If you've watched the Philadelphia Eagles during either of their two preseason games and thought the revamped secondary has looked good enough to eat, you are in good company.
Through two preseason games, the defensive backfield has looked remarkably different from the one that gave up 57 big plays last season. So far in August, the team has not allowed a pass of more than 20 yards. When asked what is responsible for this improvement in play, head coach Chip Kelly's response was... tasty.
"I think they are lactose intolerant in terms of they do not bite the cheese in front of them," Kelly said following the team's 40-17 preseason win over the Baltimore Ravens. "When they have a deep zone, they play the deep zone. A lot of mistakes we made in some of those deep balls last year were we were just biting each either a play action fake or we are biting an underneath route when that's not our responsibility.
"I think our guys are playing their responsibility. So right now we are good lactose intolerant secondary."
The first interception of Saturday night came on a deep pass by Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who took a deep shot into the end zone. Nolan Carroll II stayed with Baltimore receiver Kamar Aiken the whole way and tipped the pass. From there, Walter Thurmond III made a great one-handed interception in the end zone. The second came on an overthrow from Flacco, who was picked off by Byron Maxwell.
Through two games, the Eagles have allowed only 216 passing yards and two touchdowns, while coming down with four interceptions. For context, three teams gave up more passing yards in one preseason game alone.
Yes, it's still only preseason. And no, neither the Eagles nor the Ravens (or Colts, for that matter) devised anything resembling a game plan. But it's nevertheless encouraging to see one of the team's most troubled units in 2014 start the season in this fashion.
There are plenty of factors at play in this turnaround-in-progress, with the most obvious being an increase in talent. Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams were replaced with Byron Maxwell and Nolan Carroll II, and both new starters made big plays on Saturday night. Former secondary coach John Lovett was replaced with Cory Undlin, about whom players are raving. And if you're the cynical type, there's always the "well, it couldn't get any worse" theory.
Defensive coordinator Bill Davis has liked what he's seen so far, though the improvement has come as less of a surprise to him, since he's been seeing it every day this summer.
"I’m not surprised because it’s what you see every day in the offseason and training camp. But it’s really nice to see it show up in the preseason games. It’s another box we have to check off, and it’s happening in the preseason games. So far so good."
Reports from the practice field have backed up Davis' claims. But the improvement in play can't only happen in practice; it has to show up come game time. And really, it has to happen during the regular season. But so far the defensive backs are doing what's been asked of them, and it's hard to complain about that.
Even if the results aren't very cheesy.