Kurt Coleman will make his second start of the season at free safety, replacing Nate Allen, who is out for the year with a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee. Allen was a second-round pick in the April draft. Coleman was a seventh-rounder, the 244th player taken.
But Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott has a lot of confidence in Coleman. He played the better part of three quarters last week against the Giants and played well. He forced a critical third-down incompletion late in the game with a blitz.
"With Kurt, we're talking about a very instinctive football player," McDermott said. "I know a lot of people focus on the seventh-round draft pick thing, but that's not what we focus on.
"I mean, he's a good football player and he's made plays for this defense this year. So it's just a process where he needs to continue to get experience. And there's going to be bumps in the road, not only for him but for some of those other young guys. And there have been bumps in the road. But they stay aggressive, they take the right approach and have the right attitude, and in the end that will pay off for us."
The Eagles have defended the run very well most of the season, holding opponents to 3.8 yards per carry over the last 10 games. But their pass defense has struggled. In the last four games alone, they've given up 12 touchdown passes.
Asked Thursday whether the problem has been his young, inexperienced secondary or an inconsistent pass rush, McDermott said, "Well, there's a lot that goes into it and you mentioned two of the factors, there, a young defense, a young secondary, and then pass rush, you can always have more pass rush.
"But I'll just say this, with those points have come turnovers (the Eagles have a league-high 23 interceptions). And it's hard to have both. Is that what we're shooting for? Absolutely, we are. But with those turnovers we give the ball back to our offense and we've been a factor and one of the reasons why we're 10-4.
"Now, am I happy about those points? Absolutely not. Some of those points are coming in the red zone, in addition to the big plays, so we have to get that corrected and we're working hard at that. So that's a big goal of ours coming down the stretch here."