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News » It's all about defensive tactics

It's all about defensive tactics

It's all about defensive tactics
The Eagles can relax today.

They are off, and they are still breathing after Thursday night's rout of the Arizona Cardinals at Lincoln Financial Field.

Though the odds remain heavily against them in their quest to make the playoffs, the Eagles do at least feel as if they've emerged from the offensive funk that has left them in this most precarious of positions.

Regardless of what happens in their final four games, there is at least one reason to be optimistic about this team even if the Eagles do sit out the postseason for a second straight year.

Jim Johnson's defense is good, and it should be even better next season.

During a lengthy interview a couple days before the Eagles' win over Arizona, the Eagles' defensive coordinator discussed his feelings about the far more consistent side of this 6-5-1 Football team.

"I think, at times, we've played good," Johnson said. "At times, I've liked the pressure. I'd like to see us play a little more consistent. That's probably the thing I've talked about all the time."

Statistically, the Eagles are definitely one of the best teams in the NFL. The defense went into the game against the Cardinals ranked sixth in yards allowed and 10th in points allowed. They lead the league with 38 sacks and already have surpassed last season's league-worst takeaway total of 19 with 23.

Johnson was clearly bothered by the fact that the Eagles had only come away with one total turnover during the team's tie with Cincinnati and the loss at Baltimore. Even though the offense was far more to blame for the problems against the Bengals and Ravens, Johnson felt as though the defense could have done more to make a difference.

He didn't care about the quarterback controversy nearly as much as the defense's failure to come away with a turnover.

"The difference in that game [at Baltimore] was that they got the turnovers and we didn't," Johnson said. "We had three great opportunities to turn that game around, and we didn't do it.

"To me, the difference between being a good defense and getting to that next level is getting turnovers and scoring on defense or getting great field position for our offense. That's the level I'd like to see us get to."

That's the level the Eagles were at Thursday night against the Cardinals.

Three interceptions and a fumble recovery set up the offense four different times in Arizona territory. The Eagles also held Arizona to 260 total yards - just 25 rushing - and 20 points. The Cardinals went into the game averaging 390 yards and 28.9 points, which ranked second and third in the league, respectively.

"I think we're close," Johnson said when asked how far away he thought the Eagles were from being a great defense. "I like the way our front is playing and our linebackers I think are getting better all the time."

With the offense in such an awful malaise before Thursday's game, Johnson was asked if it was difficult to keep his defensive players from pointing fingers.

"I don't look at it that way, and I think they're good soldiers," Johnson said. "I think they know we've won a lot of games here. Sometimes you go into a slump on one side of the ball, but I think we're fine. Every week is a good challenge for the defense. I always tell our guys that our job is to score on defense and get the ball for the offense with turnovers so they're in scoring position. That's all we ever think about."

The challenge a week from today, of course, will be an enormous one. In fact, the remainder of the Eagles' schedule, with the exception of a Monday night game against Cleveland, is a chance for the defense to regain some redemption for three division losses.

"I think we're good against the running game," Johnson said. "I've been pretty happy with the way we've played against the run."

There are two major exceptions: the division losses to the New York Giants and Washington Redskins . Those teams each rushed for more than 200 yards against the Eagles, and that was the reason they were able to beat them at the Linc. Take away those two games and the Eagles are allowing 69.9 rushing yards per game in their other 10 games.

When the Eagles played the Giants three weeks ago, the defense was pushed up and down the field and allowed a season-high 401 yards. It was the kind of performance you can't have if you want to get to the next level that Johnson is seeking.

But even in that defeat, the Eagles' defense managed to come up with two turnovers that the offense converted into 14 points, and Johnson's side of the ball also came up with a fourth-quarter stop on a third-and-1 play that gave the offense one last chance to win the game in the fourth quarter.

A week from today, the Eagles' defense will have another chance to show whether it's merely good or ready to be great.

Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or bbrookover@phillynews.com.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 30, 2008

Scott Young Name: Scott Young
Position: OG
Age: 27
Experience: 4 years
College: Brigham Young
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