By Ben Sullivan
If you had polled last night’s crowd of 69,144 (announced) at the Linc about what the top concern they had about the 2014 Eagles, defense would be the answer, and the pass rush in particular.
That’s because the Birds’ pass rush ranked tied for last in the NFL last season with a sack rate of just 5.2. But Vinny Curry (photo above in 2013 Cowboys game) and Brandon Graham picked up one sack each and a combined four tackles. Throw in a solid performance from this year’s top pick Marcus Smith, and it’s hard to dig up a single complaint about a unit that smothered Roethlisberger all night.
“Defensively, those guys did a really good job,” coach Chip Kelly said after the game. “And the big thing for us is our twos went in in the third quarter but their ones stayed in and I thought our twos handled themselves fairly well.”
The Eagles are moving in the right direction, and they appear to be peaking just as opening day hits the horizon.
And because they’re ready, it’s time to sit back and wait for Week 1. No reason to push things anymore. When the preseason wraps up next Thursday against the New York Jets, not a single key player should see action. It’s not worth the risk to push these guys any further, especially considering that they suffered scares with both Jeremy Maclin and Shady McCoy Thursday night.
There’s little doubt that’ll happen, because that’s what they did last year at this time, and they’re a hell of a lot more comfortable in Kelly’s offense this time around. We won’t likely see Foles, McCoy, Maclin,Sproles, Riley Cooper or any of the starting offensive linemen until that Sept. 7 opener against the Jags, and that’s the way it should be.
But right now, Eagles fans have every reason to believe that the NFC East will be theirs to dominate in 2014. And after Philly outgained an experienced Pittsburgh team by a 173-yard margin in a one-sided victory, it’s tempting to start thinking about this team’s chances of breaking a half-century-long championship slump five months down the line.