Battered Eagles defense still finds a way | David Murphy

Linebacker Najee Goode, and Jake Elliott celebrate after Elliott’s game-winning field goal.

Any positive preseason prediction about this Eagles team had to be prefaced with significant “if.”

If they stay healthy.

It’s a qualifier that applies to all teams, but not to the extent it applies to the Eagles, whose depth has been whittled away by a series of poor drafts and questionable personnel moves. Against the Giants, we may have seen the seams begin to burst. Even before the game, the Eagles were tested by injuries to starting safety Rodney McLeod and his top two backups, Jaylen Watkins and Corey Graham. All three were inactive, as was their top cornerback, third-year player Ronald Darby, who could miss another month while recovering from the dislocated ankle he suffered in a Week 1 win over the Redskins.

Once the game started, the hits kept coming. By halftime, the Eagles were down two of their best all-around defenders: middle linebacker Jordan Hicks, out with an ankle injury, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, out with a calf strain.

At this point, we don’t know much about the extent of the injuries. We do know that, in light of them, this was a remarkable win.

It wasn’t pretty. Not at all. After sleepwalking through the first three quarters, Eli Manning and the Giants offense came alive against an Eagles secondary stocked with second- and third-teamers. Odell Beckham caught a pair of touchdown passes, and Sterling Shepard broke off a 77-yard catch-and-run that gave the Giants a 21-14 lead with 3:14 remaining.

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In the end, though, Jim Schwartz’s defense held just long enough. Perhaps it was fitting that the game-winning 61-yarder was launched off the leg of a rookie who made it to Philadelphia only after a hip injury suffered by veteran kicker Caleb Sturgis.

There will be plenty of time to break down the not-so-pretty parts of this game. For now, though, the Eagles are 2-1. And in an eminently winnable NFC East, they are now 2-0.

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