Defensive coordinator Billy Davis said that his game plan for the Panthers was “pretty much the same” one that he put together for the Patriots the week before. Same techniques, same principles, same basic calls. It was just the results that were different.
A unit that surrendered 248 rushing yards (8.0 average) to the Patriots in the preseason opener limited Carolina to just 74 rushing yards on 25 attempts (3.0 average) Thursday night. The first unit yielded just a pair of field goals in the Eagles’ 14-9 win.
“It was so new, the scheme was so new,” said Davis of the first preseason game. “Everybody wanted to do well so bad. I think we pressed a little bit. Tonight felt a lot more relaxed, guys just taking care of their job more than anything.”
The difference was evident from the start. On the first play from scrimmage last Friday, Fletcher Cox was pancaked, DeMeco Ryans abandoned his gap and Nate Allen missed a tackle, leading to Stevan Ridley‘s 62-yard burst. All three levels of the defense broke down. On Carolina’s first running play the unit stayed true, and DeAngelo Williams was greeted in the holes by both Ryans and Patrick Chung, who wrapped him up for a three-yard gain.
The tackling overall was much better. The Eagles were charged with 13 missed tackles against New England, according to Pro Football Focus. They cleaned up their act on Thursday.
“In the run fits, we were in the right places today. We weren’t last week,” said Davis. “A lot of the same formations showed themselves and just by simply aligning better and settling down and playing within the scheme and relaxing and just playing like they practiced, it came together a lot better.”
Chung made a couple big sticks. He finished with four tackles.
“I never thought our defense was bad,” said Chung. “First game jitters are out the way, so we just plan on getting better game by game, day by day.”
“I think just kind of looking at the guys’ eyes out there, everyone calmed down a little bit and that felt good out there,” added Connor Barwin. “I think we tackled a lot better. There is a lot of gang tackling. I think guys filled the gaps.”
There were several players that flashed including Mychal Kendricks, who spent a good part of the night in the backfield and registered a tackle for a loss and a QB hit. Vinny Curry, Bennie Logan and Cedric Thornton appeared to have good nights along the defensive front as well.
Davis was quick to point out that there is still a ton of work ahead of this unit as it continues its transition to a 3-4. But at least they showed progress.
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