The story of the Eagles' improvement on defense is no secret by now. The bend-but-don't-break mentality is apparent. A quick look at the numbers confirms the eye test:
Also consider that in the Eagles last six games, the defense has held their opponent to 21 points or less in each game. The only other team to do the same thing in that span is the team with one of the best defenses in the NFL: the Kansas City Chiefs.
The problem moving forward is that the Eagles aren't going to be as healthy as they were in recent weeks. During the Green Bay Packers game on Sunday, two defensive starters left the game with injury: inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks and rookie safety Earl Wolff. Starting cornerback Bradley Fletcher wasn't even able to suit up.
Eagles coach Chip Kelly gave an update on these injured players on Wednesday morning. "[Kendricks] is day to day. Fletcher is in the same boat as [Kendricks] He ran around a little bit yesterday. We'll see what he can do and can't do. He's practiced for the last couple of days. It's just what can he get from a strength standpoint up top. He can run and his legs are fine."
Earl Wolff's injury is reportedly more severe than the other injuries. It seems likely Wolff won't play against Washington. Kelly called Wolff's injury "week to week", as opposed to day to day.
The challenge of these injuries is that it forces depth players into starting roles. In the case of Kendricks, veteran Najee Goode played well enough in relief of the starter. On the other hand, Patrick Chung seemed to struggle when replacing Earl Wolff. It's interesting to note how these depth players came to be where they are now. Najee Goode was brought in shortly after the Buccaneers cut him in the final cuts. The Eagles originally added Goode at the cost of Emmanuel Acho, who is now back on the team. Goode was brought on to be a special teams player, but also because the team felt his body type was a good backup for Kendricks. Patrick Chung was signed to be a starter at safety, but didn't play well as a starter before suffering a shoulder injury early in the season. He's returned to full health, but only as a backup behind Wolff.
Roc Carmichael was signed off the Texans' practice squad earlier in the season. The Eagles lacked depth at cornerback at time (and still do). Carmichael was the player filling in for Fletcher, and Kelly had high praise for his young depth corner.
"The one thing I love about Roc, he's an unbelievable competitor. From the first day he got here he's kind of shown up and he rises to the challenge that's presented to him. Obviously we'd like all our corners to be 6'2" plus and long and that's the ideal world. But that's not the makeup. There's not a ton of them out there. But what Roc does is he competes, and I think that was very evident when we first got here just from how he was playing on special teams. And then when you start to get him out there on one‑on‑ones and seven‑on‑seven in practice, you watch him continue to compete against DeSean [Jackson] and Riley [Cooper] and watching him make plays and seeing him to continue to develop."
It remains to be seen how the injury statuses of these players evolve based on how they handle practice this week. For now, it's up to the depth players to rise to the occasion and try to continue the Eagles' recent solid defensive play. Washington comes to Philadelphia with a top 10 ranked offense in terms of both points (9th) and yards (5th). It won't be easy.
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