Their first two games couldn't have gone any better.
Mychal Kendricks and Brandon Boykin looked like 10-year veterans against the Browns and Ravens. But on Sunday in Arizona they played like what they are: rookies.
The challenges don't end there. When the New York Giants visit the Eagles for Sunday night's showdown at Lincoln Financial Field, Kendricks and Boykin are sure to be tested by two of the Giants' better offensive weapons in the middle of the field.
Kendricks won't be the only Eagles defender to cover tight end Martellus Bennett, but as the strong-side linebacker it is inevitable that he will at some point. Boykin, as the inside cornerback, will see different wide receivers lining up in the slot, but Victor Cruz is the most dangerous.
Neither seemed fazed by his task.
"As far as I'm concerned, he's just another tight end in the NFL," Kendricks said of Bennett. "Just like the ones I've faced thus far. I respect his size and his speed and his athletic ability, but I'm just going to come at him like I did the other tight ends."
Boykin, who had his hands full with Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald on Sunday, didn't want to talk exclusively about Cruz, even though 233 of the receiver's 279 yards have come when he was lined up in the slot.
"Whoever's in front of me, that's who I'll be guarding, and that's who I'll be beating - that's my mind-set," Boykin said Friday. "It doesn't matter who it is."
The Eagles know Cruz all too well, of course. A year ago, safety Kurt Coleman said, he knew little of the receiver who had only two catches for 17 yards heading into the first meeting of the Eagles and Giants last Sept. 25.
"There really wasn't much film on him, and he hadn't really blown up like he had, so it was kind of like Hakeem Nicks was the major focal point for us that game," Coleman said. "Well, we all know Victor Cruz can play."
Cruz had two touchdowns in the first game. One was a 74-yard catch-and-run on which Coleman missed a tackle, the other a 28-yard leaping catch in the end zone over cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
Cruz, on the way to the Pro Bowl and a Super Bowl ring, caught nine passes for 238 yards in two games against the Eagles. Three receptions resulted in touchdowns and Cruz's now-famous salsa celebration that new defensive backs coach Todd Bowles made a point of addressing in the offseason.
"In one of the first meetings, he said, 'We're not going to have that,' " Asomugha said.
With the equally dangerous Nicks doubtful for Sunday, Cruz could line up more often on the outside. But that doesn't mean Giants quarterback Eli Manning will ignore the middle - not with a 6-foot-6, 265-pound target in Bennett.
Rarely used as a receiver during his four years with Dallas, Bennett has become a top target in his first season in New York. He has 15 catches for 185 yards and three scores. The 5-11 Kendricks, along with middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans and safety Nate Allen, will often be charged with shadowing the tight end.
"Hopefully, my size and his size throws Eli off a little bit on where to place the ball," said Kendricks, who had a vertical leap of 391/2 inches at the NFL scouting combine in February.
Kendricks displayed that athleticism in the first two games. He was solid in Arizona, but did make a wrong read on a crucial third-down pickup by Cardinals tight end Jeff King. Boykin had a rougher day against Fitzgerald; he also missed two tackles.
Despite the expected mistakes, both players have shown they can compete at this level. The competition gets harder Sunday night.
Extra points. Defensive end Jason Babin was fined $15,750 by the NFL for a horse-collar tackle against the Cardinals. No penalty was called on the play. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was fined $7,875 for unnecessarily striking a player. . . . Tackle King Dunlap (hamstring) and linebacker Akeem Jordan (hamstring) will not play Sunday. Demetress Bell will start in place of Dunlap at left tackle and Jamar Chaney will take Jordan's place at weakside linebacker. . . . Long snapper Jon Dorenbos (ankle) is listed as questionable. The Eagles have until 4 p.m. to activate Kyle Nelson from the practice squad and release a player from the 53-man roster if Dorenbos can't play.