ATLANTA -- Rebuilding a defense that lost three starters in the secondary and also has new faces in the linebacking corps is no easy task, and the defense took their lumps in Monday's 26-24 defeat in Atlanta. Still, there were a couple of standout performances from those new names.
Earlier this week, Byron Maxwell said that the Eagles' defense could be ball hawks, and on Monday night, two of the newcomers fit that description perfectly.
Linebacker Kiko Alonso may not have started the game for the Eagles, but he made an impact almost right away in his Eagles debut on Monday night.
Already up 3-0 midway through the first quarter, the Falcons were driving deep into Eagles territory. Just as it looked like Atlanta was about to punch the ball into the end zone for an early double-digit lead, it was Alonso who saved the day with a remarkable one-handed interception in the Eagles' end zone.
Not a bad introduction to Philadelphia.
"The guy came inside and I had to take him," Alonso said. "I knew that they were trying to work me with that route, and luckily he just threw it my way."
Alonso split reps on the inside with DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks , and while it was his first regular season game since the 2013 season, Alonso left defensive coordinator Bill Davis feeling good about his play.
"Without studying the tape, it was a great interception," Davis said. "They called him for the one penalty on the turnover, but Kiko played solid for his first game."
For Alonso, it was great to just get back onto the field after missing all of 2014 with a torn ACL. The interception, his first since September 29, 2013 against Baltimore, was just icing on the cake. He became the first Eagle since Cary Williams in 2013 to intercept a pass in his team debut. Still, Alonso knows there's a lot of room to get better.
"We just have to go back and watch the tape and get better at the things we need to get better at," Alonso said. "We'll just take it one day at a time and just keep getting better."
Like Alonso, fellow newcomer Walter Thurmond also made a huge defensive play with his third-quarter interception of quarterback Matt Ryan, a play that, like Alonso's, gave the Eagles a big momentum swing.
"It was a third-and-long situation," Thurmond explained, "and we know that they had tendencies to run deep ins by the number one receiver. We were in a coverage that just allowed me to be in the right positon to rob that play, and I was fortunate enough to make the play."
Overall, it wasn't the strongest night for the Eagles' defense, but the unit did show the ability to force turnovers in key moments, something that the team can build upon moving forward.
"There's always room for improvement," said Thurmond. "That's the great thing about being human – no one is perfect. It allows us to progress each day and each week to get better to perfect our craft to get some of the rust off from the offseason and the preseason. We're looking forward to next week."
"Give Atlanta some credit," said Davis. "They threw the ball well and Julio (Jones) had a big night. We knew going in that we had to slow him down, and we didn't do that. It's a start. It's the first game and we know where our starting point is, but we have a lot of work to do. We learned a lot about ourselves in that game, and we've got to just grow it from here."
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