Eagles kick off preseason with win over Ravens

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Eagles kick off preseason with win over Ravens
August 12, 2011, 2:41 am
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They stopped the run, they got after the quarterback, they were efficient on third down and they kept the Ravens out of the end zone.

All in all, a promising debut Thursday evening for Juan Castillo and the Eagles restructured, revamped, re-energized defense.

We could be really special, Nnamdi Asomugha said Thursday night after his first game as an Eagle, a 13-6 preseason win over the Ravens at the Linc. I think we have a great opportunity to do some big things this year. But with those expectations, you have to put in a little more focus. It may not be as easy as other people are expecting it to be. We still have a lot of work to do.

The defensive starters allowed just one long field goal in their two drives, and the defense as a whole recorded six sacks and two interceptions, limited the Ravens to 3 for 12 on third down and kept a 12-win Baltimore team out of the end zone.

I thought things were pretty smooth for it being the first preseason game, especially with no OTAs or minicamps in the off-season, safety Kurt Coleman said. And not just the starters but all the way down.

Were playing fast, were manning up and getting after the wide receivers, and at the end of the day they didnt get in the end zone. For the first game, with all the changes weve had, Im real happy with the way we started out.

The Eagles overhauled defense, with Castillo now running the show and a host of new coaches and players, held the Ravens to 66 total yards and a 53-yard Billy Cundiff field goal.

This was billed as an aggressive, up-the-field unit, and they looked it. All six sacks were by defensive linemen.

We have blitzes that are drawn up if need be, but we have a front four thats pretty special, Asomugha said. So we may not even need to do that.

The Eagles also held Rice whos rushed for nearly 2,600 yards the last two years to seven yards on five carries.

Definitely impressed with the start we had, the way guys were flying around out there, said defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, another of the Eagles key defensive additions. Things went pretty well. I think we got a solid foundation to build upon. Its a matter of making sure we keep improving.

Really, other than one blown coverage it looked like Jamar Chaney lost Rice slipping out of the backfield on a 21-yard pass from Joe Flacco Castillos starting group played mistake-free football.

It was nice to see that we tackled decent today not great but decent, Castillo said. The linebackers using their hands and separating and making plays. The DBs, it looked like they planted and drove pretty well. The safeties, their hips, they looked pretty good moving around. The D-linemen got off the ball.

So all the things that were working on, it showed a little bit, and the guys will get confidence and theyll believe in the plan. Well just get better and better and better.

The Ravens matched up their first offense with the Eagles first defense for two drives, and both ended with the Eagles making big plays at key moments.

On the first, Baltimore had a first-and-10 on the Eagles 29-yard line, but Darryl Tapp and Derek Landri stuffed Rice for a six-yard loss, then the Eagles pressured Flacco into consecutive incompletions.

On the second, the Ravens faced a second-and-four from their own 42-yard-line, but the Eagles got great pressure on back-to-back plays, with Jason Babin chasing Flacco before he threw the ball away and then Trent Cole sacking Flacco on third down.

Thats what we want, a lot of pressure back there, Cole said. Whoever makes the play makes the play. Its a team effort. The D-line did a great job getting pressure on the quarterback the secondary did a heck of a job covering, the linebackers as well.

This is our chance to really get all the new guys acquainted and get everybody on the same page. You know, just get us going, see what weve got. Its looking good right now. Theres a lot of places we can improve, but I think well get it done. Were going to have a great team this season.

Its amazing how different the Eagles look defensively than a year ago. Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott is gone. Defensive line coach Rory Segrest and linebackers coach Bill Shuey are gone. Quintin Mikell, Stewart Bradley, Ernie Sims, Dimitri Patterson, Ellis Hobbs and Brodrick Bunkley? All gone.

In their place, Castillo has a strong group of new position coaches Mike Zordich, Johnny Lynn, Jim Washburn and Mike Caldwell to go with newcomers Jenkins, Asomugha, Babin, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Anthony Hargrove, Casey Matthews and more.

Its crazy how different it is just from last year, second-year safety Nate Allen said. So many new guys and new coaches. Its not an easy thing in a short preseason to put it all together, and thats what weve been using camp for, to build that chemistry with each other and get comfortable and just get a feel for each other and the defense weve been putting in, and I think were doing a good job of that, and that showed tonight. Overall, I think everythings right on track.

Castillos second and third groups and even his fourth group also played at a high level. The Ravens managed only two Cundiff field goals, and the deep reserves preserved the win in the final moments after the Ravens drove down to the Eagles 5-yard-line in the final minute.

We dont put people back in to win the game, head coach Andy Reid said. We expect the guys that are in there to do it. They sucked it up there at the end. They were tired, but they ended up putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback.

Tapp recorded two sacks, rookie safety Jaiquawn Jarrett from Temple had an interception and 20-yard return on the first series of his NFL career, second-year linebacker Keenan Clayton was very active, and rookie linebacker Brian Rolle did some nice things also.

Veteran safety Jarrad Page, who just joined the Eagles last week, turned in an acrobatic interception at the Eagles goal-line after a Ravens drive down to the 8-yard line. The Eagles dont have another healthy veteran safety, and that kind of play sure helps Pages chances.

The Eagles didnt do a whole lot on offense, but Michael Vick played one series and looked like Michael Vick (see Andy Schwartz's story). He completed four of six passes for 74 yards, including a 42-yarder to Riley Cooper and a three-yard TD to Brent Celek, before an understandable early hook.

It felt good to get back out there and play against somebody else, Vick said. We were able to come out and get a nice drive going and score the touchdown, which was great.

Vince Young, whos had a rough time at practice, actually looked sharp, completing three of five passes for 45 yards. Mike Kafka bounced back from a bad interception and some decent throws, finishing 13 for 19 for 132 yards.

Chad Hall, one of the surprise stories of last year, caught five passes for 82 yards.
E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com.

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