Secondary won't face Rodgers, but won't take Wallace lightly

Posted: November 11, 2013

WHEN LOOKING ahead at the Eagles schedule a few weeks ago, cornerback Roc Carmichael circled tomorrow's game against Green Bay because he hoped for a chance to go up against one of the game's best quarterbacks in Aaron Rodgers, as well as second-year wide receiver Jarrett Boykin, his former teammate at Virginia Tech.

Following a collarbone injury to Rodgers in the Packers' 27-20 loss to the Bears on "Monday Night Football," Carmichael might get to challenge only Boykin, with Rodgers sidelined, but said the secondary will not take its foot off the pedal with backup quarterback Seneca Wallace under center for Green Bay.

"Aaron Rodgers is one of best players in the NFL, and, for myself, watching him come out against Houston last year, he put up some points against us," Carmichael said. "For me, it would have been a challenge to go up against him, but even with him not playing, I feel good about us going out there and playing a tough football team."

As a group, the Philadelphia secondary has greatly improved in recent weeks, most notably in limiting the deep ball. With one of the league's elite quarterbacks sidelined this week, cornerback Cary Williams thinks the Packers will rush the ball more, but the Eagles will not ignore the potential for deep passes.

Asked why the Eagles secondary has limited the deep ball in recent weeks, Williams replied: "I think it's communication. That's one thing we have really worked our tails off on. We really put an emphasis on communicating and getting guys on the same page. When you get guys on the same page, you disrupt the timing between the quarterback and wide receiver, and I think we have been doing a tremendous job of keeping things in front of us."

In addition to limiting the deep ball, the Eagles have not allowed a passing touchdown since Oct. 20 against Dallas. Philadelphia held quarterback Eli Manning and the rest of the Giants offense to five field goals, while the Raiders scored only twice on the ground last weekend.

"It just boils down to guys understanding their role, effort and understanding that you have to keep everything in front of you," Williams said. "We don't get down in the red zone, and we have to understand that it's another unique challenge for us, and I think we have responded well to it. We understand if they don't score, they don't win and that has gone a long way for us and for this defense."

By not allowing a passing touchdown in back-to-back games for the first time since 2008, the defense hopes to extend that streak by continuing the same methods it used against New York and Oakland.

"It's about being well prepared and knowing what down and distance it is at all times," Carmichael said. "It's also knowing when to expect the deep ball, where to expect the deep ball and also knowing the quarterback. Going against a guy like Eli [Manning] vs. a guy like Terrelle Pryor, who is going to throw a couple, because he's got great arm strength, but that's not really his forté. It's just knowing who is throwing the ball and who we are playing each week and our defensive backs are playing really well."

Sunday at Oakland, the Philadelphia defense allowed the Raiders to convert only six of 18 third-down attempts. As the defense continues to improve each week, the Eagles opponent's passer rating in the last five games is 63.3, down from 107.6 in the first four games. In addition, the team has not allowed a third-down touchdown pass in the last five games.

"I think we're making steps to improving on third down, and I think we've been making strides each week," Williams said. "Obviously 6-for-18 is great, but we can't get complacent. We understand we have a different challenge this week, and it's gonna be another opportunity for us to go out there and prove that we can play as an elite defense and play as a great unit together."

Like the Raiders, the Packers also struggled on third down against the Bears Monday night, converting only one of nine chances.

"I think the four-man press rush got after them. It really did," defensive coordinator Bill Davis said on Tuesday. "They didn't really pressure a whole lot, they pressured some. But their four-man rush, with [defensive end Julius] Peppers and those guys, I think put pressure on Seneca."

Besides applying basic pressure to Wallace, the Eagles will face the challenge of limiting a receiving core filled with such weapons as Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Boykin, to name a few.

In seven full games with Rodgers this season, Nelson leads the Packers with seven touchdowns - one more than Eagles' wide receiver DeSean Jackson. After suffering a pectorals injury against the Raiders, Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher said on Thursday that the injury has improved and he expects to help defend the Packers' weapons tomorrow in Green Bay.

"We still gotta prepare as if [Wallace] was running the same offense that Rodgers would be," Fletcher said. "But Seneca can still run around a bit, and they have some pretty good weapons as well so we have to be ready for everything."

Earlier this week, the Eagles signed cornerback Curtis Marsh, who was one of the final cuts by the team when choosing the 53-man roster in late August. His addition to the roster adds depth to the cornerback position if Fletcher is not 100 percent, but Marsh said he is ready to play as much as he is needed, despite signing only on Tuesday.

"I've been in the system since the offseason, so I remember all the plays, and it's just a matter of getting back on the practice field and getting used to the techniques, but it's been a real quick transition, and I feel like I never left," Marsh said. "I feel like I'm ready, and I've been looking for an opportunity to play significant time in this league since I got in it so I'm extremely excited for the opportunity and I'm going to go at it 100 percent."

Although the Eagles won't face Rodgers at Lambeau Field, the defense has prepared for every aspect of the Green Bay offense, not just their former Super Bowl MVP.

"He's a great quarterback, but he's only one guy on their offense," Fletcher said. "They still have a lot of other players and we have to be ready for them, too."

On Twitter: @JohnMurrow12

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