fronts in the league.

Cox, who was drafted by the Eagles in 2011 as a three-technique tackle for what then was a 4-3 scheme under Andy Reid, has made an impressive transition to a dominant, disruptive 3-4 lineman.

Until starting defensive end Cedric Thornton (broken hand) and backup Taylor Hart (shoulder) missed Sunday’s 24-17 win over the New York Jets, the Eagles hadn’t had a defensive lineman miss a game because of injury in two seasons.

They also were missing their two top inside linebackers, Mychal Kendricks (hamstring) and Kiko Alonso (knee). Yet, the Eagles held the Jets’ running backs to 34 yards on 12 carries.

“Our front seven does such a good job against the run that we (the safeties) honestly don’t think about the run,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “We can focus totally on the pass.”

Stopping the run will be critical Sunday when the Eagles (1-2) travel to Washington to face the Redskins (1-2).

With Kirk Cousins at quarterback, the Redskins are a run-first offense with two dangerous downhill runners, Alfred Morris and rookie Matt Jones.

Morris and Jones have combined for 388 yards and are collectively averaging 4.6 yards per carry in their first three games. They had 37 rushing attempts in both of their first two games.

“They have really committed to it,” Davis said. “You can tell. It’s like how Dallas was committed to it last year. They’re going to run the ball against us and they’re going to run it with a good variety of types of runs. There’s not one type of run they come at you with.”

SERIES HISTORY: 160th regular-season meeting. The Redskins lead the series, 81-73-5. The Eagles have won three of the last four games against the Redskins since Chip Kelly became the Philadelphia head coach. The loss was a 27-24 defeat in Week 16 last year. In the first meeting last season, won by the Eagles, 37-34, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for 427 yards and three touchdowns.

GAMEPLAN: The Eagles’ opponent Sunday, the Washington Redskins, like to run the ball. Ran it 37 times in each of their first two games and will come out running Sunday. But the Eagles’ defensive strength is their run defense. They’ve held their first three opponents to a league-best 3.1 yards per carry. They want to shut down the Redskins’ ground game and then they can send extra rushers after quarterback Kirk Cousins.

About The Sports Xchange

Since 1987, the Sports Xchange has been the best source of information and analysis for the top professionals in the sports publishing & information business