NFL Wire News

Eagles defense can’t get off on third down

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The Sports Xchange

PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia defense is much improved this season.

The Eagles are third in the league in rush average (3.5), sixth in interceptions (6), eighth in opponent yards per attempt (6.9), 10th in opponent passer rating (85.7) and 11th points allowed (20.6).

But the last two weeks, a problem that hurt the Eagles for much f last season has returned. They haven’t been able to get off the field on third down.

In their three-point loss to the Redskins and their 22-point win over the Saints, they allowed the Redskins and Saints to convert 17-of- 33 third-down opportunities.

Even more disconcerting, they converted 12-of-23 third downs of five yards or more. Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 10-of-13 third-down passes against the Eagles. The Saints’ Drew Brees completed 8-of-15 for 154 yards.

The Eagles gave up a season-high seven X-plays — pass plays of 20 yards or more — to the Saints. Five of them came on third down.

“The last two weeks, our third-down has been terrible,” defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “It’s a combination of things. If it was one thing, you could change it. But we’ve looked at it hard.

“It’s individual (things). Sometimes it’s technique. Sometimes we could have been in a different coverage. Sometimes the pass rush wasn’t there. So it’s different breakdowns.

“We’re going to put a heavy emphasis on it this week and we’ll get it right. I’ll put more reps on it in this week’s practice because one week it happens, but two weeks in a row, you have to really throw some extra reps and time into it. So we will.”

The Eagles (2-3) have an important NFC East game Monday night against the division-leading Giants (3-2). They already are 0-2 in the division. Another division loss will put them at a severe disadvantage in playoff tie-breakers.

SERIES HISTORY: 161st regular-season meeting. The Giants lead the series, 82-76-2. The Eagles have won three of the four meetings the last two years since Chip Kelly became the head coach. They’ve also won 11 of the last 14.

GAME PLAN: Even though they finally managed to have some success running the ball last week against New Orleans (a season-high 186 yards on 32 carries), the Eagles are expected to come out throwing Monday night against the Giants. They need to get quarterback Sam Bradford going early. He has struggled in the first halves of games. He has a 65.6 first-half passer rating, but a 102.1 rating in the second half. Look for the Eagles to throw a lot to tight ends Zach Ertz and Brent Celek. The Giants have had problems defending the tight end in their first five games.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

–Eagles CB Byron Maxwell vs. Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr.

Beckham is one of the league’s top wideouts, but injured a hamstring last week against the 49ers.

Eagles TE Zach Ertz vs. Giants SLB Mark Herzlich.

Ertz is a tough matchup for a linebacker or safety. He is coming off a five-catch, 60-yard performance against the Saints. Herzlich is subbing for injured Devon Kennard.

Eagles ILB Jordan Hicks vs. Giants RB Shane Vereen.

Vereen is one of the league’s better pass-catching running backs. Had 52 catches for the Patriots last year and already has 20 in five games for the Giants.


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