Eagles hope Bradley’s return bolsters defense
PHILADELPHIA (AP) – The Eagles knew they’d struggle on defense with six starters who are either new to the unit or playing new positions.
Philadelphia just didn’t figure to be last in the league in points allowed two weeks into the season.
“I didn’t know we were last,” Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel said. “I’m not really a stat guy, at least not team stats.”
The Eagles have allowed 59 points – 27 to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in Week 1 and then 32 to Shaun Hill and the Detroit Lions last week. Sunday, they head to Jacksonville to take on a Jaguars team they have never beaten (0-3).
The good news is middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, who missed the last game and half of the first with a concussion, is back in the lineup.
“That’s huge,” defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. “We have that big body back inside from a performance standpoint, but also from a leadership standpoint.”
Bradley missed last season with a torn ACL, while weakside linebacker Ernie Sims was in Detroit a year ago and strongside linebacker Akeem Jordan was on the weakside.
Ellis Hobbs replaced Sheldon Brown at one cornerback spot. And two rookies, defensive end Brandon Graham and safety Nate Allen, also are new to the unit.
“It’s different,” defensive tackle Mike Patterson said. “And it’s tough getting to know each other, but I think we’ll be able to work it all out soon. We better. I think you can say our defense is better than we played so far.”
The Eagles rank 25th in total defense, and 23rd against both the run and the pass.
“I think we are a good defense,” McDermott said. “We’ve just been inconsistent and that happens with young teams, in particular a young defense in this case. But we have to get that ironed out and that will take place over time. We just need to continue to play good, aggressive football, intense, emotional football and that will iron itself out.”
In the opening-game loss to Green Bay, the defense had its moments. It picked off Rodgers twice and shut out the Packers in the fourth quarter.
Against Detroit, the defense was solid from the middle of the second quarter to the middle of the fourth. But a bad start and finish nearly cost Philadelphia a victory.
“The first game was like two games,” coach Andy Reid said. “And the second game was like three games. We just need to go out and play a consistent four quarters.”
The sooner the better.
“We’ve had a couple of breakdowns here and there,” Samuel said. “It’s hard to say it’s one thing. It does take time when you have a lot of new guys, a lot of young guys. But it’s not the young guys. The young guys are playing pretty well.”