The retooled Eagles defense made a strong impression in their debut Thursday night as the Eagles outlasted the visiting Baltimore Ravens 13-6.
After the Ravens opened with a rather fluky 27-yard completion to tight end Dennis Pitta, who snagged the ball despite tight coverage by Kurt Coleman, the defense buckled down once the Ravens advanced to the Eagles' 29-yard-line. On first down, defensive end Darryl Tapp stuffed Ravens running back Ray Rice for a loss of six yards in a preview of things to come for Tapp, who later registered 2.0 sacks.
Two Joe Flacco incompletions later the Ravens were forced to settle for a 53-yard field goal. On the Ravens second possession, the Eagles allowed a sole first down before forcing a punt. Quick and dirty, a good night's work.
But more important than the results was the preview of how this defense may work together in the regular season. Asante Samuel and Nnamdi Asomugha, who each only played the first series, remained the outside cornerbacks while Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie came in to play inside when the defense went nickel.
The suddenly star-studded defensive line exhibited the kind of rotation that is a Jim Washburn staple. Trent Cole, Cullen Jenkins, Anthony Hargrove and Juqua Parker opened the game, but after the defense surrendered the initial two first downs the entire line was subbed out in favor of Tapp, Derek Landri, Antonio Dixon and Jason Babin.
"It's a great rotation," said Tapp. "Everybody's going to get their fair share of opportunities and we'll keep guys fresh."
"This is our chance to really get all the new guys acquainted and get everybody on the same page," said Cole. "It's looking good right now. There are a lot of places we can improve, but you know, I think we'll get it done. We're going to have a great team this season."
Beyond the starters, the Eagles defense also showcased impressive depth, shutting out the Ravens until a Billy Cundiff field goal with just over three minutes remaining. Highlighting that performance was the standout play of the team's tandem of second-team safeties, Jaiquawn Jarrett, and Jarrad Page, who all intercepted Ravens quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
Elsewhere, Landri was a constant pest in the Ravens backfield as he fights for a roster spot at defensive tackle. Young cornerbacks Curtis Marsh and Trevard Lindley looked good on the outside and second-year linebacker Keenan Clayton showed off his impressive speed, pursuing with ease from sideline to sideline.
Meanwhile, in his first official game as defensive coordinator, Juan Castillo was every bit the excitable, motivating coach he's shown to be in practice. While he deflected any questions about his own emotions, saying "It's not about me," the biggest name addition to the defense was more than willing to analyze Castillo's maiden voyage.
"Usually you see a change in coaches from practice to games, maybe they'll back off a little bit, get a little stage fright" said Asomugha. "Juan didn't have any of that. He was still the same, excited guy running up and down the field calling the plays that we've worked on. Not putting guys in tough positions. I think everybody respects that about him. He's excited. He's got a great opportunity with the group that we have so obviously he's going to take full advantage of it."