With Chip Kelly at the helm, time of possession for the Eagles has been a statistic that has drawn a lot of attention from the media. Some questioned how the Eagles defense would react to potentially being on the field for extended periods of time due to the quick-strike capability of the offense. In the season opener, however, it was the Eagles who controlled the clock, while the Redskins defenders tried to keep up. The Eagles defense stood on the sidelines and watched, knowing what it feels like to try to slow down the high-powered offense.
"We really just watched the defense and it was fun to see how gassed they were," said linebacker Connor Barwin, who had four tackles in his Eagles debut. "I don't know what it was- (the offense) had I think 26 plays with three minutes left in the first quarter or something ridiculous like that. You can see the effect that it has on the defense and you can see the effect that it has on us from practicing with the kind of energy that we had in that game."
"I'm not going to lie to you, I wasn't surprised one bit because we've scrimmaged at that pace," said linebacker Trent Cole, who had eight tackles and a forced fumble. "When you go against that kind of tempo, I've played against teams in the past like the Colts and the Saints, and that's a burden on the defense."
The Eagles have been practicing at a frenetic pace since Kelly was named the new head coach. According to Cole, practicing again and again at such a high speed made the game feel a lot slower for the defense.
"Just from playing them in the past, they seemed a lot slower to me," Cole said. "I always thought that they were a fast team, and they just seemed a little slow out there, because look who we've been playing against. You've seen what our offense can do and the tempo that they roll at. That's how we go into every practice, and they're preparing us for the battle. We're trying to make each other better."
Barwin agreed that the game seemed to slow down, but he felt that the pace of the game was more noticeable between plays than it was during them.
"We don't get that time to catch our breath in practice," Barwin explained. "Even we prepared this week for the Redskins against the scout team, they still get their plays pretty fast, and that's just how we practice and that's just Coach Kelly's mentality, and it really allows you to catch your breath between the plays."
For a unit that had so many questions surrounding it entering the season, the Eagles defense impressed in their first regular season game in Bill Davis' new-look 3-4 scheme. Against a dangerous Redskins offense, the Eagles created three takeaways (two interceptions, one fumble) and also forced a safety. It was a strong first step, but the proficiency the Redskins showed at moving the ball in the second half highlighted that there is plenty of room for improvement.
"I feel good about (the defense), said DeMeco Ryans, who recorded 10 combined tackles and one sack. "You have a guy like Trent Cole, who's now asked to play outside linebacker. You see the game that he had and you can tell he's definitely feeling comfortable with the position. All the guys did well. It was a solid first game for us, so let's see where we can take it and where we can build off of it. I kind of have a bad taste in my mouth that we didn't close it out better. It's easier to take with the 'W,' but a couple of scores they definitely shouldn't have gotten."
"Hard work pays off," Cole said. "What we started here, we're going to build upon. This game is behind us and it's nothing to us now. Guys have to put it in their pocket or throw it away. Now, it's time to move on to the next game. It's a short week and we have to prepare.
"(We came out) and started this thing the way it was supposed to be started and (we showed) how a defense is supposed to come into the game and play. We have to finish. It got hairy there at the end, but we have to finish, and we can improve on that. We know where to fine-tune things at."
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