"I think we are a good defense," McDermott said. "We've been inconsistent, which happens with young teams . . . We've got to get that ironed out. That'll take place over time here. We continue to play good, aggressive football, intense, emotional football, and that'll iron itself out. We need to be more consistent."
The run defense against Detroit was a good illustration. (And a relevant one, with the Birds visiting run-oriented Jacksonville this weekend.) The Lions gained a whopping 109 yards on 17 carries in the first half. After McDermott had a little halftime talk, Detroit gained 6 yards on nine carries the rest of the way. That kind of turnaround is hard to account for.
"We weren't fitting the run the way we needed to, from a scheme standpoint, knowing where the gaps were, based on their running scheme, and physically, we just got handled" early on, McDermott said. "Knowing how we fit the run was a key part of it.
"We weren't very physical, and the vision for this defense is to be a flat-out physical football team on defense, so I was disappointed in that . . . We did a better job [with the run game] in the second quarter and third quarter, then got sloppy down at the end of the game there, which I'm not happy about."
McDermott said he thinks the return of middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, out since halftime of the opener with a concussion, will help his defense progress.
"It's huge," McDermott said. "We have that big body back inside from a performance standpoint, but also a leadership standpoint."
Rookie defensive end Brandon Graham suggested that defenders "might not have known the type of block the [Lions] were trying to give, because it wasn't what we practiced, but coach corrected it, and we ended up stopping the run."
The inconsistency has to do with sometimes taking things for granted, Graham said.
"Most of it is probably intensity," he said. "You're beatin' on somebody five times in a row, the sixth time you're going to be like, 'Oh, I expect to do it, this time,' but you can't be like that."
Defensive tackle Trevor Laws said the first-half running woes had to do with overpursuit, and rookie back Jahvid Best exploiting it - something Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew also is capable of doing.
"They were running the zone play, and they were cutting it back, outside of our entire defense," Laws said. "Guys were overpursuing. We're such a fast team, guys were running, flying to the ball sometimes they'd lost the cutback lanes."
Laws sees the antidote to inconsistency as "just getting used to playing with who we're playing with."
"You can use our speed against us," Bradley said. "In the long run, we'll learn how to react to those."
The way the defense has played these first few weeks "is not Eagles football," defensive end Trent Cole said. "We don't give up points like that. We've got to stop that."
Another thing that seemed to confound the Eagles down the stretch against Detroit was the hurry-up offense. Pass-rush pressure seemed to ease, and suddenly, receivers were open over the middle.
"We had our nickel on the field, so we knew it was a passing, one-dimensional game at that point, and we got sloppy, and that's going to change," McDermott said.
He agreed that the Eagles seemed to relax a bit with the big lead.
"That is human nature, and we can't let that happen," he said. "We can't let that be human nature for us on defense . . . a defense with the right kind of attitude doesn't let that happen."
The 1-1 Jaguars, despite getting blown out last week by the Chargers, 38-13, have run the ball 58 times (for 205 yards) through two games and thrown it 63. Jones-Drew has 35 carries for 129 yards.
"Picking the right holes, seeing openings, that's what he's good at," Cole said. "And he's hard to tackle."
Bradley said the Jags "are a big enough team and are strong enough that they can line up and run right at you, and they also misdirection run, their quarterback [David Garrard] can run. Making it a one-dimensional game is key any week, but especially with these guys. The heart and soul of their team lies with their running back."
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