Eagles' defense eager to get back in game action

Eagles' defense eager to get back in game action
August 23, 2011, 10:15 pm
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Its safe to say that last weeks game against the Steelers didnt go as planned, especially for the Eagles defense.

Thats why its looking forward to getting back on the field Thursday against the Browns so much.

The next team is the next opportunity. Its another opportunity, linebacker Moise Fokou said. This week I think the starters are going to have a chance to go out there and showcase their talents and its going to be a good audition to see what this defense could look like.

Against the Steelers in the second preseason game, the defense looked porous to say the least. By the time Andy Reid took his starters out at halftime, the Steelers had a 21-0 lead, with all the touchdowns coming on passing plays of 20 yards or more.

Reid, after practice on Tuesday, said that the starters will play for the first three quarters against the Browns.

Its going to be a great test for us, safety Kurt Coleman said. Its really our last chance for us to get out there and get to play almost the whole game. As far as starters go, we need to solidify everything on the back end. We need to get more picks.

Defensive end Trent Cole said he didnt think the defense struggled: We just needed to make some minor adjustments.

The numbers might say otherwise.

The Eagles didnt force one turnover against Pittsburgh and the Steelers outgained them by 191 yards before halftime and converted nine of 12 third downs.

We just need to go out there and play our game, Jamar Chaney said. Against Pittsburgh we didnt get off the field on third down, so well need to try to do that more this week.

The Eagles will certainly welcome the presence of defensive tackle Mike Patterson, who will play in his first preseason game this year after missing 16 days following a seizure on Aug. 3 at training camp.

The Steelers ran through the Eagles D-line for 93 yards in the first half without Patterson and fellow defensive linemen Trevor Laws and Antonio Dixon.

To be honest with you, there were a lot of missed assignments, Coleman said. I think we tied those loose ends up and were ready to go out there and play the Browns.

It may have looked like all bad news for the Eagles defensively, but rookie starting middle linebacker Casey Matthews said there were some positives, too.

Im looking forward to playing the Browns, Matthews said. Toward the end of the Pittsburgh game in the second quarter I started to feel more comfortable, so Im just looking forward to carrying on from there.

If youre comfortable, things start slowing down. I feel thats what happened in the second quarter of the Pittsburgh game.

Perhaps no one was criticized more in the wake of the loss to the Steelers as much as Matthews, the Eagles fourth-round draft choice.

Hes only been with the defense for three weeks, Chaney said. You cant expect somebody to come out here and be an All-Pro, especially if you try to compare him to his brother (Green Bays Clay Matthews). Its unfair to him that hes getting those types of comparisons, but hes up to the task.

Matthews said that this week the defense really started to progress quickly during practice.

I thought this week we made a lot of improvements over the last few weeks, he said. We just really improved as a unit.

With the lockout lasting well into the summer, the Eagles defense hasnt had a whole lot of time to mesh under first-year defensive coordinator Juan Castillo.

Were where you would expect at this time, Reid said. Theres some good things we did the other night, theres some things we need to work on. I think theyre picking it up fairly quick.

While Reid is optimistic about the defenses progression, Fokou admitted on Tuesday that theyre not where they need to be. Not yet, anyway.

Obviously not, but I think Thursday will be a good test of that, he said. Well see what we need to fix before the regular season.

Thats the beauty of the preseason: it doesnt count at least the records dont. So while there were Eagles fans didnt like what they saw in the last game, the players think that its just too early to panic.

You cant put a lot into it, into the game against Pittsburgh, Chaney said. The main thing is that we go into the season with confidence and we go in healthy.

Health, of course, is always a concern before the season. Patterson will be back, but safety Nate Allen, who on Monday said he is 90-95 percent healthy, wont start. Instead, it will be Jarrad Page at safety with Coleman.

I think were excited its another chance for the coaches to call a defensive game and its a good chance to see where were at right now, Fokou said. The thing about the last game, I think it went south offensively and defensively. Especially on defense, there were a lot of good individual efforts. We just need to put it all together.

If they do put it all together, Cole proclaimed loudly what he expects for this weeks game.

Whoop some a--! he said with a smile.

What a difference a week could make.

E-mail Dave Zangaro at dzangaro@comcastsportsnet.com.

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