Jenkins: D-Line Giving Eagles the ‘Boost It Needs’
INDIANAPOLIS — Malcolm Jenkins is aware the Colts’ offensive line isn’t very good. He also recognizes how the Steelers started their third-string quarterback in Week 2 and sat their best wide receiver. But if you exclude a field goal allowed on a short field after a Sam Bradford interception, the Eagles’ first-team defense has given up zero points in their last two outings.
Even though it’s only the preseason, which features vanilla play calling and little game-planning, Jenkins notes there are several important takeaways to be drawn from their play thus far, which Doug Pederson agrees with.
“They are playing outstanding football,” Pederson said after the Eagles’ 33-23 win over the Colts. “I think that’s obviously the biggest bright spot for the training camp, and again tonight they came up with another big turnover there in the end zone. They’re playing aggressive, tenacious football and that’s Jim Schwartz’s style of ball. That’s what I wanted when I hired Jim Schwartz and that’s what you’re seeing. Our defensive line is putting pressure on the quarterback with just a four-man rush. So (I’m) very pleased with where they are. We just have to keep it rolling and carry it into the regular season.”
According to Jenkins, the Eagles’ first-team defense has played well so far because of how the defensive line wreaks havoc in Schwartz’s scheme. As Connor Barwin said, “nobody can block (Fletcher Cox) one-on-one,” and that seems to extend to other linemen as well.
Barwin and Brandon Graham have generated good pressure off the edge, while even rotational players like Beau Allen, Steven Means and Marcus Smith have made some noise in the backfield.
“It’s a completely different scheme, so I think the way our scheme is right now with a 4-3, letting those guys be disruptive up front has really been giving our defense the boost it needs,” Jenkins said. “I think the 3-4 is better for the run, personally, but the way we’ve got our front playing where they can cut it loose and be disruptive, that’s the most important thing for us. If they play the technique that we have been playing without being disruptive and they’re running around blocks and getting up the field, then you got the potential to get gashed all the time.
“But they’re doing a good job of being physical, setting edges and that’s allowing our linebackers to get down hill, allowing our safeties to fill and flow. It’s really based on their technique and what they’re doing up front.”
While Jenkins did caution people to not read too much into the defense’s early success, he noted that the pass-rushers’ performance is indicative of their potential this season.
“That’s one thing I think you can really evaluate in the preseason is a pass rush, especially if it’s a four-man rush, because there’s really not much scheming to it,” Jenkins said. “You cut them loose and you either can beat them one-on-one or you can’t. The consistent pressure we got from a four-man rush today was definitely encouraging for somebody from the back end.
“We got more guys in coverage, [so the] quarterback has to hold the ball a little bit longer and every time we made him double clutch, he got put on the ground. It works hand-in-hand — coverage and pressure. So that’s obviously something we want to continue to excel at.”