Eagles get ready to go up against Jack Del Rio…

Forget for a moment the challenge of stopping Peyton Manning and his multi-faceted Broncos offense… How will the Eagles overcome the challenge to score more points than Peyton does? This is a loaded question, because the Eagles defense and special teams are allowed to score points, too.

But when you get right down to it, the Eagles offense will be relied upon to put dozens of points on the board if they have any chance at all to come out of Denver with a win.

Nobody is more aware of this logical fact than the Broncos' second-year defensive cordinator, Jack Del Rio

You know Jack, he's our old friend… ran a nice little piece on what Del Rio expects to see from Chip Kelly's offense on Sunday.

There are some obvious similarities between the Raiders, the Broncos’ most recent opponent, and the Eagles, the Broncos’ upcoming foe.

They both have dangerous running games bolstered by quick and athletic quarterbacks that aren’t afraid to make plays on their feet. But defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said Thursday that the comparisons between the two quarterbacks doesn’t go much further than that.

“They’re really completely different, other than they’re both mobile (quarterbacks),” Del Rio said. “The Raiders were very methodical in their approach. They had a lot of big people and a lot more two-back stuff. This Eagles thing is a lot more fast-tempo, spread the field. They both have the option element in the quarterback, that is the mobile element, but vastly different systems.”

The Eagles’ system, under first year Head Coach Chip Kelly, is very fast— and not just compared to the Raiders – compared to the league. The Eagles have racked up the second most yards in the NFL in the first three games and have done so while holding on to the ball for shortest time of possession in the league.

While it will be the Broncos’ first crack at a mobile quarterback in a system with speed like that, it’s not the first time the Broncos have had to deal with that tempo. They’ve worked against it all summer.

“We’ve seen the NASCAR tempo from our own offense in practice for the last—I don’t know, it’s been a long time,” Del Rio said. “We are more comfortable going fast, but that doesn’t mean that everything will be beautiful on Sunday. We certainly work that tempo a lot, it’s part of what we do daily. So we should be more comfortable in our communication and the execution.”

Hmmm…almost makes me think that the best way Chip Kelly could upset the Broncos' defensive tempo would be to slow things down… or at least throw in a change-up or three to go along with the fastball… but I digress.

The Broncos also have some big hitters waiting for us if we let our guard down…

The Broncos’ third-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, cornerback Kayvon Webster, has handled the transition from the University of South Florida to the NFL well and has landed a couple of thunderous hits in the process.

He’s appeared in all three games for the Broncos so far this year and has registered four tackles and three passes defensed – some more emphatically than others.  But the rookie has proven to his coaches that he can handle what they’re asking of him.

“I like that when he goes in the game he doesn’t look like it’s too big for him," Del Rio said. "He’s come in and just done his job. He’s a physical corner. He’s a bigger corner. I think he can really run. I think you saw an example of his opening up the other night to go try and chase that guy down, he can really run. And the moment doesn’t appear too big for him, which is great because he’s going to be, he’s going to find himself in a lot of those moments, so we want him to play well.”

Webster's attitude has caught the eye of the most veteran member of the Broncos’ seconday – Champ Bailey. Webster has reached out the Bailey to pick his brain a few times and Bailey said Thursday that the two talk a lot about a variety of topics.

“I’m really impressed,” Bailey said. “He’s a rookie, but he doesn’t carry himself like he’s a rookie. He definitely thinks he should be playing every snap and I like that kind of attitude.”

Bailey added that Webster has shown resiliency in the way that he has bounced back from mistakes saying that “he’s had some rough spots, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by his demeanor.”

Then there's Malik Jackson, a developing force at defensive end for the Broncos.

In his rookie season, defensive end Malik Jackson played in 14 games and registered five total tackles. In this, his second season, he’s already nearly matched those numbers with four tackles and a half a sack.

He picked up the first half-sack of his career against Pryor Monday night.

Del Rio said that Jackson was more confident in what he was doing and compared him to fellow second-year defensive lineman Derek Wolfe.

“They can play end and move inside and play tackle,” Del Rio said. “Strong. Quick. He’s a younger player that has really blossomed this year into a good football player. He made a handful of plays last year throughout but he’s playing a bigger role for us now and he’s doing a good job in that role.

“So we’re happy about the way he’s working.”

Malik Jackson is 6-5 and weighs 293, by the way. He is in his second season with the Broncos out of Tennessee. He was born and raised in Los Angeles. He was a 5th Round pick by the Broncos in the 2012 draft.

Malik is an example of a defensive guy who got better as he physically and mentally matured at the pro level.

Meanwhile, the Broncos' offensive coordinator Adam Gase is a little bit concerned about the turnovers committed by his team against the Raiders, and also a little worried that trend could spill over into the Eagles game.

Although their offense rolled up 536 total yards and erupted for 27 first-half points in the Broncos’ 37-21 win over the Raiders on Monday night, OC Adam Gase noted that there hasn’t been time to reflect on the successes that the unit has had – only time for correcting miscues and improving its overall execution in preparation for the Eagles on Sunday.     

“We had two hours to enjoy the game before you went to bed and next day in the film room we’re on Philly,” Gase said on Thursday. “We haven’t had really a chance to look back and say, ‘Hey, we were good in this.’ I guess everything we’re doing we’re saying, ‘We need to work on this, we need to improve on this,’ and that’s been our main focus this week is what do we have to fix from the last game.”

One area that Gase underlined for improvement concerned the two turnovers – a pair of fumbles – that the Broncos conceded to the Raiders.

Both fumbles led to Oakland touchdowns, but one of them in particular – a third quarter sack of Manning where Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston got around the edge and hit the quarterback from behind, forcing a fumble – troubled Gase especially.

Gase took accountability for the fumble, noting that he believed his play call put tackle Chris Clark in a difficult position, which led to the sack.

“I think the sack-fumble is the one that bothers me because that was a bad play call,” Gase said. “I put Chris in a bad position there and that (play) was a ball-holder. We didn’t need it and that would be one where I’d want to take back because our guys, if we put them in the right positions, they make it work."

The Broncos also lost a Montee Ball fumble later in the fourth quarter, which set the Raiders up with advantageous field position for their final touchdown. And while the slip ultimately may not have cost the Broncos the game against the Raiders, Gase stressed the importance of hanging onto the football and finishing drives against the Eagles and future opponents.  

“We need to be more successful in that area. We turn the ball over and we can’t do that,” he said. “Right there was a massive lesson. Thankfully for us it didn’t affect the game. We have to figure out a way to hold onto the ball and finish that drive. We have to finish those drives with the ball in our hand or in the end zone, however it works out.”

Although his name was called on the aforementioned fumble, Gase noted that Chris Clark’s performance throughout the game in his first start at left tackle was impressive.

“He did very well. I was impressed at (his) great communication,” Gase said. “That’s the biggest and the hardest part of what we do is making sure we’re all on the same page.”

While it was Clark’s first time filling in for the injured Ryan Clady at left tackle, Gase pointed out that Clark was battle-tested throughout the offseason taking snaps with the first team while Clady was rehabilitating an injury.

Now that Clark has proven he can play at a high level, what remains is whether he can perform consistently throughout the season – as Gase noted.

“He’s been doing it with the ones since the spring so he’s ahead of the curve,” Gase said. “Right now it’s going to be, ‘Hey, can he keep this up every game?’ Like he told me after the game, that’s the first time he’s played a full game since college. Every week has just got to be a little bit better for him.”

Gase noted that the improvements Clark has made in both run blocking and pass protection were evident in the Raiders game.

“I think that’s the one thing that he worked on through the spring and in training camp, to be a better run blocker,” Gase said. “We’ve always felt really good with him as a pass protector, and what he showed the other day, that’s what we’re looking for and he’s only going to get better from here on out.”

Meanwhile half of Philadelphia's fan base is hanging on to the hope that the Eagles pass pressure defense can somehow unmask Chris Clark and take advantage of the fact that Clady is out.

In assessing the Eagles' defense, Gase made it clear that efficient, clean offensive execution will be at a premium for the Broncos against a unit that has forced five turnovers this season and has stiffened in the red zone. 

“They’re doing a good job of creating turnovers,” Gase said. “They’re doing a really good job in the red area and that’s going to be our biggest struggle — to make sure that we’re scoring touchdowns in the red area and we’re not kicking field goals.”

Peyton Manning echoed his evaluation.

“The Eagles defense, from what I’ve seen so far, is a defense that flies around,” Manning said. “They’re very stingy in the red zone; they can create turnovers.”

And while wide receiver Demaryius Thomas noted that the Broncos expect a wide-array of looks from the Eagles' defense, he also pointed out that watching the squad on film will only reveal so much.

“They’ll throw a lot of different things at us, different blitzes, coverage-wise,” Thomas said. “Every week I feel like it’s a challenge for us because we never know what somebody is going to do. We might watch film but we never know what they’ll throw against us once we hit the field.”

I think I learned one thing from this peek inside the Broncos' preparation for the Eagles— head coach John Fox respects us…as he should based upon his lifetime record coaching against us in a previous life… and is preaching similar respect to his assistants and players. Somehow, and color me an optimist, I think that's an omen that bodes well for the Eagles in Denver.





Thomas Jackson

About Thomas Jackson

Jax Sports Media has been reporting on NFL teams in the mid-Atlantic region since 2006. Thomas Jackson is its senior writer. Tom started covering the Philadelphia Eagles for the MVN Network in 2007. In 2009 he joined the Bloguin Network. He now also covers the Baltimore Ravens.