If there is a moment to feel good for coordinator Bill Davis, a stand-up guy if there ever was one, it's now. The Eagles, save for a lapse in the third quarter on Sunday, played well defensively against the Giants. The defense was aggressive, opportunistic and physical -- all of the things you want to see in a defense.
Is it where Davis wants in the big picture? No. A lot of improvement remains. But for this day-after session, let's review some of the good things we saw against New York ...
- The pass rush registered just one quarterback sack, but the pressure clearly was better in this game than any previous game of the season. Eli Manning was penalized three times for intentional grounding and he was hurried into three interceptions, all in the fourth quarter. Vinny Curry has played well when he's had the chance, and hopefully he gets more opportunities. He brings energy, a burst and an up-the-field presence. The Giants chipped with their tight ends and running backs a lot to help in pass protection, which kept Manning upright.
- Cornerbacks Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher and Brandon Boykin really battled against an excellent group of wide receivers. The fact is, the NFL is set up to allow wide receivers all kinds of freedom down the field and it's hard to shut down any passing game. Hakeem Nicks had a big, big game, but Fletcher battled him every step of the way and had his hands on a few passes. Williams is an aggressive cornerback who likes to be physical, and I like that in him. And Boykin helped make the dangerous Victor Cruz a non-factor, and also made a sensational interception over the middle in the fourth quarter.
- If there is any way to give Mychal Kendricks as many assignments "downhill," I'm all for it. He buzzes around the football at the line of scrimmage and he is improving in his drops in coverage.
- The defense also should have had a safety added to its ledger, but the strange call to give running back David Wilson forward progress at the 2-yard line when he was pushed back into the end zone and given a chance to make a "football move" to try to get up the field just seemed incorrect.
- Tampa Bay is next for Davis and his defense. The Bucs have a rookie quarterback (Mike Glennon) who is a big kid with limited mobility and they have a pretty good running game with Doug Martin. Tampa Bay ranks last in the league in the passing game. Now, Tampa Bay is coming off a bye week, so the Bucs will be rested and ready. The Eagles can't let Glennon get comfortable, and they have to concentrate on tackling the bruising Martin. This is a chance for the defense to take another step forward.
That's the story on defense. Sum it up this way: Sunday was a positive for the D. The offense is likely to dominate the headlines for the next couple of days, what with all eyes on Michael Vick's hamstring. We may not know much for the next couple of days on that.
In the meantime, here are some general thoughts on the offense, with or without Vick ...
- Hard to believe that the Eagles had zero passing yards in the first quarter on Sunday -- a DeSean Jackson drop and some penalties and missed chances kept the offense off the field -- and then ended with 302 yards in the air. Vick's completion percentage is down to 53.8, so that's something to watch. The Eagles opened the game on Sunday with a false start and just didn't seem in sync early, which has been a concern at times. Not once this year have the Eagles scored first.
- OK, so LeSean McCoy had only 46 rushing yards and was absolutely stymied in the second half. He still had a total of 92 yards and a touchdown from the line of scrimmage. The problems in the run game were in the box, and the Giants concentrated on keeping McCoy down. They left Jackson in one-on-one coverage and the Eagles took advantage.
- The Eagles rank eighth in the league in scoring points, they are second in the NFL averaging 6.82 yards on first down, they lead the league in rushing and they are second in the NFL in yards per game. Numbers only, yes. But pretty good ones to think about.
- The offensive line isn't as consistent as it will be in time, which has led to some problems in the red zone. A run blitz got home for the Giants, forcing a 5-yard loss for McCoy and forcing a third-and-goal from the 8-yard line. Vick then missed Jason Avant in the end zone on third down. I liked that the Eagles ran the ball more in the red zone on Sunday. The little mistakes are causing breakdowns there.
- This stuff about the receivers "not getting open," I'm just not buying it. Riley Cooper was targeted only once on Sunday and he was open on a fade route and Foles just missed him. Avant was open quite a bit against New York. The tight ends created some space. It takes more than the wide receiver to make a passing play work. It involves a lot of things.
- If Foles is the quarterback at Tampa Bay, does that make the Eagles any less multi-dimensional? Well, they wouldn't get the running yards from the quarterback position -- Vick has 307 ground yards to rank 13th among all players in the NFL -- but it shouldn't hamper the rushing attack. The name of the game is winning the numbers game inside for the run game and putting a man on a man and giving McCoy and Co. some holes through which to run. If Tampa Bay loads the box, the Eagles need to adjust and attack where they have favorable matchups. If the Bucs concentrate on the passing game and try to take Jackson out of the equation, the running game has to find room.
So the Eagles are 2-3 and they have Tampa Bay on Sunday. That's all the focus should be here. No sense looking ahead, although it's fun for the fans and media to do so. The Eagles are going to have their hands full against Tampa Bay, no matter the Bucs' record. That defense and the running game are tough for Tampa Bay.
No doubt, though, that the win over New York was a good start to a critical October. The Eagles got off on the right foot.