It was early, early Monday, and Bill Davis, the Eagles defensive coordinator, was trying to outlast the final wave of media asking about embattled cornerback Bradley Fletcher after Tony Romo and Dez Bryant singed him for three touchdowns in the Cowboys' 38-27 victory.

"I believe in Bradley Fletcher,'' Davis said, finally, defiantly. "He didn't make the plays on the ball today, but I believe in his ability.''

Week in and week out, Eagles players speak of their head coach and his teaching-minded assistants in a similar manner. Whether it is Dave Fipp with the special teams, Jerry Azzinaro with the defensive line, Davis or the head coach himself, praise for their ability to convey concepts and both ask for and incorporate player input is recurring.

The Eagles are clearly not where they want to be with two games left in the season. But the trust and camaraderie that has marked the two years under Kelly and his staff has not taken a noticeable hit.

Which is a whole lot more than you can say about the team they're going to play Sunday.

Eight months after their newest coach called the Eagles' release of DeSean Jackson "curious,'' Redskins coach Jay Gruden appears to be having yet another aha moment in a season full of them, a season that has already included benching his franchise quarterback, benching his replacement, and now, publicly challenging either or both to step up.

But back to DeSean.

"He's a very good wide receiver, but the last couple of weeks, he's been dealing with an injury and he hasn't been quite the same," Gruden said in a conference call with Philadelphia reporters the other day. "I'm a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately kind of guy. Lately, we haven't seen the DeSean we need to see.''

In that statement, and his pointed praise later for Jeremy Maclin, Gruden may have said more inflammatory things about Jackson this week than Kelly did in an entire 2013 season, or even after the controversial decision to release him after last season. He praised Jackson then, in fact, claimed he had no off-field problems with him, called it "a football decision'' and wished him luck.

But once all the gang-member baloney had subsided and people started to dissect his Pro Bowl season a little more closely, there were some numbers to suggest method to Kelly's apparent madness.

Start with 2013 being only the second season Jackson played in all 16 games. Continue with his declined production as the season wore on, accumulating fewer than 60 receiving yards in four of his last five games, coming up small in the postseason loss to New Orleans, as well.

This year? A mixed bag again. He leads the NFL in catches of 40 yards or more with 10, but only one of them has occurred over the last five games. In fact, since a 120-yard game in a loss to Minnesota on Nov.2, Jackson has a total of 173 yards in the four games he has played since.

Some of that has been attributed to a shin injury he will carry into Saturday's game against the Eagles, but that's precisely the point. All the talk about how Jackson could solve some of the Eagles' offensive woes ignores how below average he has performed over the last two Decembers.

And left his no longer "curious'' coach pleading for more.

"Hopefully, the motivation of playing against Philadelphia,'' Gruden said. " … Hopefully, he's a little more healthy."