LANDOVER, Md. — It was a one play in a dominating defensive effort, but it demonstrated how far the Eagles defense has come since the record dropped to 4-6 after a 48-7 humiliation in New Orleans on Nov. 18.
Since then the Eagles won five of their last six games to earn a playoff berth and the play by safety Malcolm Jenkins in Sunday’s 24-0 win over the Washington Redskins showed one reason the Eagles have improved so much defensively.
Early in the second quarter in a 3-0 game, Redskins quarterback Josh Johnson had plenty of open field if only he could elude Jenkins.
The Eagles safety made the one-on-one tackle, holding what could have been a huge play to a 6-yard gain.
It sounds so simple, but the Eagles say they are tackling better, just as that play by Jenkins demonstrated. It all began after the New Orleans game.
“We put the emphasis on doing the job on every single play no small margins of error mattered,” Jenkins said in the Eagles locker room at Fed Ex Field on Sunday “And those small things were haunting us earlier in the year. We corrected them.”
And the Eagles, who held Washington to 89 total net yards, corrected it largely by good old-fashioned fundamentals in tackling.
“It may have been simple plays like open field tackles or a solid tackle where if you are not leaking yards, all of a sudden you have the opportunity to make some plays,” Jenkins said. “For us, it is still the attention to detail, preparing in practice, having the energy playing fast and keeping it simple.”
When asked if he felt the tackling has been better, Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham, replied, “Oh yeah.”
Graham, who had two tackles for loss on Sunday, expanded on that thought.
“I believe we had to work on our technique, we had to make sure it is something we had to capitalize on because that could hurt us because we had a bunch of big backs were playing like [the Rams' Todd] Gurley, we needed those wins to get us in.”
Like his team, Eagles cornerback Rasul Douglas has played much better recently. He has averaged nine combined tackles per game in his last five contests.
Douglas jump-started the defense by intercepting a pass on the first play from scrimmage on Sunday. He also led the Eagles with six combined tackles.
“I noticed in games teams are allowing a cornerback to try to make the tackle, whether it is a running back or receiver,” Douglas said. "We talked in the room that we had to make the tackles and get the guys on the ground.”
In addition to better tackling, the Eagles, according to Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, have been coming together as a unit.
“We been playing team football, it is team football, guys flying around, guys doing their job,” Cox said. “I am not saying they weren’t doing their job when we are losing but we had to get guys settled in and just find the way we do things which is always good.”
That also meant tackling better.
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