Philadelphia Eagles News

Secondary Primed For Test Of Rodgers & Co.

Green Bay Packers wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb present a staggering one-two receiving punch, a duo that has combined for over 1,400 yards and 18 touchdowns this season. They could be the best receiving duo in the NFL, which means the Eagles' secondary will have to bring its A-game come Sunday afternoon in Milwaukee.

Fortunately, that's become a regular occurrence.

Starting cornerbacks Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams, like the rest of the Eagles' defense, have grown all season long, and in the past few outings their talent has begun to shine through.

The pair recorded their first respective interceptions of the season against a visibly rattled Cam Newton this past Monday. Fletcher returned his interception 34 yards for a touchdown, giving the Eagles a mammoth 31-7 lead before halftime.

Fletcher was targeted nine times in the Week 10 victory and allowed just two catches for 18 total yards, a dominating performance as he finds his rhythm this season. He racked up five pass defenses against the Panthers, his single-game season-high, and is now tied with Indianapolis cornerback Vontae Davis for the league lead in passes defensed with 14.

It has been a strong couple of games for Fletcher and the Eagles' secondary, and defensive coordinator Bill Davis said Wednesday he's proud of the way his defensive backs have pushed themselves to success.

"I think if you look back over the last month - and our goal of our defense is always to improve each week - I think the corner play, they're just working hard, keeping their heads down," Davis said. "They took some criticism early, but they keep working."

So what sparked the improvement? Have the backs been doing anything differently? After Wednesday's training session, Fletcher and safety Malcolm Jenkins insisted that wasn't the case.

"Honestly, it's just consistency," Jenkins said matter-of-factly, intrigued by the question. He said the reason he thinks people have been taking notice of the secondary's play over the last few games is that the 50-50 balls thrown by quarterbacks have been falling the Eagles' way lately.

"We've done a really good job of kind of breaking those up and coming down with them," Jenkins continued. "With those, sometimes you win them and sometimes you lose them. A couple didn't go our way earlier in the season."

But now they're breaking their way, as was evidenced by Fletcher's parade of pass defenses against the Cam Newton-led Panthers offense.

Fletcher said his success at the point of the catch stems from his good positioning on each and every play, making sure he competes for every ball that comes his way.

"By doing that," Fletcher explained, "I'm giving myself a chance to make plays when the time comes."

Davis said that both Fletcher and Williams have seen their defending at the point of the catch improve significantly over the course of the season. In the past game or two, the pair has played the ball exactly the way their coaches expect.

"It's always been the same coaching point: you don't look back for the ball until you can touch the receiver, knowing that the receiver is always going exactly where the ball is thrown," Davis detailed Wednesday. "Technically you don't have to look where the ball is thrown when the receiver is telling you.

"I think our guys are getting better and better at the ball and making plays. I think [Williams] and [Fletcher] had great games the other night; they really got up and challenged the receivers, and that's what they do the best. It was a really good game for them."

And this Sunday at Lambeau Field, Fletcher and his teammates will have to continue the practice of positioning themselves well and getting after the ball.

Fletcher said the thing that stands out the most to him about Rodgers' passing ability is the quarterback's pinpoint accuracy, his ability to place the ball where he wants with every throw.

"[Rodgers] gets the ball to his receivers where they can make plays, and he has receivers that go and make catches," Fletcher explained. "They don't wait on it, so we're definitely going to have to go and compete for it.

"We'll have to go for the ball when it's in the air, turn and find it, and go make a play."

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