When you think of the Jacksonville Jaguars, defense is not the first thing that comes to mind. However, since the team hired Gus Bradley to be their head coach last season, the Jaguars' defense is on the rise. As a result, the Philadelphia Eagles are ready for a test from Jacksonville Sunday in the regular season opener.
“They’ve improved on the defense, they have Red Bryant and they have a really good, solid defensive line,” Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said of Jacksonville. “You saw them in the preseason but obviously the preseason is different than the regular season but I think they are a team that's an up and coming team. I think [Jaguars head coach] Gus [Bradley] did a good job with them.”
Bradley was the architect who helped mold the Seattle Seahawks defense into one of the best in the NFL, before leaving to take the Jags job. He also interviewed with the Eagles for their head coaching vacancy before the team hired Chip Kelly. With Bradley at the helm, the Jaguars focused on improving their defense by adding former Seahawks Red Bryant and Chris Clemons to the defensive line. They also have tackling machine Paul Posluszny manning the middle linebacker spot.
“The model for it certainly is Seattle where Gus [Bradley] was previous, and then this year they went out and got two pieces to add to the defensive line, Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, who were in Seattle, two guys that have really helped them up front,” Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said of the Jaguars defense. “Posluszny, everybody would love to have him as a middle linebacker and then I think they are just a solid, steady group that plays well together.”
The improvements made to the Jacksonville defense will present the Eagles challenges. However, the Eagles have some fire power of their own. Philadelphia's offensive line will be a key to the game. The unit was terrific a season ago. If they can keep quarterback Nick Foles upright, he will have a chance to really test the Jacksonville secondary, which is the most questionable part of their defense.
The Eagles will also not be shy running the football with LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles. Both possess huge playmaking ability. So while the Jags will offer a test, the Eagles offense is a potent group capable of presenting them with a slew of problems.
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