The Eagles' defense led the charge Thursday night holding Tampa Bay to single digits in the team's 17-9 victory. The swamping defense tallied three sacks, three interceptions and created four turnovers – a very promising start to the early preseason.
Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox helped spearhead the defensive attack with an early strip-sack and recovery of quarterback Jameis Winston with 11:03 to go in the first quarter. The heads-up play was the Eagles' second forced fumble less than four minutes into the game, with the first coming by special teams on the opening kickoff.
"It felt good. We always talk about it, making plays and come out having fun and being real explosive and just playing together as a whole unit," Cox said. "I just saw the ball and I knew I couldn't get a body on it so I just reached around and tried to get the ball out."
Cox was pleased with the team's performance on the defensive end. Although he knows there are a multitude of things the defense needs to work on, he was satisfied with the all-around effort in the debut of Jim Schwartz's attack-style 4-3 defense.
"I think we still have a lot of stuff to clean up. We always have room for improvement everywhere, including myself," Cox said. "As a unit, I thought we played well. You have one of the guys (rookie cornerback C.J. Smith) who ended the game on an interception so that's always good."
Safety Malcolm Jenkins was sidelined for Thursday's action with a hamstring injury, but commented on the team attempting to embody a different mentality from recent years.
"It's just a change in scheme, a change in culture so we're trying to get back to the teams that this Philadelphia fan base has been used to in the past," Jenkins said. "(Being) physical, attitude, all the things that this city loves. It's (about) molding the team and getting back to some of those old-school ways."
The Eagles have fallen short of the playoffs the last two seasons and Jenkins feels that their efforts during preseason will go a long way in helping reverse that trend.
"We felt like we were in control of our own destiny at the end of the year," Jenkins said. "For whatever reason, we fizzled out and came up short. We know we're not far from being back in the playoffs; it's just really about building a team that lasts through the year and gets stronger as the season goes on."
Veteran defensive end Connor Barwin aided the defensive effort combining with defensive tackle Beau Allen for a sack with 10:25 left in the first half, forcing Tampa Bay to punt on fourth down. Barwin sat most of the game had a chance to watch the younger players showcase their defensive talent.
"They all did. I was watching them all," Barwin said. "It's hard to get sacks in the preseason, they're not going to let their quarterbacks get hit."
Defensive end Steven Means, an original fifth-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, made his mark on the game late in the third quarter, sacking and forcing a fumble of quarterback Ryan Griffin. However, Means wasn't content with his play.
"I need to capitalize. I got to the quarterback a couple of times I just need to finish," Means said. "Condition more, I was a little winded out there. I've got a lot to improve on."
Means joined the team late last season (Week 13) and is fond of the new defensive scheme employed by Schwartz.
"I love it," Means said. "God blessed me to be here at the time in the transition of coaches and put me in the best system that fit me."
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers traveled to Philadelphia as the Eagles kicked off their preseason at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles took home the victory 17-9.