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A Change In Mindset, Not Scheme, Key For 'D'

Posted Nov 2, 2011

Heading into the Eagles’ Week Six matchup with the Washington Redskins, the Eagles found themselves ranked 30th in the NFL against the run, allowing a generous 140.2 yards per game.

Now, just two games later, they have climbed the ranks and are now 19th, giving up 118.3 yards per game. The impressive ascension was made possible by inspired defensive performances the past two weeks. The Eagles have surrendered the second-fewest rushing yards in the league in their last two games, allowing an average of 63.5 yards per game.

Having made only minor tweaks to the defensive scheme since dropping to 1-4 following a Week 5 loss to the Buffalo Bills, the Eagles owe much of their recent success to determination and focus.

Rookie linebacker Brian Rolle says that the "mindset of the team has changed," and stresses that the defense that has dominated its last two opponents is here to stay.

"We knew the game against the Redskins before the bye was must-win and that every game from there on out would be must-win," Rolle said. "The new mindset of the guys on this team and of the coaches has been the key to our turnaround on defense. We haven’t made any big scheme adjustments on the front end or the back end.

In fact, Rolle said that the change started in the locker room at Ralph Wilson Stadium at halftime of that Bills game.

"We went into the locker room after the first half of the Bills game, and we had played horribly to that point," Rolle said. "Coach (Andy) Reid asked us, ‘How badly do you guys want to be great?’ The guys took that to heart and really turned it around in the second half of that game. That focus has continued in the last two weeks."

Undeniably, the development of the Eagles’ young linebackers has played a significant role in the recent success of the Eagles defense. Featuring Rolle, a rookie, Jamar Chaney, a second-year middle linebacker, and Moise Fokou, a seasoned veteran in this group at 26 years old, the group is one of the youngest in the NFL. Rolle thinks that the group is just now hitting its stride.

"We’re out there working hard and the coaches know that," said Rolle, a sixth-round pick. "We’re right where we want to be. We can still improve in a few ways and I feel like we’ll be able to do that. This team is really jelling.

"Guys are starting to play more relaxed. Jamar Chaney has definitely been more vocal the last few weeks. Against Dallas, some of the guys were dawdling back to the huddle at one point and he cursed and yelled at them a little bit. You like to see that from your middle linebacker. It gives the whole defense energy."

Free safety Nate Allen agrees that Chaney has shouldered a bigger leadership role since regaining the starting middle linebacker job.

"Yeah, he’s definitely (taken control). And that’s him. That’s what he’s got to do," Allen said. "He’s our MIKE linebacker and he’s the leader of that defense. It’s his defense and he’s done a great job."

With Dallas and Washington in the rear-view mirror, Rolle and the Eagles are beginning to look ahead to the Chicago Bears. The confidence in the air at the NovaCare Complex is palpable.

"Going into this week with an extra day to prepare is really going to be helpful," said the Ohio State-alum. "Chicago is a good team, but we are looking forward to going out here this week and doing exactly what we did to Dallas last week."

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