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'D' Makes Statement With First-Half Shutout

Posted Aug 21, 2014

Ninety six total yards of offense. A turnover. Zero points allowed.

The Eagles' starting defense put together a performance Thursday night that, in the words of safety Malcolm Jenkins, complemented the high-scoring offense. In what will likely be the final chance for the starters to play before the regular season opener on September 7, the defense shutout the Pittsburgh Steelers' starters in the first half en route to a 31-21 victory at Lincoln Financial Field.

"In these first three games with the first group, I think we've done a good job stopping the run. We've done a good job keeping the ball in front of us, done a good job of getting some turnovers," Jenkins said. "Those are a lot of things that you can enjoy. We've still got to do a little bit of work with the penalties. It's definitely encouraging."

Penalties in the first two games as well as third-down situations stymied the progress of coordinator Bill Davis' unit. On Thursday night, the Eagles' defense was flagged four times and the Steelers failed to convert on four of seven third-down opportunities. And the Eagles accomplished this with cornerbacks Cary Williams and Brandon Boykin watching from the sideline.

"It was real nice and we know third downs are a point of emphasis for us," said defensive coordinator Bill Davis. "It hasn't been good enough. We move forward. It's still not good enough. We have to do better than we did tonight, but I did like the way it got better."

"We're going in the right direction," said linebacker Trent Cole. "Things look good. I think everybody's playing sound. The only thing we have to do is get rid of the penalties. The refs told us that they are going to call more penalties this year. We've just got to learn to play within the rules. There's no way to get around it. If we get rid of the penalties, I think we're golden."

Davis dialed up the pressure on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger by blitzing players like Jenkins and linebacker Mychal Kendricks. In fact, Kendricks forced Roethlisberger into an errant throw that was intercepted by cornerback Nolan Carroll II, who made his preseason debut after missing the first two games with a groin injury.

"Nolan was healthy and stayed healthy first of all, and he's a great competitor," Davis said. "I'm glad we got to see him out there, he just did what we thought he would do, he played as we thought he would play."

As the Eagles prepare for the preseason finale against the Jets, the starters will begin to set their eyes on the season opener against the Jaguars. Thursday night's performance was a big step in the right direction for the defense.

"It's good to end the preseason on the right note as a player, as a unit, moving forward," linebacker Connor Barwin said, "but obviously it's still going to take another level to get ready for Week 1."

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