As the mini-bye week ends, some news and notes on the 8-0 Eagles, who enjoyed the last few days off before reporting back to work on Monday …
1. This is not luck. This is not good fortune. This is the Eagles stressing – starting the minute Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon walked into the NovaCare Complex last season – the importance of taking the football away. Say it, mean it, do it.
And the Eagles are certainly doing it.
They've taken the football away 18 times in eight games, the most for the team through eight games since the 2015 team recorded 20 takeaways. It is a mindset the team has and you see it every day in practice as the defense works on stripping the football, focusing on interception drills, and making it a daily obsession, not just one on gamedays (or nights, as we are seeing a ton this year).
"We live and breathe it," linebacker T.J. Edwards said. "JG (Gannon) talks about it all the time. Our position coaches do as well. We work on takeaways at practice. It's definitely a big part of what we do."
Head Coach Nick Sirianni was asked on Friday – just hours after the team arrived home from the 29-17 win at Houston – if the turnover ratio model – takeaways, of which the Eagles have 18, and giveaways, the team has a total of 3 this season, was "sustainable." Without hesitation, Sirianni launched into a lengthy answer.
"Our goal every week is to be plus two in that turnover category. I would say the Jacksonville game, I'm not sure that the five turnovers is sustainable, but we plan to take care of the football. Plus two is a goal for a reason, because we plan to take care of the football, and we want to get at least two turnovers during the defensive game, so we definitely think that's sustainable," he said. "The way we come after the football, the way we get pressure on the quarterback, and the way I feel like we have some DBs back there obviously in Slay (CB Darius Slay) and (CB) James (Bradberry) and (S) Chauncey (Gardner-Johnson) and (S) Marcus (Epps) and (CB) Avonte (Maddox) that can make you pay if you make a mistake. That's always something that you're aware of as an offensive coach, like 'Hey, if I make a mistake, is this guy going to be able to make us pay?' and we've got guys back there that can.
"Because of the playmakers that we have, I definitely think that's sustainable. We obviously know that's a big part of our success to date is the turnover battle. We think long and hard about that, and how we teach the fundamentals with that and all the different things that go to that. Chauncey is catching a lot of balls after practice to make sure that when we get our hands on -- he's made some unbelievable catches, and when he gets his hands on the ball, he's finishing on those plays because he works hard at it.
"I think sometimes there's a tendency for people to think, oh, they're getting lucky in the turnover category. To me, luck has nothing to do with it. We talk about it more than anybody. We live it. We preach it. We rep it. There are fundamentals to it. Our coaches are all over it. Our players are all over it. It's constantly on our mind. Nobody thinks about turning the ball over or protecting the football more than we do."
2. Marvin Wilson is the kind of guy you know will succeed. He has overcome so much – including periods of time in his childhood when he was homeless – that the chance he has right now with Jordan Davis on Injured Reserve – Wilson was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster for Thursday's game against Houston and contributed four total tackles in his 19 snaps on defense at the tackle position – is one he won't waste.
"I'm going out there and giving it everything I have," Wilson said in the locker room at NRG Stadium after the 29-17 Eagles win. "It was great. I had a little bit of rust at first but it didn't take me much time to get the sweat going. It was humbling for me to be back in my hometown playing in the NFL and to have the confidence of the team to be on the field. I think I did alright. I think I made a couple of plays, but I have to get back to the gridiron to work on my game and get better. I'm excited about it all."
Wilson is still eligible to be promoted from the practice squad to the gameday roster two more times, or he can be added to the 53-man roster with Davis out for a minimum of three more games because of an ankle injury. The Eagles have depth at defensive tackle, and that's why Sirianni has faith that the absence of Davis won't be too significant for the defense.
"Anytime you have a player of Jordan's caliber, how he is against the run, and you're without him, of course that makes you not quite as good against the run," Sirianni said. "But again, I felt like we need to put our guys in a better position, and when they were in those positions and be able to tackle better. It always starts with us as coaches putting the guys in better spots. We need to do that, and it starts with us as coaches."
3. The third-down defense is getting better and better. In the win over Pittsburgh, the Eagles allowed the Steelers just one conversion on 12 third downs. On Thursday night, the Texans converted just 2 of 9 third downs as Philadelphia entered the game ranked 12th in the NFL, allowing a third-down conversion rate of 39.5 percent.
"Defensive line getting after the quarterback, it always starts there," Sirianni said. "Just like with the offensive line and the red zone question somebody asked me earlier. Starts with how the defensive line is coming after the quarterback, and obviously that's on full display. Then it goes down to we have guys in the secondary that those guys are playing sticky in the secondary and sticking close to the wideouts and making it difficult for those quarterbacks. It's pretty impressive."
4. The Eagles are 8-0 for the first time in franchise history, but they are certainly not getting ahead of themselves. There have been 20 other teams to start a season 8-0 in the last 30 years, and Philadelphia has nine games remaining in the regular season. They are keeping their focus day to day.
"Just keep working hard because that other stuff doesn't matter," defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. "Looking ahead in the NFL will cost you. We all know that. We have Washington next and we know that's going to be a very tough game, so let's prepare the right way."
5. C.J. Gardner-Johnson is so incredibly happy being an Eagle and there is certainly something to that great karma. But he's also sniffing out the football at a historic rate – he has an NFL-high 5 interceptions in the last four games, the first Eagle to have interceptions in four straight games since Eagles Hall of Famer Bill Bradley did it in 1972.
"We all want it when the ball is in the air, but you know C.J. is so quick and is such a great athlete that he's making the plays," safety Marcus Epps said. "He has fit in perfectly. He digs in and learns the defense and you see what's happening."
6. Next up: The Washington Commanders on Monday night, so it's another long weekend and a prime-time game for the Eagles. Carson Wentz is on IR, so he won't be at quarterback for the Commanders, who are playing good football with Taylor Heinicke at the position. This won't be the same Washington team the Eagles blitzed earlier in the season. "It's another division game and you know what that means," defensive end Brandon Graham said. "They put it on (national) TV for a reason. It's always about two teams that don't like each other."
The Eagles look to extend their perfect start to the season while maintaining an undefeated all-time record against the Houston Texans on Thursday Night Football.