I’ve said over and over again, if you are winning the battle upfront on the offensive and defensive lines, you can beat any team in the National Football League. That’s true in the regular season and in the playoffs. Right now the Eagles are healthy and playing great football upfront. Let’s take a look at the challenge for the Eagles’ defensive line on Sunday.
“I do believe that this current Eagles defense can shut down the running game of the Saints because they have recently taken care of some quality running attacks.”
The first job of the Eagles defense and defensive line will be to stop the running game of the Saints. Although you will hear about their quarterback and their explosive passing game, the foundation of the New Orleans offense is their running game. In the November blowout over the Eagles, the Saints ran for 173 yards on 37 carries and two touchdowns. Mark Ingram had 103 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns, while his buddy Alvin Karmara ran for 71 yards on 13 carries. They run the football as well as any team in the league and you can be sure they’re going to be committed to running the football on Sunday.
I do believe that this current Eagles defense can shut down the running game of the Saints because they have recently taken care of some quality running attacks. For instance, they limited the Bears Jordan Howard to 35 yards on 10 carries. The great Adrian Peterson had zero yards on four carries, when the Eagles shut out the Redskins. They held the great Todd Gurley of the Rams to only 48 yards on 12 carries.
Now this defense must find a way to slow down a New Orleans offense that scored 48 points against them during the regular season. They will have their hands full trying to stop future Hall of Famer and MVP candidate Brees, who had his way with the Eagles in that November game. He threw for 363 yards and four touchdowns with a 153 quarterback rating which was nearly perfect. The Eagles defense has to have an answer for Brees this time and they must start fast because Brees usually starts fast. They can’t let him control the ball and the game.
Brees is less than 6 foot tall but he is a great quarterback, who gets the ball out of his hands very quickly and he can be as accurate as any quarterback in the league. He completed 74.4% of his passes this season and had a quarterback rating of 115, which is number one in the league. He threw 32 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions.
Brees is an extension of head coach Sean Payton. They have been working together for more than a decade and Brees’ brain is connected to Payton. He knows exactly what adjustment Payton wants versus a specific coverage or front. Brees is always able to run the offense from the line of scrimmage and he can make all of the adjustments that Payton wants before and during a specific play.
Brees does have an Achilles heal and that’s pass rush pressure in his face because of his lack of height. Kryptonite for Brees is big and active defensive tackles who can beat their blocks and get in his face. If they see they’re not going to be able to get to Brees on a specific play, then they should get their hands up. A tipped ball could be the difference in this game after all it was the difference in the Bears game.
“Brees’ brain is connected to [Sean] Payton.”
The return to health of veteran defensive tackle Tim Jernigan has been a huge boost to the Birds and he could play a huge role in the upcoming game against the Saints. The presence of Jernigan means you can’t just double-team All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox all the time without paying a price for it. Jernigan can dominate both against the run and the pass. He is starting to play like he did early in the season last year and he can collapse the pocket with his power.
Jernigan is a key addition to the Eagles defensive line both as a playmaker and a leader. His personality seems to bring a passion out in the defensive line that takes them to another level. That passion should come in very handy on Sunday afternoon in The Big Easy.
The Eagles linebackers Nigel Bradham, Jordan Hicks and Kamu Grucier-Hill will also play a key role in stopping the run and shutting down Brees. They must tackle well in the open field. Brees gets the ball to his receivers quickly and accurately, so the receivers have the ball in position to advance it after the catch.
“The Dallas Cowboys defense shut down the offense of the Saints earlier this season by getting their big defensive linemen into the backfield and in the face of Brees.”
Safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Corey Graham will also need to tackle well in the open field. The same is true for the cornerbacks Avonte Maddox and Rasul Douglas. Payton designs plays to get Kamara or Ingram in a one-on-one situation with a defender in the open field. Cre’Von LeBlanc and Tre Sullivan must make plays when they get the chance. Sullivan needs to catch a thousand passes each morning on the jugs machine and put some glue on hands so he will catch the ball when it’s thrown to him. The same is true of Maddox, who also dropped an interception. Any turnovers in this game will be huge.
The Dallas Cowboys defense shut down the offense of the Saints earlier this season by getting their big defensive linemen into the backfield and in the face of Brees. The veteran quarterback didn’t seem like the same guy who owns so many NFL passing records. He had only thrown a couple of interceptions up until that point in the season, but during that game, he was turning the ball over and throwing passes up for grabs. In that game, Brees completed 18 of 28 passes for only 127 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The New Orleans running game was also stifled with only 65 yards on 19 carries. The game ended on a poor throw and interception by Brees. This is the formula for beating the Saints.
So yes, Superman does have a weakness after all. It will be up to Eagles defensive tackles Cox, Jernigan, Haloti Ngata and Bears game hero, Treyvon Hester to get pressure in the face of Brees in the A and B gaps on the line. At times I want to see the Eagles defensive ends come inside and flush Brees out of the pocket. He doesn’t like to move, so unlike last week with Mitchell Trubisky where keeping contain was a big deal, this week we don’t have to worry about contain, but we must force Brees to move out of the pocket. He will sit in the pocket and pick you apart.
The Cowboys made him move and he didn’t like it. We saw in the Cowboys game that they got in his face and he couldn’t see downfield, then he threw the ball up from grabs. Dallas should have had three or four interceptions, but they are dropping the ball.
On passing downs, they will move Michael Bennett inside and let him team up with Cox to harass Brees. There’s not an offensive line in the NFL that can stop Cox and Bennett up the gut, but they’re only going to have two seconds to get to him because Brees will be getting rid of the football very quickly.
The Eagles also must shutdown the Saints running game or they’re going to get picked apart by Brees in the play action pass game. Kamara is the playmaker with blazing speed and quickness. He is very difficult to tackle in the open field. Ingram is a tough runner who will lower his shoulder and pound for the extra yardage.
Let’s go Birds!