For defensive end Cedric Thornton, the game of football is simple. Just beat the man in front of you.
"Focus on the man in front of you," Thornton said. "Try to beat the man in front of you and rely on other guys to do their job."
It's a simple philosophy, but it's worked for Thornton. In his first season as a starter, Thornton is fourth on the team overall and first among the defensive linemen with 25 tackles, according to the coaches' stats. On Sunday, he registered a career-high eight tackles and his second-career sack. The former rookie free agent has played so well that the coaches can't take him off the field.
"I think the one thing you have to realize is Cedric Thornton is probably playing our best defensive football right now," said head coach Chip Kelly.
"Playing with great effort. High motor. Great technician. Very rarely is he out of position. … That's what you're seeing. He's a byproduct of putting it all together. That's what he's doing right now."
Thornton appreciates the praise, but he understands that consistency is what it takes to succeed in the NFL.
"You're only as good as your last game. If I come out this game and stink it up, which I don't think God will allow me to, then you'll be telling me how bad I played," Thornton said. "It's all about consistency, so I'm just trying to be consistent."
This Sunday, Thornton and the Eagles defense will battle a Giants offensive line that has surrendered 14 sacks, tied for fifth most in the NFL. Thornton doesn't focus on the names on the back of the jersey, but more so how each play is designed.
"I don't really study the person. I study the alignments and the scheme that they run," said Thornton. "Whomever they put in front of me, I'm going to give them my best whatever down it is, whatever quarter. Hopefully, I'll be successful."
As if protection was not already an issue for the Giants, their offensive line is dealing with a number of key injuries. Center David Baas and right guard Chris Snee did not participate in Wednesday's practice. Thornton expects to line up against "No. 72," who is rookie first-round pick Justin Pugh at right tackle.
Coming off Sunday's loss, one in which the defense surrendered 38 points, the Giants provide an opportunity to show marked progress. New York has scored a total of seven points in its last two contests.
"Our defense is coming together better. It might not see the result in a win, but we can see it in certain plays," Thornton said. "We have to put it together for four quarters."
If Thornton can adhere to his philosophy and beat the man in front of him, that will go a long way in helping the Eagles get back on track vs. the Giants.
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