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Improved Eagles defense makes Russell Wilson a “little” less scary

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The defense has been very good of late.

NFL: New England Patriots at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Russell Wilson is the scariest quarterback in the NFL.

Patrick Mahomes is the reigning MVP for a reason, he’s ridiculously talented. Lamar Jackson is this year’s version of Mahomes, an elite talent playing at peak Mike Vick levels. DeShaun Watson has an incredible skillset that creates match-up nightmares for opposing defenses.

But none of them have been to two Super Bowls. None of those three are world champions.

Russell Wilson is not only a scary playmaker who can beat you both in the air and with his legs, he’s proven to be a big game player and has routinely roasted the Eagles in the past. In three previous starts he has averaged 20-for-33, 254 yards and 2 TDs a game.

In 2014, he went 22-for-37 for 263 yards with 2 passing touchdowns and ran 10 times for 48 yards and another score in a 24-14 Seattle win in Philadelphia. In 2016, he beat the Eagles 26-15 after going 18-for-31 for 272 yards with 1 touchdown and, again, no interceptions. And finally, in the Eagles’ Super Bowl 2017 season, he tortured the Eagles in a dominating 24-10 victory in Seattle, going 20-for-31 for 227 yards and three touchdowns.

You can watch full highlights from the 2017 match-up here, but this is the kind of stuff he does.

In 2016, he was on the receiving end of a TD toss.

Russell Wilson has never lost to the Eagles and, in each game, he’s been able to do whatever he wants. He buys time in the pocket, never seems to take a hard hit, and makes circus throws seemingly at will.

But the Eagles defense has been much better as of late, perhaps rendering Wilson’s impending visit to Philly this Sunday a little less scary.

I said a little.

Over their first seven games, the Eagles defense gave up an average of 26.5 points, including a six-point outing against the woeful Jets. In their other games they gave up 27, 24, 27, 27, 38 and 37. They also allowed an average of 270.5 passing yards per game. A secondary that was without Jalen Mills until the Dallas Cowboys game was getting routinely roasted.

But over the last three weeks, the defense has turned things around. Against the Bills, Bears and Patriots, the defense has given up an average of just 14.7 points per game and an average of 160.3 passing yards per game. Certainly, skepticism abounded when Jim Schwartz’ unit shut down Josh Allen and Mitch Trubisky, but clamping down on Tom Brady was something else altogether.

Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill had his best game of the season on Sunday too.

The difference between a starting cornerback trio of Mills, a healthy Ronald Darby and Avonte Maddox in the slot is light years better than Rasul Douglas, Sidney Jones and Craig James as your top three cornerbacks. When Nigel Bradham returns (which could be as soon as this Sunday), he and Grugier-Hill are certainly more effective than Nate Gerry and T.J. Edwards. And it appears as if Fletcher Cox is back to being a hell raiser in the middle, too.

Of course, we all saw Russell Wilson torch the Eagles when the Birds were at their best, but playing in Philadelphia should give them a distinct advantage. In his career, Wilson is 47-14 at home and 36-24-1 on the road, although this season, he has reverse split, 5-0 away from Seattle and 3-2 at home, with a 116.2 rating and a 9-to-1 TD/INT ratio on the road and a 113.9 rating at home.

The fact the Eagles are favored this week, while seemingly bizarre, speaks to the general public’s belief that Philly has a solid chance. Playing Russell Wilson anywhere is terrifying and it certainly seemed like an impossible task through the first seven weeks of the season, but given the defense’s improvements over the last three weeks, the prospect of playing Wilson on Sunday isn’t quite as scary as it felt like a month ago.