• Al Thompson

EAGLES DEFENSE HAS THRIVED ON ITS BALANCE

The Birds defense has allowed just one offensive touchdown against each of their last two opponents. The 3-0 Eagles face a real test from Jacksonville's young quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Doug Pederson will be out to knock off his former team.

The Eagles defense pounded the Washington Commanders offensive line and quarterback Carson Wentz for nine sacks last week at FedEx Field. Photo by Andy Lewis

If you take a look at the defensive stat sheet for the first three games of the Philadelphia Eagles young season, you’ll see the top tacklers on the list – in order: Linebacker T.J. Edwards (27 tackles, 20 solo), safety Marcus Epps 20, 14 solo), linebacker Kyzir White (19, 14 solo), nickel back Avonte Maddox (16, 7 solo), safety, C.J. Gardner-Johnson (15, 13 solo) and defensive ends Brandon Graham (3 sacks) and Josh Sweat (2.5 sacks).


When a sports fan misses a game he or she wanted to watch, they can look at a box score to get an idea of how the game unfolded.


When you look at the defensive stat sheet for the Eagles, is it accurate to regard the Birds defense as balanced.


If it was Darius Slay or James Bradberry were racking up all the tackles, one might believe the Eagles defense was being gashed.


But middle linebacker T.J. Edwards is leading the team in takedowns along with a sack, three tackles for loss, two defended passes.


According to those in the know, that’s a good sign.


Pass rusher Haason Reddick was asked that very question.


“I would say yes,” Reddick said. “We do have a well-rounded defense. Usually your middle linebacker is supposed to be the top tackler on the team. You would hope that one of your inside linebackers is the top tackler on your team.


“On some teams, it could be the safety, but usually you like to see your inside linebacker on top with that stat.”


When asked if the Eagles have done a remarkable job creating chemistry on defense given that there are no less than nine new faces playing key roles on the Birds defensive side of the ball, Reddick replied, “I’d say that’s a fair statement.”


Eagles safety K'Von Wallace says the Eagles defense is structured so any player can have a big day. Photo by Andy Lewis

EDWARDS ON SAME PAGE WITH HIS TEAMMATES

Edwards, who has been with the Eagles since he was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Wisconsin in 2019, agreed with this new teammate.


“Yeah, I think in general, middle linebackers, they’re productive when they’re constantly on the ball,” Edwards said as the Eagles prepared to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Linc Monday afternoon. “I think me and Kyzir (White) are doing a good job at right now.


Edwards gave props and went on to define the various roles of his teammates.


“At the end of the day, our d-linemen make a lot of plays against the run; our safeties do at times too,” Edwards said. “I think as a whole right now, we’re balanced. The hard part about that is staying consistent at what we’re doing and not get ahead of things and making sure that our communications are on point, we’re executing well and things are working well. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing.”


Allowing their coaches to coach them has been a positive. At this level, too many times, players can tune out their coaches.


“Yeah, I think it’s a good job by the coaches just being consistent with the messages,” Edwards said. “And the expectations on what they want from us. When those new faces come in here, those guys have been doing a good job just getting into the books and understanding what we’re trying to do, taking coaching points, asking when needed and learning from the guys around them.


“As a whole I think we’re doing a good job of connecting and making sure we’re on the same page so we can play good ball. That’s something we’ve done since camp.”


Eagles linebacker T.J. Edwards leads the Eagles defense with 27 overall tackles (20 solo). Photo by Andy Lewis

WALLACE LIKES EAGLES DEFENSE BECAUSE EVERYONE CAN GET INVOLVED

Backup strong safety K’Von Wallace agrees the defense is playing complimentary football, but say he likes to think anyone can have a big day.


“Does it matter whether it’s Epps having eight tackles the first game and we still come out victorious? Or T.J. Edwards Having 15 or 14 tackles in one game and we come out victorious, I feel like what we do works.


“I feel like the defense we have works,” the third-year pro out of Clemson said. “I feel like, in our defense, every position can make plays…corners can make plays, safeties can make plays, nickels, linebackers, d-line; everybody can make plays. The system is set for...if the ball comes your way, you can make a play on it.


“It all depends on how the game goes, where the ball goes, how the offense is set up…the guys are out there to make plays.”


Wallace admitted that the defense is healthier when the guys up front are getting the lion’s share of the tackles.


“Yeah, they’re going up there to eat, most definitely, most definitely,” Wallace said. “Everybody is just trying to do their part. It’s like ‘you scratch my back; I’ll scratch your back.’

You don’t want to leave anybody out to dry.


“It’s not like linebackers taking double teams off the d-line,” Wallace said. “You want to prevent injuries from them getting doubled all game. It’s all a system. It’s all working together for it.”


WALLACE, REDDICK TALK ABOUT QB TREVOR LAWRENCE

On Sunday the Eagles will not only be facing Doug Pederson, the only head coach to deliver a Super Bowl championship to the Eagles franchise at the end of the 2017 season, the Birds will be facing one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL.


Trevor Lawrence will arrive at Lincoln Financial Field boasting a 103.1 quarterback rating. He is 77 for 111, for 772 yards, six touchdowns and just one interception in three games.


Lawrence threw three touchdown passes against a tough Los Angeles Chargers defense as the Jaguars upset Justin Herbert’s Chargers 38-10 in Los Angeles.


The Jaguars defense has allowed just ten points over its last two opponents.


But Lawrence clearly has the Eagles respect and attention.


“He can make every throw, with pressure and without pressure” Wallace said. “He can really, really move with his legs. He’s really dynamic.


“He’s always looking to throw the ball no whatever position he’s in. That’s dangerous for a quarterback. He does not have the mindset of ‘oh, I’m going to take off and run right away.’ He’s always looking for the open guys. That makes him dynamic within itself.”


Wallace was asked about Jonathan Gannon’s comment that it make the defense’s job a little easier when the defense is playing with a lead; which the Eagles have done consistently.

Is the defense prepared for a low-scoring kind of game where offenses won’t be piling up points until the very end?


“Every game is a tough game,” Wallace said. “We don’t plan out how this is going to work. When we played the Vikings, they were saying the same thing about their high-scoring offense…Justin Jefferson ballin’ and stuff like that. We don’t look at it as an issue.


“We’re going to look at every game as the biggest game of the year; it is because it’s the next game. They have a great offense over there, they are very efficient. Our job is to eliminate them from being that efficient. That’s how it goes.”


Reddick also says he has a healthy respect for Lawrence.


“He’s got good arm strength,” Reddick said. “As a Q-B, you can tell he’s got that top talent where he can be one of the top Q-B’s in the league. When you watch him on tape, you can see some things that get our attention, and you think ‘this kid is going to be good.’ He has great arm talent, he’s mobile…right there you know he’s that kind of quarterback.”


NOTE: The Eagles will be with the services of nickel-back Avonte Maddox (ankle) and backup running back Boston Scott (rib).


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