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August 17, 2017

Darby, defense steal the show in Eagles' second preseason game

There isn't a whole you can read into preseason football, especially once the starters are taken out of the game.

Last week, against the Packers, it was the Eagles first-team offense that looked like the sharper of the two units, scoring a touchdown on their opening drive with a few key conversions on third and fourth down. But this time around, they didn't look so hot, going three-and-out on their first three possessions and then turning it over on a LeGarrette Blount fumble once they finally did start moving the ball. 

Instead, it was the defense that stole the show in the Birds' preseason home opener and looked totally dominant at times in their 20-16 win over the Buffalo Bills.

After giving up 13 yards to old friend LeSean McCoy on the Bills first offensive play – a missed tackle by new cornerback Ronald Darby – Jim Schwartz's defense buckled down, and did so in a big way. 

On the very next play, McCoy tried to run between the tackles, but defensive end Brandon Graham had other ideas. He got into the Bills backfield and stuffed Shady for a three-yard loss.

Then, on their third play, this...

But that was hardly the end of it. 

The Eagles had to settle for a field goal on the ensuing drive despite starting on the Bills' nine yard line. That would be the only points they'd muster on their four possessions. But after a three-and-out and another short drive for Tyrod Taylor and the Bills offense, Darby more than made up for his missed tackle on the ensuing drive.

While that play was great, it was hardly the only one Darby made. Take a look at this ridiculous closing speed:

Even Rasul Douglas was getting in on the action, showing some closing speed of his own.

Following the Darby interception, however, the Eagles offense again stalled – remember I warned you at the beginning that it wasn't their best showing – and this time they came away without any points thanks to a missed 45-yard field goal attempt by Caleb Sturgis. 

In addition to Darby, who was playing his first game with the Birds (not to mention against his former team) after being acquired in the Jordan Matthews trade last week, linebacker and potential trade candidate Mychal Kendricks also had a strong showing. 

Not only did he come away with the interception early in the game, but he was all over the place for much of the night, finishing with a sack, two tackles for loss, and a deflection. 

Jordan Hicks also joined in with a sack of his own. As did rookie first-rounder Derek Barnett, who is now up to three in his first two games.

It's been a great start for Barnett this preseason – and I'm guessing that going up against Jason Peters throughout training camp didn't hurt. Still, we're starting to see why he was able to break Reggie White's college sack record ... and why the Eagles drafted him so high.

Then there's Fletcher Cox, who appeared to be in midseason form against the Bills, wreaking havoc at the line on nearly every snap he played.

Here's just one example, one that you likely won't see on SportsCenter but is a perfect example of just how strong No. 91 actually is:

It's also a perfect summation of how Cox and the rest of Schwartz's defense, especially the starters, treated the Bills.

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