Within this Eagles defense, says safety Rodney McLeod, every player has a role. And when "everybody plays their role well, we win." So, that's the goal for Sunday when a versatile and explosive and, frankly, a very good Los Angeles Chargers offense comes to Lincoln Financial Field.
"We have a lot of respect for what the Chargers do," safety Marcus Epps said. "The quarterback (Justin Herbert) can make every throw, they've got great receivers (Keenan Allen, Mike Williams), the tight end (Jared Cook) catches the ball and makes plays, and (running back Austin) Ekeler does it all. We have a lot to prepare for. We have to be at our best."
The Eagles, as Head Coach Nick Sirianni has said many times, are "not a finished product," and so we go week to week in the evolution. The Eagles are coming off a dominating performance in Detroit where they registered six quarterback sacks, forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown, and generally stifled anything the Lions tried to do.
Sunday's task is far different.
"Obviously, their skill positions are very talented all around the ball," linebacker T.J. Edwards said, "and then you have a quarterback who can make all the throws and a running back in Ekeler who can make you miss and who can also run through you. We're going to have to be playing our best ball, as usual, but we just have to make sure that we have 11 hats running to the ball at all times."
Jonathan Gannon's defense continues to grow, so now the Eagles are hopeful to build on the progress they made in Detroit. That's what this is all about – putting one foot in front of the other on the road to the summit where the Eagles plan to be in due time.
Now, it's focusing on how to limit the Los Angeles offense, one that to date has relied a lot on Herbert's big arm to rank 10th in the NFL in passing touchdowns (16) and 13th in passing yards (1,994).
"Strong arm. He's a gunslinger. He's slingin' that thing," cornerback Darius Slay said of Herbert. "Great receiving corps. Guys that can do all of it. Talented group, man. Probably one of the best groups that we've played this year. We're looking forward to the challenge, honestly."
That's the right approach, because the Eagles are still in a state of discovery. They continue to infuse the defense with youth – Edwards and fellow linebackers, both in their second seasons, Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley have seen increases in playing time and Epps has stepped up at safety and the Eagles have acquired young defensive backs this season in Zech McPhearson, Josiah Scott, Mac McCain, Andre Chachere, Tay Gowan, and Kary Vincent, Jr. – and so they are working to blend it all together and find out just what they are capable of doing as the group grows.
Winning in Detroit was a positive step and one that added some confidence.
"It was a great win. We just wanted to dominate – start fast and don't let up," Slay said. "We've had some slow starts and we started off fast in that game."
Last week is a distant memory, though. The Chargers offer a challenge at a different level. The goal is another dominating performance, 60 minutes – and more if needed – as the Eagles look for a two-game winning streak and learn more about what this team is all about – now and in the near and not-so-near future.