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Eagle Eye: Watch The Defensive Line Feast

On Wednesday, I detailed how Doug Pederson, Mike Groh, and company got the offense going against Washington on Monday night. Here's a look at what stood out to me on film from Jim Schwartz’s unit in the win. I know that the Redskins came into the game with backup quarterback Colt McCoy and played most of the game with their third-string quarterback Mark Sanchez, who had only been there for a couple of weeks, but there were still some great takeaways.

ALL OF THE VIDEO CLIPS FEATURE AUDIO ANALYSIS FROM FRAN DUFFY

First off, Malcolm Jenkins continues to play at a high level. The veteran captain has been playing some of his best football of the season in the last few weeks, and he does things that don’t show up on a stat sheet. Watch him on those plays against the run in the clips above. He helps open things up for others against the run. These are two examples that perfectly exemplify "team run defense."

As I pointed out with Amy Campbell on this week’s Eagle Eye in the Sky video breakdown, the Eagles will need a repeat performance from Jenkins and the rest of the unit against the run this week. Not only does Dallas have a better back in Ezekiel Elliott, but the Cowboys run similar schemes to Washington in that they like to pull their linemen outside as lead blockers for the runner. Keep an eye on how the Eagles defend those perimeter runs on Sunday afternoon.

As Greg Cosell mentioned on this week’s Eagle Eye in the Sky podcast, second-year linebacker Nathan Gerry had perhaps the best game of his career on Monday night. Here’s why.

Whether it was against the run or the pass, Gerry was aggressive downhill fitting the run. In a one-gap scheme like the one that the Eagles run, you need your defenders to attack their gaps that they’re responsible for in the run fit. Gerry, Nigel Bradham, and Kamu Grugier-Hill did a pretty good job of that throughout the game.

Gerry’s interception was also very impressive, as he attacked downhill on the run fake then retreated into coverage, found the route, got his eyes back to the quarterback, and made an athletic play for the pick. Those are the kinds of plays he made in college as an instinctive safety at Nebraska, and he’s done it in practice since he’s arrived. This was the first time we saw it in a game.

The defensive line also showed up in this game. Fletcher Cox had another strong performance, as did Michael Bennett. It was fun to watch Brandon Graham make plays as well.

Graham, who missed the spring and summer due to offseason surgery, has had to wear a lot of hats throughout this season. Due to Derek Barnett’s injury, he’s played more on the right side after playing primarily on the left the last two years. He's also lined up more at defensive tackle due to Tim Jernigan’s injury. It was great to see him get a sack in this game, his fourth of the year.

This Eagles defensive line is just a lot of fun to watch because of the energy and motor that it plays with. The linemen are constantly chasing the football. That’s a culture and a standard that is set by Schwartz, position coaches like Chris Wilson, and veterans such as Cox, Graham, and Chris Long. Watching this group work is fun.

Washington understandably had issues moving the ball for most of the night. It wasn’t a surprise to see them work in a couple of trick plays in the second half to try to provide a spark, but the Eagles didn't have any of it. The first play was broken up by Bennett, whose presence in the backfield appeared to spook Jamison Crowder from taking his designed path on the reverse. That messed up the entire timing of the play and resulted in a huge loss. Later in the fourth quarter, the team tried a double pass in the direction of Chris Thompson, and it would have gone for a long touchdown had it not been for the play of Rasul Douglas. The second-year corner recognized what was coming and defeated two blocks to trip up Thompson after a short gain.

Fran Duffy is the producer of the Emmy-nominated Eagles Game Plan show which can be seen every gameday during the season on NBC10 in Philadelphia. He is also the host of two Eagles-related podcasts, Eagle Eye in the Sky, which examines the team from an X's and O's angle each and every week as well as the Journey to the Draft podcast, which covers college football and the NFL Draft all year round. Fran also authors the Eagle Eye in the Sky column, which runs four times a week during the football season to serve as a recap for the previous game and to preview the upcoming matchup. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging, and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team’s games, practices, and opponents.

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