July 31, 2019
Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins is never at a loss for words — well, except for that one time. And apparently neither is running backs coach Duce Staley. According to Jenkins, he's one of the biggest trash talkers out at practice, along with himself, of course, and defensive end Brandon Graham.
But following Tuesday's first full-tackling practice, Staley, the former Eagles running back turned coach, was oddly silent.
"Yesterday was the first time I heard Duce [Staley] really quiet in practice," Jenkins said on Wednesday. "That's a rarity. That means we won."
There has been plenty of trash talk down at NovaCare already as the team prepares for its first preseason game a week from Thursday when they host the Titans. And while they're still teammates and friends off the field, Jenkins said he and his Eagles teammates feed off that sort of back-and-forth at practice.
"I think it breeds competition and competition breeds improvement," Jenkins said. "So I think, for us, whatever we can do to make out here as hostile and competitive as possible, it makes games that much easier."
Despite much of the talk coming out of camp focusing on how the offense has looked — whether that's the rapidly developing chemistry between DeSean Jackson and Carson Wentz or the solid play from new running backs Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders — the defense has sort of taken a backseat in the headlines.
Perhaps that's for good reason, as the offense underwent a massive makeover in the offseason while bringing in highly skilled players like those listed above. They also have a legit MVP candidate in Carson Wentz, assuming he's able to play like the Carson Wentz we saw before he tore his ACL back in 2017. And so far, all signs point to that being the case.
Even Jenkins was willing to admit that much.
"He seems comfortable," Jenkins said of Wentz, the guy he faces every day in practice. "I think he's trying to figure out what the offensive identity is — just like the rest of the offense — because you have so many weapons at your disposal. But at the end of the day, I think he's getting comfortable with those guys. I think he's getting his timing down, the rhythm, and so he's growing. It's very encouraging for everybody."
But that's where the compliments stop.
According to the veteran safety and captain of the Birds defense, they've been the more dominant unit at camp. And when asked to grade his defenses play so far this season, Jenkins stopped short of giving them an A, but did manage to slip in a bit of jab at the offense — like we said, the trash talk doesn't stop.
"I wouldn't say A — we're just winning," he said. "We're winning. We've had too many opportunities to intercept footballs that we didn't come down with, but we're flying around, we're around the ball, stopping the run really well. I'm really excited about our defensive front and what they're doing. But we're just going against ourselves at this point, so you can't be overly optimistic."
But given all the talk being about how stacked the offense is this season, shouldn't Jenkins feel optimistic about how the defense is performing?
Even on Tuesday, when the offense went for two long touchdowns, the Eagles defense still felt like it was the better unit. They understand how good this offense can be, but they also know that going against them every day can help make them better as well.
Still, they want perfection.
"They're pretty good," cornerback Rasul Douglas said. "Every time we are out there we have to mind our P's and Q's because they can make a big play instantly.
"They made two big ones for touchdowns and I feel like those are the only ones we gave up, but we can't give those up. We lost games like that last year, things came down to one play. We are trying to be different this year. They know they couldn't get it on us all day, so when they get something they are like, 'Yeah, we gotta celebrate, this might be our only time we get something on the defense.'"
The trash talking never stops.
Jenkins, who as you can see is hardly the only Eagles defensive back who enjoys some light verbal sparring, understands how important a big-play offense can be for his team, but he also believes the defense is the more important unit. And it's hard to argue with his logic.
"Oh, we run this team. That's not a question," the three-time Pro Bowler said. "At the end of the day, we want to score as many points as possible, but if the opponent doesn't score, we win, so... [shrugs]"
Of course, Jenkins and the Eagles defense have a slight advantage at training camp, as the offense keeps their play calling as vanilla as possible, waiting until closer to the start of the season before implementing their more complicated plays. But that won't stop Jenkins from letting his teammates on the other side of the ball — or the rest of the world, for that matter — know who has looked better so far at camp.
"For the next four or five weeks, it'll be very generic as we go against other opponents, so we'll just focus on the basics and the fundamentals of the game," Jenkins added. "And in the basics and fundamentals, we're whoopin' the offenses' ass."
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