The Eagles' defense was supposed to be a weak spot last season, but it ended up being one of the pleasant surprises of the season.
Brandon Boykin and Bennie Logan, two players who had breakout seasons, joined "Philly Sports Talk" on Friday to talk about their goals for the 2014 season.
"Moving forward with the upcoming season I just feel like the whole team -- the defense, the offense -- everybody continues to grow," Logan said, "everybody continues to work to get better this offseason. Get bigger, get stronger, whatever the coaches ask us to do."
The Eagles' defense finished 17th in the league in total points allowed and points per game despite their offense finishing with the most plays from scrimmage.
Logan added the defense needs to "continue to get better, continue to just go up from here."
Watch the video above for the full interview.
As Kirk Cousins and the rest of his Washington teammates sit down to watch film to prepare for their second matchup against the Eagles this season, it’ll probably be a very different experience than the last time.
Heading into that Week 6 matchup, the Eagles were widely considered to have one of the best defenses in the NFL. Jim Schwartz’s unit had given up just 12.8 points per game through its first four weeks.
In the eight games since, that number jumped to 24.4 points allowed per game.
So what happened?
“I don’t know,” Cousins said on a conference call with Philadelphia reporters Wednesday.
“I still see a talented defense and the same players who I know are capable of making some impressive plays over and over. All of us in the NFL have moments where we’re up and down and may stub our toe from one week to the next, but it doesn’t really mean that they’re not a stout defense that’s going to be a challenge. I feel like we’ve got our hands full with these guys this week.”
Washington didn’t have its hands full in the last matchup. In fact, the Eagles gave up 493 total yards and 230 rushing yards – both season highs – to Washington in the first meeting on Oct. 16.
On Tuesday, when discussing the recent play of the defense, Schwartz said he thought his unit was one of the best in the league through nine games, but is in a three-game slump (see story).
What does Washington coach Jay Gruden think happened?
“We’ve kind of gone through a little bit of the same thing,” said Gruden, whose team has lost two in a row. “They’ve been close. They just haven’t made some of the plays they made earlier in the year and offenses are making the plays. And we’re the same way on defense. We haven’t changed a whole lot personnel-wise; we’re still doing some good things, but it’s just third-down plays and chances to get off the field and turnovers, we’re just not doing a good job with that.
“I think the Eagles are probably in the same boat. They still have good players and a good scheme, it just comes down to making plays. And for whatever reason, the offense is making more plays than the defense and that’s our case also.”
Talk about too, little too late.
Lane Johnson is due back in two weeks, and Eagles head coach Doug Pederson on Wednesday for the first time seemed to indicate that he’s leaning toward getting Johnson back at right tackle as soon as he returns.
Johnson, the Eagles’ best offensive lineman the first month of the season, was suspended by the NFL for 10 games for a second positive test for a banned substance. By the time his appeal was heard and rejected, it was after the Eagles’ loss to the Lions.
Johnson hasn’t played since.
The Eagles face the Redskins at the Linc and Ravens in Baltimore the next two Sundays. Johnson is eligible to return to the NovaCare Complex the day after the Ravens' game, which would be Monday, Dec. 19.
The Eagles then face the Giants three days later on a Thursday night at the Linc and finish the season on Jan. 1 at home against the Cowboys in a game that will likely have no meaning for either team.
Previously, when asked about Johnson, Pederson was non-commital about playing him. But on Wednesday, he seemed to indicate he would move him back to right tackle for the Giants' game.
“Listen, he was a big part of our success early in the season,” Pederson said. “So I wouldn’t hesitate to put him back out there.”
The Eagles, 5-7 after a 3-0 start, are on the brink of playoff elimination and could well be eliminated by the time Johnson returns.
Rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai started the first six games after Johnson’s suspension before getting hurt. Left guard Allen Barbre started the last two, with Stefen Wisniewski moving into left guard.
Even though Pederson indicated Johnson would return to right tackle as soon as he gets back, he did qualify the statement.
“He comes back on a short week, too, against the Giants, in a couple weeks,” he said. “Got to see where Big V is at coming off an injury and see where that’s at.
“We’re beginning the conversations right now. When he does return, we’ll have to see. We still have some games. Have to get through these two games.”
Johnson, the fourth pick in the 2013 draft, started 44 of a possible 48 games his first three seasons, missing only four in 2014 during his first NFL suspension.
After the Lions game, he said he hoped the Eagles had meaningful games remaining when he got back.
The Eagles are 3-1 this year with Johnson and 2-6 without him. In his four NFL seasons, the Eagles are 27-22 when he plays.
“Stay in shape and hopefully the team is good enough to stay in playoff contention,” he said in the visiting locker room at Ford Field back on Oct. 9.
“Come back and I’ll be fresh and we can make a run for it. That’s the best-case scenario. We’ll see what happens.”