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Digging into what makes the Chiefs so tough to defend

CB Avonte Maddox

On the field again, the Eagles had some positive injury developments on Thursday, answered some questions about Sunday's opponent, and worked on ways to get back to winning in this short week. Here are some news and notes from the last couple of days with Kansas City in sight on Sunday ...

1. Andre Dillard started at left tackle on Monday night, his first action in a game that counted since the playoff game against Seattle in the 2019 season (Dillard played in two snaps that game). He, of course, missed all of 2020 with a biceps injury. Dillard said he felt he "held his own" and that being on the field again was "freeing." With Jordan Mailata working his way back from a knee injury suffered last week – Mailata didn't practice on Thursday – Dillard could very well be in line to start against Kansas City. "It was really nice to finally get back out there again after a couple of seasons," he said. "I think I did pretty well. Obviously, it wasn't what we wanted and we have to regroup as a team and learn from our mistakes in that one, but I think I did alright in the game." Dillard said he missed the "crazy atmosphere and the adrenaline rush of all it. The crowd was screaming and the intensity of the game itself. It was nice to be a part of that again."

2. There has been a lot of talk this week about Kansas City's offense, and that's understandable given the Chiefs average nearly 31 points per game, but who are the players to watch on defense and what do the Chiefs do on that side of the ball? Their coordinator is Steve Spagnuolo, who learned under the late Jim Johnson with the Eagles, so expect an array of zone blitzes and plenty of looks to try to confuse quarterback Jalen Hurts. Even when he wasn't blitzing, Johnson used to say, he wanted to always create the threat of pressure and the illusion of the blitz. So this should be fun to see how the Eagles respond. They're very multiple defensively. "They give you a lot of different looks," Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen said. "And from a personnel standpoint, 32 (Chiefs S Tyrann Mathieu) and 55 (Chiefs DE Frank Clark), and (Chiefs LB Anthony) Hitchens and 95 (Chiefs DT Chris Jones), like, they got a lot of good football players, and they do a lot of different things that we got to be ready for. And we've been practicing like crazy this week preparing for it and our guys will be ready to go."

3. While Mailata didn't practice on Thursday, safety Rodney McLeod had a full practice for the first time this season (Wednesday's practice was a walkthrough) and that's encouraging news. McLeod is working his way back from the knee injury he suffered last December and the Eagles will benefit from his experience and playmaking abilities when he returns to game action. Mailata was the only player not to practice on Thursday, so players like linebacker Davion Taylor (calf) and offensive linemen Jason Kelce (foot), Lane Johnson (ankle), and Landon Dickerson (hip) were full go. On a short week, that's good stuff.

4. Andre Chachere calls it a "wild roller coaster I've been on" since he signed with Houston as an undrafted rookie from San Jose State in 2018. He's had 18 transactions and has been with Houston, Detroit, Arizona, Carolina, Arizona again, and Indianapolis before the Eagles claimed him off of waivers prior to the start of the regular season. He came to Philadelphia and was told he would be playing in the opener, and he has seen action in every game as a standout special teams contributor. Chachere and Zech McPhearson have been outstanding as gunners running down punts and playing in coverage. "I was always so close to getting on the field and now I am taking advantage of the opportunities," he said. "Those three and a half years, all the work I put into it, the support my wife provided for me chasing my dream, it was all worth it. We've worked a lot on our chemistry in coverage. Arryn (Siposs) and Zech and me work on downing punts two or three times a week after practice. We've been able to make some plays."

5. Big assignment for the defense this week going against quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Co., obviously. Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon provided a scouting report on tight end Travis Kelce, who has had back-to-back 100-yard receiving games. "He knows how to get open. He has a big catch radius. He's really good run after the catch, and he's smart. And he's got a quarterback that he's on the same page with. When you're defending a guy like that, you see a lot of times when we're looking at the tape and it's named a certain route concept, and you look at it and you're like, 'No, that's not that concept.' Well, it actually is, but then he's adjusting his route off the coverage. So it makes it difficult to say, 'Well, he's supposed to do this, but because he saw this guy sitting over here, he sat it down and didn't run across the field. He sat it down right over the ball at 15 yards; like how are we going to play that?'

"It's a challenge playing this crew this week because he's on this – when you do that, the quarterback is expecting you to be over here, but now all of a sudden, you're not over there. He's on the same page. Mahomes is on the same page with him. So just his ability to really get open, catch the ball, win one-on-one at a pretty high level. And then his run after catch. You see he hurts defenses with his run after the catch, so we're going to have to have a plan for him, and we will."

6. Nickel cornerback Avonte Maddox knows the Chiefs are going to present a lot of different looks for him, including Kelce and speedster Tyreek Hill. Maddox says the goal is to "plaster in coverage" and limit the big plays as much as possible. "You've got guys who can move around in various spots. They have a lot of guys who can rotate and they have great speed. They try to create mismatches," he said. "We have to pay attention to that and make sure we adjust." The key to slowing Hill? "Don't let him run deep," Maddox said, chuckling. "Don't let him beat you deep. You watch him on film and he looks like he's playing at a different speed."

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