The Eagles retooled defense was fast, aggressive and precise in the teams preseason-opening victory over the Baltimore Ravens.
So what was the tone when the Birds returned to practice at Lehigh on Saturday?
Get back to work, rookie linebacker Casey Matthews said. Were still in camp and there are 90-something guys out here, so obviously theres going to be a lot of reps.
Practice paid big dividends for the Eagles defense in Thursdays debut and the unit believes that was only the beginning of something special.
Its going to get even better from here, Trent Cole said. That was our first time really being together as a team and playing a game. I think weve found what we need to do. It looked great out there. Guys were rotating in, guys stayed fresh and we just kept sending waves of guys in.
Those guys are not just average players. The Eagles have incorporated tons of talent this summer, including cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and defensive linemen Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins. Plus, Matthews has been plugged in at middle linebacker.
That influx of talent also means plenty of fresh faces to go along with several new position coaches and first-time defensive coordinator Juan Castillo.
Even with all of the changes, the Eagles defense has maintained a smooth progression to this point of training camp.
I think its coming pretty good, Asante Samuel said. Were not going to get beside ourselves. Its the first preseason game and we only played for a little while. We definitely got a lot of work to do, but its coming together well.
For the preseason opener, the Eagles were sharp as their first unit on defense limited the Ravens to 66 total yards and just a 53-yard field goal from Billy Cundiff. The defense as a whole racked up six sacks and two interceptions in the 13-6 win.
Pressure and turnovers are exactly what the Eagles are looking for from a group that finished 21st in points allowed last season. Castillo has brought an aggressive approach with personality and play-calling that the players are adapting to nicely.
Its a different scheme this year. Its more of an attack scheme, Cole said. Theres a little reading here or there, but a lot of the time were attack. Go get it. Come off the ball and then react.
Scheme plays an important part, but it doesnt hurt to have quality players that can be moved around the field and implement the plan.
Whatever coach needs me to play, whether its safety or whatever, roam the field, I think I got pretty good ability to do it, said Samuel, who saw time at safety against the Ravens. That comes with having a lot of good corners on the team and a lot of good players. Coach has got different coverages and were going to execute.
E-mail Matt Haughton at firstname.lastname@example.org