The Redskins, by contrast, rank 31st with a -5. Washington’s defense has yet to get an interception and has managed just one fumble recovery, while quarterback Kirk Cousins has thrown four interceptions and running back Matt Jones has lost two fumbles.
The Eagles’ turnaround has been no accident, according to Coach Chip Kelly, but the result of a concerted effort since spring.
“Obviously winning the turnover battle is essential in this league,” Kelly said in a conference call on Wednesday morning. “It has been a big point of emphasis for us since we got together last April.”
While Kelly kept his defensive line largely intact, he added depth at inside linebacker and reworked the secondary. Among the offseason acquisitions was former New York Giants safety Walter Thurmond III, who has two interceptions as an Eagle so far.
Moreover, Kelly doesn’t use his safeties in traditional roles of free and strong, but casts them as right and left safeties, almost like cornerbacks.
“The fact that both of our safeties, Walter Thurmond and Malcolm Jenkins, came into the league as corners, I think fits in what we’re trying to do defensively,” Kelly explained. “You have to be able to be a free safety and have great range. You also have to be able to come down in the slot and cover some of the really good receivers in this league.”
That setup, combined with the Eagles’ safeties’ ability, should help counter the Redskins’ wide receivers, the coach suggested.
As Kelly noted: “You’re going to get matched up with [Andre] Roberts at times. They do such a good job offensively in Washington of moving [Pierre] Garcon and DeSean [Jackson] and those guys around that you’ve got to have a safety who can cover. I think what we look for in our safeties is bigger, corner-type guys that have the ability to cover slots and tight ends. That’s what both Malcolm (6 feet, 204) Walt (5-11, 190) have the ability to do.”
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