Through the first three games of the 2023 season, the Philadelphia Eagles defense has picked up pretty close to where it left off a year ago.
Philly finished 2022 having allowed the second-fewest yards and eighth-fewest points in the NFL, as well as sixth in TruMedia's version of EPA/play. So far this season, the Eagles are 12th in yards allowed and ninth in points allowed, as well as tied for ninth in EPA/play. And that's despite losing multiple starters (Javon Hargrave, Kyzir White, T.J. Edwards, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson) in free agency and several others to injury early this year.
One of the major reasons for the team being able to maintain a high level of play is the presence of rookie defensive tackle Jalen Carter, whom the Eagles selected with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. In the first three games of his career, Carter already has 1.5 sacks, two tackles for loss, two additional quarterback hits and two forced fumbles. He is tied for seventh in the NFL with 15 quarterback pressures, checking in behind only T.J. Watt, Maxx Crosby, Aidan Hutchinson, Myles Garrett, Micah Parsons, and George Karlaftis.
In Monday night's victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carter had a huge sequence late in the second quarter where he sacked Baker Mayfield and forced a fumble, only for it to be recovered by the offense, then forced a fumble by Rachaad White on the very next snap. That turnover led to an Eagles field goal, putting the team up 13-3 heading into the break.
"You gotta punch as hard as you can to get the ball out," Carter said of his strategy, according to SI.com. "Running backs work on holding the ball, keeping it tight, but I feel like if you punch hard enough you can get it out."
But he also credited his teammates with making things easier for each other, and playing with trust.
"This defense is awesome," Carter said. "I love this defense. Everybody trusts one another, plays their roles, and does what they have to do. When one goes down it's the next man up and we don't worry about who it is, we trust him as much as the guy who started the game. I love this defense."
While the offense is off to a decent-but-not-great start to the season, efficiency-wise, the defense has made things relatively easy for the Eagles so far. That's the benefit of having elite units on each side of the ball. In the event that one isn't performing up to its usual high standard, the other can pick up the slack. And that's certainly what's happening for Philly so far.