The defensive units for Kansas City and Philadelphia face familiar foes Sunday, getting a chance to apply what they learn taking on their own offenses in practices when Chiefs coach Andy Reid and Eagles coach Doug Pederson face each as adversaries for the first time after being longtime collaborators.
"There's nobody you play more than your own defense and you go back and forth with them," Reid said. "You're going to have successful plays against your own defense."
Pederson served as understudy to Reid first as a player for Green Bay and Philadelphia and later as a coach with the Eagles and Chiefs. The tangled web of relationships between coaches and players mean both sides know much about their adversary.
"I think more just knowing the people, knowing the personnel, knowing the coaching staff, how they think, how we think is the biggest similarity," Pederson said.
The challenge for both offenses rests with figure out how to beat defenses that know their tricks.
Kansas City, fresh off a convincing win on the road at New England, must figure out how to protect Alex Smith and open up running lanes outside for rookie running back Kareem Hunt. The Chiefs offensive line fared well against the Patriots, consistently providing time for Smith to find open receivers.
Hunt found success on the edges in Week 1. The rookie picked up 11 yards on three inside rushes. Outside the tackles, however, Hunt rushed 14 times for 137 yards.
"All that stuff starts with those guys up front," Smith said of his offensive line. "They don't always get a ton of the credit but certainly where it all begins for us."
The Chiefs' offensive line faces a steep challenge against the Eagles' front seven, starting with defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. The Eagles present a tough, physical pressure defense that will test the nimble and athletic Chiefs offensive front. That puts pressure on Smith and his receivers to get rid of the ball quickly.
"Timing becomes so important," Smith explained. "You've got to be good with the ball in the pocket because these guys are great at making the ball get out."
When the Eagles have the ball, the biggest battles loom on the edges with tackles Lane Johnson and Jason Peters tasked with protecting quarterback Carson Wentz from pass rusher Justin Houston and Dee Ford.
But Wentz showed last week he doesn't always need time to make plays downfield. Pederson believes his quarterback display newfound maturity against Washington that only comes with experience.
"Protection wasn't perfect for us last week and he was able to escape the pocket," Pederson said. "He's a lot like Alex in the standpoint he can extend plays with his legs and continues to keep his eyes downfield and finish the play."
Reid understands the comparison between Smith and Wentz and sees the second-year quarterback already putting his own twist on the West Coast offense.
"I guess there's a little bit of everybody in each person that does this offense, but they all put their own mark on the offense," Reid said. "It looks like he's off to a great start. He's a pretty talented kid."
The one thing Went must avoid is the left side of the Chiefs defense patrolled by cornerback Marcus Peters. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady completed only two of eight passes for 24 yards toward Peters' side of the field last week.
"What they did to that high-powered offense," Pederson said of Kansas City's defensive effort against Brady and the Patriots. "They scored a little bit but at the same time they shut them down when they had to."
The Chief's injury picture looks relatively clear. Only defensive tackle Bennie Logan missed practice Wednesday, nursing a knee contusion sustained against the Patriots. The team expects him to play against the Eagles. Left guard Parker Ehinger and linebacker Reggie Ragland continue to participate in practice on a limited basis and appear unlikely to play this week.
Eagles starting cornerback Ronald Darby suffered a dislocated ankle against Washington in week one and expects to miss 4-to-6 weeks.
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