After a big win over Baltimore yesterday, the Eagles are 2-0 despite turning the ball over nine times in their first eight quarters.What’s so surprising about Philly’s early-season success is that they’re doing it with essentially the same guys that underperformed so dramatically last year.
Every meaningful player at QB, running back, wide receiver, and tight end is back from last year. There were a few changes along the offensive line, but it’s still just as porous as it was last year. On defence, the secondary is the same except for Asante Samuel, who was traded to Atlanta, and the defensive line is all back.
There is only one significant upgrade from 2011, and it’s the one reason why the Eagles should be taken seriously this year — linebacker Demeco Ryans.
By nature, Philly’s “wide nine” defensive scheme puts a ton of pressure on linebackers and safeties to plug the gaps in the running game. Last year, the Eagles went with a rotating cast of mediocre characters at their defence’s most vital position, and the team suffered.
Without a playmaker at the centre of the defence, they couldn’t force turnovers (they ranked 17th in INTs and 18th in fumbles recovered), and couldn’t get off the field the late-game losses to Arizona, Buffalo, and San Francisco that doomed their season.
Yesterday, Ryans got an interception, a sack, and the Eagles stopped the Ravens on a drive with one minute left that was exactly the type of game-losing drive they would have allowed last year.
Philly totally lucked out with Ryans.
He is a former Pro Bowler and a three-down linebacker who fits the scheme perfectly. But they were able to get him for just a 4th-round pick because he was coming off an Achilles injury and struggled when the Texans switched to a 3-4 defence in 2011.
He is the primary reason why a team that stunk so bad last year has a real chance to make noise this year.
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