PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia Eagles, down four defensive backs by the end of their game last week, will only be short two when they play the Chicago Bears on Sunday night.
Backup safeties and special teams players Colt Anderson (knee) and Kurt Coleman (hamstring) were listed as out on Friday’s final injury report. However, cornerback Brandon Boykin, who was knocked out of the Minnesota game with a head injury, and safety Earl Wolff, who missed the last four games with a knee injury, were listed as probable against the Bears.
“It’s a huge challenge,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. “No one is going to give us a waiver because we’re banged up. We look at it as an opportunity to go out and compete against them. That’s what we got, we’ve got a bunch of competitive guys, a bunch of competitive coaches that want to go challenge them.”
The Eagles will have their top six defensive backs healthy when they face a Chicago passing attack that ranks fifth in the league and features top wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall.
“There’s no better group of receivers to challenge yourself than those two guys in Marshall and Jeffery,” Kelly said.
Marshall, the eight-year veteran and former Denver Bronco, has 90 receptions (fourth best in the league) for 1,185 yards and 10 touchdowns, tied for fifth.
Jeffery, the second-year player out of South Carolina, has 80 receptions for 1,265 yards and seven touchdowns.
“Chicago might be one of the most talented offenses we face all season,” Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “Big, physical, Pro Bowl wide receivers, two of them, it’s going to be a real good challenge for us.”
The Eagles rank 31st in the league in pass defense, allowing an average of 291 yards per game. They’re 8-6 this season by not allowing the big play and getting a key sack or turnover to stop an opponent’s drive.
Last week against Minnesota, that didn’t happen and they gave up 48 points.
“We gave up too many big plays,” Davis said of the 48-30 defeat. “And we only had one turnover where in the past we’ve gotten a couple more.”
Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler has thrown 10 interceptions in 296 passes this season. So the opportunities could be there. But there is also the problems presented by Marshall and Jeffery.
“Alshon Jeffery is showing that he’s having a maturation season,” Eagles cornerback Cary Williams said. “He believes he can go out there and do it and he can be dominant. Now that he’s got it, he’s showing his capability off.”
Both receivers have excellent size — Marshall is 6-foot-4, 230 pounds and Jeffery is 6-3 at 216. They also have decent speed.
“The main thing is, they compete for the football,” safety Nate Allen said. “When the ball goes up, they’re going after it. They’re big, strong guys and they come down with it most of the time.”
The Eagles have faced their share of top receivers this year: Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald, Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson, Washington’s Pierre Garcon twice. While they made some plays, it wasn’t enough to win. The Eagles went 5-0 in those games.
Now they get two in the same game.
“It’s a good benefit we’ve already seen some elite guys,” Allen said. “But every one of them is different. They all have their own style and they all do certain things well. All I know is this is definitely going to be a challenge.”