Eagles Extra: Defense continues to step up
Robert Griffin III wasn't the dual threat he usually is the last time he faced the Eagles in Week 1. (USA Today Images)
They caught a break in the first game. When the Eagles faced Washington in the season opener, Robert Griffin III was a dim approximation of the quarterback who terrorized opposing defenses during his rookie season. That’s what happens when you’re recovering from an ACL injury. It takes time to fully convalesce and shake off some of the rust.
It worked to the Eagles' advantage. The Birds beat Washington on Monday Night Football in part because RG3 was terrible in the first half, throwing two interceptions. He finished the game with 329 passing yards, but he needed 49 throws to do so and most of his stats were accumulated with Washington playing from behind.
“When we played them the first time, he was coming off an injury and didn’t get any live reps in training camp to get ready for it,” Chip Kelly said at the NovaCare Complex this week. “He’s a lot different now. Offensively, they’re in the top five or 10 in the league in rushing and passing and total offense. They’re moving the ball really well. They’re kind of back to where they were last year. It’s a big challenge for us. He’s running around a lot more. He’s throwing it well. We expect a little bit different look than we got the first time.”
Washington is 10th in passing yards and third in rushing yards. After starting the season 0-3, Griffin and Washington are suddenly playing better and have won three of their last six games.
Griffin is coming off arguably his best individual outing of the season. Against Minnesota, Griffin completed 64.9 percent of his passes for 281 yards and three touchdowns. And for just the second time this year, he didn’t throw an interception. That worked out to a 114.8 quarterback rating, his best of the season. He also added seven carries for 44 yards. It should be noted, however, that Washington lost the game.
“Their offense has no -- there's no problem with their offense,” defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “Their offense is putting points on the board, they're rushing the ball, they're throwing the ball equally well. So we have our hands full with one of the top offenses in the league this week and a quarterback that's more mobile than the first time we faced him.”
With each game, Griffin is looking more and more like the dangerous multi-faceted threat he was a year ago. But while Griffin has improved as the season has continued, so has the Eagles' defense.
In Week 1, the Eagles surrendered 27 points to Washington. That was part of an ugly early-season four-game stretch in which the Birds allowed at least 26 points to each of their opponents.
Since then, the Eagles' defense has been greatly improved. From Week 5 to now, the Eagles haven’t allowed any individual opponent to score more than 21 points. The defense is holding its competition to an average of 17.6 points in the last six outings.
“I think their offense has expanded. Our defense has expanded,” Davis said. “You start the season with a core group of things, and then as you go and face different offenses or defenses, you grow your package, and I think their package has grown, and I think RG3's mobility and I think the coaches kind of find what they can do with him and without him coming off that knee injury in this first year. I think they've grown their package, and he looks a lot more mobile than he was in the first game.”