Tag Archives: Ben Roethlisberger

Eagles Moving Closer to Being Ready for the Regular Season

24 Aug

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy scores on a 22-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Nick Foles. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy scores on a 22-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Nick Foles. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Perhaps the biggest questions for the Eagles coming into the 2014 season is how much has their defense improved and can the offense put up even bigger numbers than they did last season?

On the defensive side of the ball, the answer  has come with some uncertainty throughout the preseason. Last week against the New England Patriots, the Birds starters and reserves got pushed up and down the field for over 400 yards of offense.

The Eagles starters on defense got a better sense of themselves in the Birds 31-21 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday night at Lincoln Financial  in the pivotal third preseason game, considered to be a dress rehearsal for the regular season.

Mychal Kendricks and Trent Cole go after Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in Thursday's preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Mychal Kendricks and Trent Cole go after Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in Thursday’s preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field. Photo by Webster Riddick.

The Birds held Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense to 94 yards in the first half before letting the second team take over late in the first half. It was a good bounce-back from their performance against the Patriots.

What impressed defensive coordinator Bill Davis was the way his team got off the field on third down situations, something they didn’t do against the Patriots. The Eagles starters were 3-of-7 in stopping third down conversions.

“It was real nice and we know third downs are a point of emphasis for us,” Davis said. “It hasn’t been good enough, we moved forward. … We have to do better than we did tonight, but I did like the way it got better.”

With the season-opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars (Sept. 7) on the horizon, the defense still has a lot of work to do to be ready for the regular season.

“Personally, you should never be satisfied,” said Eagles outside linebacker Trent Cole. “We have room to improve. I think we’re ready, but there’s always room to improve. While we’re on the right road and everything’s in the right direction and looking good out there, now we can improve on the positive things that we took from this game and improve all week.”

The only disclaimer to the Eagles improved play on defense is that they were facing a bad Steelers offense that couldn’t get out of its own way.

Roethlisberger was out of sync with his receivers and they just couldn’t establish any kind of rhythm offensively.  Quite frankly, the Steelers were just awful on offense and didn’t get on the scoreboard until the second half when the Eagles second team took the field.
If there’s a unit that is ready to start the season, it’s the Eagles offense. During their stint on the field in the first half, the Birds first-team offense rolled out to a 17-0 halftime lead on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Nick Foles to LeSean McCoy, a one-yard run from running back Darren Sproles and a 36-yard field goal by Alex Henery.

With the preseason behind the first-team starters on offense, the Birds seem to be pleased with the progress they’ve made from the first preseason game against the Chicago Bears.

“I feel like we’ve improved as a unit and as a team,” said Foles, who completed 19-of-29 passes for 179 yards with one touchdown and one interception. “There are a lot of corrections to make from this game, but I feel like we out there and got in a rhythm faster and started moving the football. “

Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin grabs his right knee in pain after his foot apparently got stuck in the turf. He was not seriously injured. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin grabs his right knee in pain after his foot apparently got stuck in the turf. He was not seriously injured. Photo by Webster Riddick.

The one thing the Eagles will have when they open the season is their starting wide receivers—Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin.

Things got scary midway through the first half when Maclin’s right knee buckled into the Lincoln Financial Field turf. The crowd held its collective breath with Maclin writhing in pain from the same knee that put him on the injured reserve list last season.

After returning to the sideline, Maclin started running like normal and eventually got back out on the field. But he admitted that he got a little worried.

“Absolutely, it is something that brought back flashbacks,” said Maclin, who caught six passes 43 yards. “When I got up and could walk when the initial shock went away. I was pretty good.”

The Eagles have one last preseason game next Thursday (Aug.28) against the New York Jets at Lincoln Financial Field. The game will be played by second and third string guys still trying to make the team.

Notes- On Saturday, the Eagles cut 14 players. All NFL teams must cut down their rosters to 75 by 4 p.m. Tuesday. The Eagles roster currently stands at 76. Here are the players who were released:
TE Blake Annen
OL Michael Bamiro
OL Karim Barton
WR Kadron Boone
WR B.J. Cunningham
OL Donald Hawkins
TE Emil Igwenagu
LB Jake Knott
DE Joe Kruger
S Daytawion Lowe
DE Frances Mays
S Davon Morgan
K Carey Spear
DE Alejandro Villanueva

Improved Eagles Defense Ready for Big Ben and the Steelers

5 Oct

Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin takes down New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz in last week’s win at home. The Eagles defense face the daunting task of taking down Steelers quarterback Ben Rothlisberger in Sunday’s road contest in Pittsburgh. Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

The Eagles have managed to compile a 3-1 record at the first quarter of the season despite the offense’s issues with turnovers.

The reason the Birds have toughed out the three close games that they’ve won is because the defense has kept them in the game. At this time last season, the defense was everybody’s favorite whipping boy last season for losing leads late in the game.

This season, the Eagles rank 6th in the NFL in total defense, but rank 21st in sacks with just seven coming into Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. The Birds are also tied for 10th in scoring defense (20.8).

At this point, the Eagles defense isn’t necessarily evoking memories of the Reggie White days or the 1985 Bears or the 2000 Ravens, but they’re playing well enough to help the Eagles win. Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said it’s all about the belief that they can be one of the NFL’s top defenses, especially after struggling throughout much of the season in 2011.

“It’s all about being accountable and having the mindset that we’re not going to come out and be the weak link of the team this year,” said Jenkins. “It’s a different attitude. We’re striving to be the best defense in the league. We’re not worried about just doing okay, we want to go out there and be the best.”

Of course, the challenge for the Eagles defense this week will be to figure out a way stop Ben Roethlisberger and running back Rashard Mendenhall, who is returning to the Steelers lineup after being out for the first four weeks of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

The Eagles will be facing a Pittsburgh squad that ranks 18th in total offense, but No. 1 in third-down conversions. Getting off the field will be a huge key for the Bird defense against the Steelers.  Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo said Pittsburgh’s offense might be the best they’ve faced so far this season

“They’re very talented, they’re very confident, [and] the quarterback, Ben, is playing with a lot of confidence,” Castillo said. “The thing we have to take care of, and I think we saw it the first series [in the preseason], he was able to extend plays. We had a third-and-nine and third-and-11 and he broke out of the pocket and was able to extend plays and was able to throw the ball. One he got it down and it was fourth-and-one and the other one made the first down. That’s what we have to be able to take care of.”

At the end of 2011 lockout, the Eagles acquired Jenkins from the then-Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers along with defensive backs Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, Birds fans thought they had a Super Bowl-caliber defense.

Without having organized team activities to establish team chemistry and learning Castillo’s wide-nine scheme, the defense became best known for blowing fourth quarter leads and getting gashed on both sides of the ball. The Birds defense became the joke of the league as their plans for the Super Bowl deteriorated into a mediocre 8-8 record and out of the playoffs.

But this season the Eagles defense has been doing well without a lot of fanfare and their efforts have been overshadowed by the foibles of the offense. The defense has yet to allow an offense to score more than 23 points in a game. In the 27-6 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, a touchdown came as a result of a turnover by the offense that was turned into a touchdown.

“That’s the way you do it, you like flying under the radar,” Jenkins said. “I’d rather sneak up on people and surprise them. You saw what happened with the build up last year. That didn’t work for us. It always nice to have that fight in you first where you have to go out there and make it happen.”