LANDOVER, Md. – Brandon Graham may have been biased, but when the Eagles end was asked if the Eagles' defense had an identity, it's likely that his brethren in the victorious locker room at FedEx Field would have nodded in agreement.

"I think we got a hell of a D-line," Graham said after the Eagles exorcised their Redskins demons and knocked off the NFC East rivals, 30-17, in the opener. "We got everybody contributing today. Everybody was playing together, and that was why we was able to get sacks."

The Eagles recorded four sacks, and two resulted in Kirk Cousins fumbles, the last forced by Graham and recovered by Fletcher Cox, who sauntered into the end zone for the game-clinching touchdown.

It took a complete effort to hold the Redskins' offense to just 10 points. The D-line would not have gotten home without tight coverage in the secondary, and the linebackers and safeties would not have pressured Cousins with timely blitzes – one of which led to a red-zone interception – if the box defenders had not done their job against the run.

But the Eagles defense, as authored by coordinator Jim Schwartz, is predicated on the aggressiveness of the front-liners. He has had essentially the same scheme for 15 years, and, while he mixed in a few more five-, six- and seven-man rushes than he did most of last season, the big boys up front are paid to eat.

"We don't want to be blitz-happy, especially when we have our front the way they are," Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "They got their ears pinned back, and they're getting pressure. No need for us to blitz."

Graham notched two fourth-quarter sacks and two other tackles for loss. Cox had the early sack/forced fumble. And defensive tackle Tim Jernigan, acquired in a trade in April, picked up his first sack with his new team.

The Eagles have invested heavily in their line. Nearly a quarter of their salary cap is devoted to the unit. They have also expended three first-round draft picks there over the years, including this year's top selection, Derek Barnett.

"We got some great additions with Chris Long and Jernigan, [Barnett]," Graham said. "We're all fresh out there."

Unlike many coaches, Schwartz is unafraid to emphasize the importance of sacks. Pressure without a sack can be just as effective, as the zero blitz that forced Cousins to throw to corner Jalen Mills exemplified. But sacks are negative-yard plays, and as Cox's early takedown showed, they give defenders a free pass to make their presence felt.

"If you hit any quarterback early," Cox said, "it kind of rattles him."

Cousins was not the Cousins who had torched the Eagles in the teams' five previous meetings – all Eagles losses. He lost two of his favorite targets to free agency – DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon – and he and his receivers were out of sync on many throws. But Cousins wasn't playing in a vacuum.

Schwartz had his group playing sound football. Run gaps were filled and Redskins backs managed just 2.6 yards a carry. Inside coverage held tight end Jordan Reed and slot receiver Jamison Crowder to a combined eight catches for 50 yards. And with Cousins often in third and long, Schwartz dialed up a variety  of exotic blitzes.

But he also gave Jenkins, fellow safety Rodney McLeod, and linebacker Jordan Hicks more flexibility to check in and out of calls.

"There were a few times we could come to him, 'Hey, let's do this,' or 'Let's do that,' and we can build layers into our calls where we're running it on the field based on what we see," Jenkins said. "I think that's what you see in your second year in a scheme."

Perhaps. It should be noted that the Eagles were just as exuberant following their season-opening domination of the Browns a year ago. They surrendered only 10 points, recorded three sacks, and forced an interception.

The Eagles allowed an average of just 13.3 points and tallied 20 sacks in the first six games. But they allowed an average of 25.1 points and recorded 14 sacks in the final 10 games.

"We're not worried about last year, we're worried about this year," Graham said. "And I think with the team we got this year, we got a chance. It's up to us to stay together and not start off hot like we did last year and go 3-0 and then fall off."

The Redskins, like the Browns, did not appear to be the stiffest test. The Chiefs will offer a better indication next Sunday. But the Redskins had been a monkey on the Eagles' back. They averaged 6 yards on the ground vs. Schwartz's unit last year.

"We knew they were going to try and run the ball after last year being physical with us," Hicks said. "We really put a premium on stopping it."

The wide-nine front can often be susceptible to the run and misdirection. The Redskins hit the Eagles with several passes that took advantage of their aggressiveness. But this isn't Jim Washburn's D-line, even though Graham said this group was the best he had seen since the former assistant was with the Eagles.

"We had some good boys that year," Graham said.

They did, but the last defenses of the Andy Reid era were not consistent enough against the run and they eventually turned on each other. Hicks said that won't be the case with this team.

"There's a different feel in the locker room," Hicks said. "We can definitely feel it. It's out there on the sideline. … When [cornerback Ronald] Darby goes down, everybody's hurt. Everybody feels it. Guys care about each other. I think that's what it takes to be a great team, great defense."

A defense that has solidarity may be the best identity to have.

jmclane@phillynews.com
@Jeff_McLane