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Eagles Defensive Line Delivers Impressive Opening Message

Eagles Defensive Line Delivers Impressive Opening Message
The play of quarterback Carson Wentz was exceptional but what really stood out in the Eagles opening 30-17 victory over the host Washington Redskins was the play of the defensive line. Now in the second year under coordinator Jim Schwartz, the play of the line made life miserable all day for Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins.

The Eagles sacked Cousins four times, but they did much more than just tee off on the quarterback. Washington wasn’t able to run the ball effectively and that made the it easier for the passers to apply heat on Cousins, who tied for the team lead with 30 yards on the ground.

Not only was the line stingy, but it went on the offensive, scoring the Eagles final touchdown when Brandon Graham forced a Cousins fumble that Fletcher Cox scooped up for 20-yard touchdown run.

Graham had two sacks. In addition to his touchdown, Cox had a sack and a forced fumble. Newcomer Tim Jernigan added the other sack.

Jernigan, acquired from the Baltimore Ravens, and Chris Long, who was signed after competing for the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, have added tremendous depth to the line as has first round draft choice Derek Barnett.

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Last season the Eagles totaled 34 sacks. The defensive line was much better early last year and seemed to wear down. Now with more depth, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Cox is among the best defensive tackles in the NFL. He had an uneven season a year ago, starting fast and finishing slow, but he has the ability to change a game since he forces teams to double team him. And sometimes that isn’t enough to stop the former first round pick from Mississippi State.

The Eagles cornerbacks are still considered the suspect part of the defense, and things weren’t helped by seeing Ronald Darby suffer an ankle injury. Yet a strong pass rush can sometimes cover the deficiencies of the corners, forcing the quarterback to deliver the ball quicker than he wants.

That happened frequently with Cousins, who also missed receivers Desean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, who bolted Washington and went to Tampa Bay and San Francisco respectively.

It was only one game, but the Eagles looked impressive against a team that had beaten them five consecutive times.

In a quick look at the NFC East after opening day, the Eagles look no worse than the second best team and should stand toe to toe with Dallas.

The New York Giants, a pick by many to win the division, have a woeful offensive line and struggled mightily without receiver Odell Beckham during a 19-3 clunker against Dallas.

One can imagine how the Eagles defensive line will perform against a Giants team that has one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL.

Now the Eagles have to visit old friend Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs, who merely had the most impressive win of the first week, a 42-27 triumph at New England.

If the Eagles win their first two road games, they will be sitting in a great early-season position and a key will be whether the defensive line can apply the same heat on Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith that they did on Cousins.


Author: Marc Narducci

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