Eagles

Eagles' rush defense proves elite once more against run-heavy Bears

Eagles' rush defense proves elite once more against run-heavy Bears

With four minutes left in the game, Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky broke the Eagles' hearts with an 11-yard run down the left sideline.
 
Of course, that run didn't mean anything. It didn't set up a touchdown or field goal. It came at the end of an Eagles blowout win (see Roob's observations). In fact, Trubisky threw an interception a few plays later
 
What that 11-yard run did do was give the Bears positive rushing yardage for the game.

Yep. It rescued them from the ignominy of rushing for less than zero yards in an entire football game.
 
"I was mad," Malcolm Jenkins said after the Eagles' 31-3 win over the Bears at the Linc (see breakdown). "I wanted to keep them to negative yards."
 
Before that run — the Bears' last running play of the game — the NFL's fifth-ranked rushing offense had negative-five yards on 13 carries.
 
Trubisky made the final totals 14 for 6.
 
The Eagles have been exceptional all year against the run. They were No. 1 in the league before this game. And against a top-5 rushing attack, they showed why.
 
"It would have been pretty cool to hold them to negative-six," Tim Jernigan said. "I wouldn’t have been complaining.”
 
As it was, the Bears finished with their fewest rushing yards in 65 years — since they had one rushing yard in a loss to the Rams in 1952. 

It was the fewest rushing yards the Eagles have allowed in 71 years — since they held the Boston Yanks to minus-26 yards in a win in 1946.

Historic stuff. And it happened against a Bears team that came in fifth in the NFL with 132 rushing yards per game and sixth with 4.5 yards per carry.
 
So much for those numbers.
 
Bears halfback Jordan Howard ranked third in the NFL in rushing before Sunday, but he finished with six yards on seven carries with a long gain of four. Rookie Tarik Cohen had a 12-yard loss and finished with minus-11 yards on two carries. Benny Cunningham had one carry for minus-one yard.
 
"We knew them running the ball was going to be their way of trying to beat us," Jernigan said. "So we were kind of keeping tabs on where they were."
 
Where were they?
 
The Bears' running backs finished with minus-six yards on 10 carries.
 
"That’s pretty impressive and hard to do in this league, and they have two good backs," safety Rodney McLeod said. "Howard’s like top-three in the league, and Jim (Schwartz) told us all week our objective is to stop the run, nothing else, and that’s what we did today."
 
The Eagles are now 10-1 with a nine-game winning streak, and their run defense is one of the biggest reasons why (see report card).
 
They've allowed 716 rushing yards so far, and that’s the seventh-fewest in NFL history after 11 games.
 
“That was the big emphasis this week," Brandon Graham said. "We just wanted to go out there and do our job. We made it about us and obviously, we got the job done today.
 
“You’ve got to get them with numbers and then you’ve got be technically sound. You have to go out there and make sure you don’t try to do anyone else’s job because that’s when they crease you. … We were out there busting our butt, everybody was doing their job and flying around. We played good team D against their run.”
 
The only team to surpass 100 rushing yards against the Eagles this year was the Cowboys with 112 last week.
 
The Eagles won by four touchdowns, but the Eagles were committed to not letting it happen again.
 
"The coaches let us know that first day we started breaking down film," Jernigan said, "coach Schwartz was just demanding, 'Hey, we gotta make sure we take care of 24 (Howard).' Especially after not having much success against Dallas. They had a couple plays that popped, and we wanted to make sure we cleaned it up and got back in the groove of things."
 
With no running game to speak of and the Eagles' lead growing bigger and bigger, Trubisky was forced to throw 33 times. He passed for only 147 yards, was sacked twice, fumbled twice and was intercepted twice.
 
"Stats are cool but at the end of the day, we just go out there and play hard, prepare well and just do our job," McLeod said. "And our job vs. any opponent is always to stop the run first and get them in passing situations and let our guys up front eat, and the rest is history."
 
The Eagles' defense hasn't allowed a touchdown since garbage time of the Broncos game — they led 44-9 when the Broncos scored — and they haven't allowed a rushing touchdown since Cam Newton scored from 16 yards out six weeks ago.
 
“It’s great to see, especially when you put the work in all week," linebacker Nigel Bradham said. "When a team is pretty much telling us they’re going to run the ball on us, we feel some type of way about that. That’s one of our strengths.
 
"That’s just what it was. We executed, we showed up, and we did what we wanted."

Sidney Jones practices with Eagles for 1st time following Achilles injury

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USA Today Images

Sidney Jones practices with Eagles for 1st time following Achilles injury

Sidney Jones went out for his first practice rep as a Philadelphia Eagle and had to resist the urge to break out in a huge smile.

"It was kickoff return," he said. "I was just so happy. I just looked around and couldn't believe it."

Jones, the Eagles' rookie second-round pick, practiced Wednesday for the first time since he blew out his Achilles during his pro day at the University of Washington back on March 11.

He probably won't play this year, but just being out there and practicing after 10 months of rehab was … indescribable.

"I can’t even describe how happy and excited I am," he said after practice. "It’s been a long road. I’m just happy to be back with my team.

“It’s been a long road to even play football. I haven’t played football since my last college game, which was approximately a year ago. It was a first step, and I can’t wait for the future."

The Eagles have a three-week window in which Jones is allowed to practice. After that, they have to either shut him down or activate him.

But Jones wasn't worried about any of that Wednesday. He was just thrilled to be on the field with the teammates who've helped him through this endless grind.

“It’s been a long journey," Jones said in his first interview since draft weekend in April. "I’ve had a great support system around me, everybody’s been helping me, telling me this, telling me that. 

"A few guys I reached out to or reached out to to me and gave me advice, people who’d hurt their Achilles before. Jason Peters helped me out a lot, Jordan Hicks helped me out a lot as well. Everybody’s been supportive."

The Eagles' defensive coaches threw a lot at Jones, treating him like a member of the active roster. He was in all the meetings, all the film sessions, out at practice watching. He prepared to play, even though he knew he couldn't.

It was all about keeping him engaged, keeping him involved, building toward 2018, when he'll presumably be a key member of this secondary.

"I think we'll see pretty quickly that he has a good grasp of what he's expected to do," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "Keeping his ears open and his eyes open has been his No. 1 job description over these last six months.

"I've been really proud of what he's done there. I would be very surprised if he can't go in and execute what we're asking him to do. There's certainly a lot of rust that goes into it. With all due respect to our trainers, they are not a challenge to cover, and he's only been working with those guys. 

"So we've got to take each step along the way. It's almost like the first week of OTAs for him. It's not even really a first week of training camp. It's more like first week of OTAs for him." 

Jones said that when he was drafted, he didn't expect to get so much support from his teammates, but he said the other defensive backs have made sure he's felt a part of things throughout his rehab.

"I didn’t expect the league to be like this, but my teammates, my DB squad, they’re awesome, they’re terrific," he said. "Those are my brothers. 

"It’s a real brotherhood around here, and they’ve had my back every step of the way."

Jones, projected as a high first-round pick before his injury, said the past year has really taught him to appreciate the game more than he ever did.

“I was always grateful," he said. "In college I would go out and just every day think how grateful I am but now that it actually happened … and I got injured, I really have to be grateful because it could happen again. You never know when it’s going to happen. Just have to take every day like it's your last and go out there and give everything you’ve got."

Jones said his surgically reconstructed Achilles felt 100 percent at practice and he said he actually wasn't even thinking about it when he was out there running around.

He said he feels further behind physically than mentally.

“Just got to take it slow," he said. "I’ve got to get into shape first, that’s the biggest thing, so I don’t hurt any other body parts and stuff. Just trying to get better every day. It’s just a process.

"Just trying to get my feet wet so next year I’ll have some feet on the ground. Something to work with."

Nate Sudfeld has reasons to feel 'very confident' as Eagles' new backup QB

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AP Images

Nate Sudfeld has reasons to feel 'very confident' as Eagles' new backup QB

Nate Sudfeld stood by his locker on Wednesday afternoon, early in his first week as the Eagles' backup quarterback, and claimed his game-day responsibilities won't change. He'll still be helping the starter to see coverages, go through plays and diagnose pressures. 

The only difference is he'll now wear a helmet and shoulder pads. 

Well, actually, there's one more difference. 

"I won't be dead tired when the game starts," Sudfeld said. 

During the first 14 weeks of the season, when Sudfeld was the Eagles' third-stringer, quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo would put him through an intense 45-minute workout before each game. Sudfeld is grateful for those workouts, which helped him with throwing and footwork, but said DeFilippo "kills" him each week. 

Those workouts are over. Because come Sunday, thanks to Carson Wentz's torn left ACL, Sudfeld will be dressing for each game as the Eagles' backup quarterback behind Nick Foles. 

He's now just one play away from being the Eagles' starter. 

"I feel very confident," Sudfeld said. "I mean, I wasn't just sitting back, watching practice all year, just expecting to never play football. I was definitely getting ready in case something like this happened. It's my responsibility as a 3 to be ready to be a 2. One play away and then one more play away. So I definitely feel prepared being here however many weeks, 14 weeks, has really helped. But I've treated each week as if I was going to play. I feel very confident."

But the difference between Foles and Sudfeld is glaring. Foles has been a starting quarterback in the NFL before and even in Philadelphia (see story). He's been to a Pro Bowl. His experience has been lauded all week (see story).

Meanwhile, Sudfeld is 24. A sixth-round pick to Washington last season, he's never played in an NFL game. Heck, Sunday will be his first time dressing for an NFL game. He didn't even join the Eagles' active roster until early November, when the Birds signed him from the practice squad. And that was just to prevent the Colts from poaching him. 

Has the Eagles' faith in him as the backup validated his decision to stay? 

"I mean, I've always wanted to be here since I got here so I'm just very excited that they do think enough of me to give me the opportunity," Sudfeld said. "I'm looking forward to if my name does get called, being ready to go." 

Since joining the Eagles' active roster, he's been inactive every week. But the fact that they were willing to use a roster spot on him, knowing he would be inactive each week, speaks to the way the organization feels about him. 

Foles didn't hesitate during his press conference on Tuesday to include Sudfeld every time he mentioned the quarterback group. The two have grown extremely close during the last few months. 

"Nate's a tremendous player," Foles said. "I'm excited about his future. Really smart, works his butt off, he's got all the tools to be a great player in this league. He's been there. I'm always going to include Carson, me and Nate. That's just sort of how it's been every single day going to work. We're going to lean on that. I'm going to lean on Nate through this process and we have the kind of quarterback room where you can do that, so it's sort of awesome. He's a tremendous player and I'm excited about his future in this league."

While not much will change for Sudfeld on game day — unless of course something happens to Foles — his workload during the week is very different. With Foles now taking all of the first-team reps at practice, Sudfeld gets all the scout team reps. 

While he got a few scout team reps over the course of the last few months, most of his reps with the Eagles have been mental. Sudfeld has been in the building with Wentz and Foles every day to watch film at 6 a.m., the trio would prep for each team and go through everything together, but when they got onto the practice field, the top two guys got to play and Sudfeld became a spectator. 

Fans probably don't know much about Sudfeld. Until this week, there's a good chance most Eagles fans had never even heard of him. Well, Sudfeld was a sixth-round pick out of Indiana last year. He spent the entire 2016 season with Washington, but was cut on Sept. 2. The Eagles signed him to their practice squad the next day. 

What kind of quarterback is he? 

"It's hard to assess yourself," Sudfeld answered. "I'm very confident in my game and I think I can make all the throws. I think I can move if I have to. I think I know the game pretty well. I'm continuing to improve. I'm a work in progress, but excited what I know I can do."

Perhaps the thing Eagles fans might know best about Sudfeld is that he's tall, white and lanky, and folks would probably say he looked like Wentz if he didn't look exactly like Foles. He and Foles look so much alike that their teammates razz them for it and fans confuse the two (see story).

Just last week in Los Angeles, fans got the two confused. Fans thought Sudfeld was Foles, even though the Real Nick Foles was walking in uniform right in front of him. 

When it was pointed out to Sudfeld that no matter how well Foles plays, he'll probably feel it too. 

"True," Sudfeld said. "Hopefully he keeps doing what I know he can do so people love me walking down the street."