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T.J. Edwards Points to String on Back End That Needs Tightening

The Eagles new LB1 understands the back seven needs to pick up its play

PHILADELPHIA - The Eagles defense is taking a ton of hits in recent days when it comes to fans who simply do not like a passive approach on that side of the football.

Embattled defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon again explained his philosophy earlier this week.

"The quickest way to get beat is to get the ball thrown over your head," Gannon said.

The tightrope of limiting explosive passing plays has resulted in good quarterbacks putting together historic completion percentages when playing against the Philadelphia defense.

And the targeting of blame by critics hasn't exactly been like a smart bomb.

Depending on the day and the critic, the Eagles' defensive woes could be blamed on the underachieving defensive line, the talent-deficient linebackers, or the lack of press coverage on the back end.

Edwards, who has played lights out against Detroit and the Los Angeles Chargers over the past two weeks, pointed to his own house: the back seven.

"That's really the back end - the safeties and DBs and linebackers - being connected on a string," Edwards said when asked by SI.com's EagleMaven about opposing QBs connecting with their initial reads. "If the DBs are going to take away the big plays we gotta get closer to coverage so we can take away those early check-downs.

"At the end of the day, we're trying to do a good job of keeping a roof over everything so our D-Line can rush [the passer]. So it comes down to guys in the middle of the field getting closer to that coverage so that we can give our D-Line time."

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It's about complementary football, something Gannon preaches and Edwards has heard loud and clear as the Mike LB.

"We prep so hard throughout the week and we always have a good idea of what's coming and what we see," Edwards said. "... it's guys trusting those reads and trusting those plays and that we're going to see those plays and just attack it because I think we tried to do the thing of trying to help each other out at times but at times we just have to get to our coverage and stick to it so the quarterback does have to go to his second and third read."

And if the QB is hesitating or being forced to go through his progression that gives Fletcher Cox and Co. more opportunities to get home.

"I think the quarterbacks we've played have done a good job of getting the ball out quick. Kinda, trying to stop our rush a little bit," said Edwards. "... We've definitely had that as a point of emphasis from the start of the year. Still things we're trying make sure that we're on but I know we will get that fixed."

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 -John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.