Once more, Eagles' defense looks like biggest strength

Once more, Eagles' defense looks like biggest strength

Carson Wentz and the Eagles' offense gave up the football. And the defense got it right back. 

That was the theme of Thursday night. 

For as much as the Eagles' first-team offense struggled in the 20-16 preseason win over the Bills at the Linc, the Eagles' first-team defense was impenetrable. 

"I think, obviously, it's still early and it's hard to say," middle linebacker Jordan Hicks said. "But I think we're definitely further along than we were last year as a benchmark. Just the fact that it's Year 2 in this defense. We're learning the little things and figuring out how to do this thing well and play together and really be able to make plays in the scheme."

The Eagles' first-team defense didn't give up any points Thursday night and forced turnovers on two of the Bills' first four drives (see 10 observations). Mychal Kendricks had his second interception this preseason and Ronald Darby picked off his first pass with his new team. 

Even when the first-team defense came out, Jim Schwartz's second unit didn't let up either. By the time Bills starter Tyrod Taylor left the game late in the second quarter, the Bills had just 86 yards on 29 plays and had put just three points on the board. 

“It definitely wasn’t the performance that I would like to put on," Taylor said. "It was a performance for the offense, as a team, that we didn’t want to put on."

The Eagles deserve plenty of credit for the Bills' struggles Thursday night. Perhaps no one more than Fletcher Cox and his fellow defensive linemen. While they didn't put up big numbers on the stat sheet, the front four had another good game. 

It's still early in this whole process, but head coach Doug Pederson believes the defensive line can be the strength of the defense in 2017. 

“I do," Pederson said. "I think you saw it tonight all the way to the end of the game. The rush is there and pushing the pocket. I'm just, again, just with the rotation that we're doing, keeping those guys fresh, and keeping eight guys rolling in there like we do with that first unit, I think it's going to be the strength of the defense and obviously, that's part of [Schwartz’s] scheme. Get pressure with four, and then obviously guard with seven.”

While Schwartz's defense is largely predicated on getting pressure with his front four, the DC did dial up some effective blitzes Thursday night (see Instant Replay)

Early in the game, he sent safety Rodney McLeod, who was able to get a hand on the football and tip it to Kendricks, who pulled in the interception. A little while later, Kendricks blitzed and picked up a sack. 

At times last season Schwartz did blitz. But he did it sparingly and mostly used zone blitzes. 

"I mean, I think it’s one of those things that, with today especially, it will really be the flow of zone coverage and timing blitzes, and I think effective blitzing is probably the way we want to do it," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "We don’t want to get blitz happy. The timing of them is very important and I thought [Schwartz] did a good job with that today. So I think we’ll find our flow as to what we do best, but I think we want to get after quarterbacks when we can.”

Speaking of getting after quarterbacks, rookie Derek Barnett picked up his third sack in two preseason games (see Grading the Win). He was an extremely productive player at Tennessee and is looking like he'll be pretty productive in the NFL, too. It might be hard to keep him off the field as a rookie. 

The Eagles are notably deeper on defense this season. Hicks gave credit to the front office for bringing in the talent. 

"It's going to be fun," Hicks said when asked if he's looking forward to seeing what the defense looks like on opening day. "We've got a lot of confidence in where we're at and the guys we have, so we're definitely building this thing." 

Former Eagles Dawkins, Owens named Hall of Fame semifinalists

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Former Eagles Dawkins, Owens named Hall of Fame semifinalists

Brian Dawkins and Terrell Owens are again one step closer to making it to the Hall of Fame.

Both former Eagles were named as two of 27 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's 2018 class.

Their inclusion on the list Tuesday is not a surprise at all. Both were on the list of finalists last year, but did not make the 2017 class to the dismay of Eagles fans.

The 15 finalists will be announced during January and Hall of Fame voters will cast their votes for the inductees on Super Bowl Saturday.

This is Dawkins' second year of eligibility and Owens' third. Traditionally it has been difficult for safeties to make it into the Hall of Fame, which might have hurt Dawkins. Owens has likely been hurt by his abrasive personality. Both are very worthy candidates and have a shot to be inducted this year.

Joining them on the list of semifinalists are six who made it on their first years of eligibility: DB Ronde Barber, OG Steve Hutchinson, LB Ray Lewis, LB Brian Urlacher, WR Randy Moss and DL Richard Seymour.

The original list of 108 nominees was cut down to 27 semifinalists instead of 25 because of ties.

Here is the full list of semifinalists:

S Steve Atwater
CB/S Ronde Barber
OT Tony Boselli
WR Isaac Bruce
S LeRoy Butler
Coach Don Coryell
RB Roger Craig
S Brian Dawkins
G Alan Faneca
WR Torry Holt
OG Steve Hutchinson
OT Joe Jacoby
RB Edgerrin James
Coach Jimmy Johnson
CB Ty Law
LB Ray Lewis
FS John Lynch
C/G Kevin Mawae
LB Karl Mecklenburg
WR Randy Moss
DE Leslie O'Neal
WR Terrell Owens
DE Simeon Rice
DE/DT Richard Seymour
LB Brian Urlacher
CB Everson Walls
WR Hines Ward

Former Eagles CB Dexter McDougle signs with Saints

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Former Eagles CB Dexter McDougle signs with Saints

Former Eagles cornerback Dexter McDougle has found a home with another one of the top teams in the NFC. 

McDougle on Tuesday signed with the New Orleans Saints, who, like the Eagles, are also on an eight-game winning streak. 

McDougle, 26, came to the Eagles in a trade with the Jets for safety Terrence Brooks in late August and even signed him to a one-year extension in early September. 

The former third-round pick in 2014 played more than the Eagles likely anticipated during his eight games active in Philly. 

In total, McDougle played 55 defensive snaps, and just three weeks ago played 32 of them in a pinch against the 49ers. He also played 135 special teams snaps (50 percent through the Denver game). 

McDougle was waived last week when the Eagles brought in linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. McDougle was expendable as Ronald Darby returned from his dislocated ankle. The only game McDougle was inactive was the opener, before Darby's injury. 

Without McDougle, the Eagles still have plenty of corners. They have five on the roster, including Jaylen Watkins, who is listed as a safety but has played corner this season.