After watching the Eagles hold three Pro Bowl runners well below their rushing averages, scouts are raving about the defense being played in Philadelphia. Although the Eagles have always been one of the better defenses against the pass, their dramatic improvement against the run has moved them into the ranks of the elite.
"Their defense is playing really well right now," said an NFC personnel director. "They are aggressive in all areas, and their ability to stop the run on early downs is allowing
The Eagles' fourth-ranked defense has only allowed 137 rushing yards in three games, and their 2.4 yards per carry leads the league. In fact, only 19 of the 58 rushing attempts against the Eagles this season have gone for three or more yards, and the team has not allowed a run over 20 yards.
While other top ranked defenses can produce numbers that are in that range, the fact that the Eagles accomplished those feats while facing a trio of Pro Bowl runners (
"Their guys appear to have a great understanding of their roles," said an NFC personnel director. "They are playing well within the scheme and making the plays that they are supposed to make."
Although the Eagles have been getting outstanding early-season performances from their young front seven, defensive coordinator Jim Johnson also deserves a lot of credit for taking advantage of a more talented secondary to fortify the run defense. Free agent signee,
"It's easier to heat people up when you have good cover guys," said an NFC personnel director. "You are willing to take more chances because you feel like you have the personnel to handle the receivers outside. With the receivers out of the equation, you can focus on confusing offensive linemen by using a handful of different pressures upfront. That's been the real key to their improvement against the run."
Regardless of their hot start defending the run, the Eagles will continue to be tested on the ground as they face three tough runners within their division (
With defending the run being the hallmark of a championship defense, the Eagles will get every opportunity to show they are up to the challenge.
• The Rams' decision to bench quarterback
The Rams have allowed 11 sacks through three games and are coming off a season where they allowed sixth-most sacks in the league (48). While the offensive line was besieged by injuries last season, the unit has continued to struggle in pass protection this year, despite the return of several starters. Seven-time Pro Bowler
"They have numerous issues upfront," said an NFC scout. "Pace trying to find his game after missing last season with the injury, and Incognito has been more focused on fighting than developing as a player. Plus, Barron has continued to be maddeningly inconsistent at tackle. With all of the issues that they have, it's no wonder that Bulger has been unable to play up to his previous form."
Bulger, the quickest quarterback in NFL history to reach 1,000 completions, has struggled this season in
"He is a little shell-shocked in the pocket," said an NFC personnel director. "He has been hit so much that he appears to be a little hesitant when he throws."
That makes the decision to hand the ball to
Linehan threw Bulger under the bus in an attempt to save his job, but finding a way to repair the Rams' porous offensive line would've been the better solution.
• Despite being cleared of a series of alcohol-related charges, front office executives are taking a wait-and-see approach when it comes to signing former first round pick
The fourth overall pick from the 2005 NFL Draft was not indicted of boating while intoxicated, resisting arrest and driving while intoxicated by two grand juries on charges stemming from two separate incidents in Texas over the summer. The negativity surrounding both incidents eventually led the Bears to release Benson, and teams were reluctant to pick him up until his legal situation was resolved. With the issue resolved and no punishment pending from the league, Benson must convince a team that his talent is worth the risk associated with signing the enigmatic runner to a contract.
"His off-field issues were a concern," said an AFC scout. "But he hasn't been very productive on the field. Plus, he suffered a series of injuries, so his durability also comes into question."
Benson rushed for 1,593 yards on 420 attempts with 10 rushing touchdowns during his three-year stint with the Bears. Though those numbers aren't eye-popping for a first-round pick, but they are respectable enough to keep the "bust" label off the former University of Texas star at this point -- and intriguing enough to induce a running back-starved team to pull the trigger during the season. In fact, the Lions, Saints and Texans have reportedly expressed interest in Benson and more teams are likely to call now that his legal situation is resolved.
"I think somebody will take a bite of that apple," said an AFC personnel executive. "He's a former top pick, and he comes at a reasonable cost. If he is anything close to the player that he was in college, it could turn out to be a worthwhile gamble."
However, all personnel people aren't as high on his talent, and the off-field concerns make them hesitant to pull the trigger.
"If we were in a jam, I would consider it," said an AFC personnel director. "But he hasn't proven that he can be a good player in our league."
"He can be a pretty good back up," added an NFC personnel director. "But based on his off-field antics and locker room demeanor he appears to be a time bomb. I don't know if it would be worth the headache."