Eagles try to tighten defense with Broncos next

By ROB MAADDI - AP Pro Football Writer
    2013-09-23 18:46

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Alex Smith, Philip Rivers and RG3 put up big numbers against the Philadelphia Eagles.

There's no telling what Peyton Manning will do.

The Eagles (1-2) are allowing yards passing at an alarming rate. They've given up 1,021 yards in the air so far, an average of 340 per game. Only San Diego and Washington are worse.

With Manning and the Denver Broncos (2-0) up next, the defense has to sort out its issues quickly.

``It's a huge challenge,'' coach Chip Kelly said. ``He's one of the all-time great quarterbacks in the history of the league, not just this season, he's done it for such a long time. He prides himself on his preparation. I think if you're a competitor, you're looking forward to it.''

A revamped secondary that includes three new starters isn't the only problem. The front seven's inability to pressure quarterbacks consistently makes it difficult for the backfield to hold the coverage.

Eventually, a receiver comes open.

``Pass defense is everybody,'' Kelly said. ``It's generating the pass rush, not letting the quarterback feel comfortable, being close in coverage. It's a combination of all those things.''

After allowing 33 touchdown passes last season, the Eagles replaced both starting cornerbacks. High-priced former Pro Bowl players Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were replaced by Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher. Patrick Chung replaced Kurt Coleman as one of the starting safeties and Nate Allen returned, though he's splitting time with rookie Earl Wolff.

``We have to shore up some things,'' Williams said. ``We have to go back to the drawing board, but we don't give up.''

Robert Griffin III struggled through most of the first three quarters in the season opener before leading Washington to 20 points in the final 16 minutes of Philadelphia's 33-27 win on Sept. 9. Griffin finished with 329 yards.

Rivers picked apart the secondary in Week 2, throwing for 419 yards in San Diego's 33-30 win. Smith passed for 273 yards in Kansas City's 26-16 win last Thursday.

With Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Stafford and Jay Cutler still on the schedule, things could get worse. Kelly is optimistic the group just needs more time playing together in a new system under defensive coordinator Billy Davis.

``We've got a lot of new players over there, new faces and a brand new scheme,'' Kelly said. ``They're starting to get comfortable with it, but the one thing I've told them since we started, `If you play with great effort, good things will happen to you.' I thought they did play with great effort (against the Chiefs). I thought they did a better job on some of those third-and-longs that we gave up.

``Again, I look at them in the fourth quarter, and I think a lot of it has to do with us offensively not doing our job and keeping them out there way too much.''

Kelly's fast-paced offense that was so impressive in the first half against the Redskins isn't helping the defense. The plan in Kelly's frenetic attack is to run a significant number of plays, but the offense hasn't lived up to its part. Since cramming 53 plays into the first half against Washington, the Eagles have run 145 plays in the last 10 quarters. As a result, time of possession has favored the opponents by a 2:1 margin the last two games.

But the defensive players won't point fingers. They expect to get off the field on their own.

``That doesn't matter how much we are on the field. Some of those times we kept ourselves on the field for longer than we should have,'' linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. ``We had them in third-and-long situations, we missed tackles and they made plays.

``We dug ourselves in holes on some of those.''


NOTE: The Eagles signed another one of Kelly's former Oregon players, adding WR Will Murphy to the practice squad. OL Isaac Remington was released. Murphy makes it five Eagles that were Ducks.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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