Steve Fini breaks down the Eagles’ offensive matchups against the 49ers’ defense.
After an awful loss to the Giants last week, the Eagles catch a “break” with the San Francisco 49ers. By break, I mean they play an offense that is statistically dead last in the league. But their defense is formidable and has a few playmakers. Throw in the fact the Eagles seem to play down to their competition in the first and fourth quarters no game is a guaranteed win.
When the Eagles have the ball:
This is a game the Eagles should win, but this is the NFL. They are playing a real team with real players. As such, the 49ers shouldn’t be taken lightly. The Niners solid defense is just that–solid. No one besides the great Patrick Willis stands out. They just make the right play at the right time. Their safeties, more so Donte Whitner, are better in run support. Carlos Rogers is a decent cornerback, but not a guy that can shut down the Eagles if they are in rhythm. The Eagles should be able to move the ball, even if it’s in short increments.
Eagles wide receiver Desean Jackson needs to step up in this game. They need him to be the deep threat that he has yet to be this season. If he can get down the field the Eagles can blow this game open early and take away the Niners run-based offense.
LeSean McCoy has been an absolute stud this year. The Eagles are second in the league in rushing, averaging 182 yards per game. He’s essentially been the Eagles offense to this point. I wouldn’t look for that to continue this week, though. San Francisco middle linebacker, Patrick Willis, is probably the best in the game at his position. He can hit, run sideline to sideline, and cover. The Eagles are going to have a tough time keeping him in check. Fellow linebacker Navorro Bowman has also been excellent this season. The second-year man out of Penn State has 30 tackles through three games. Both of these players are tackling machines who are athletic enough to keep up with McCoy.
The Niners defensive line is solid as well. Defensive ends Ray McDonald and Justin Smith have two sacks apiece. Their nose tackle, Isaac Sopoaga, is every bit of his listed 330-pounds. This is a cause for real concern for the Eagles offensive line. While offensive tackles Jason Peters and Todd Herremans can handle the pass rush, handling Sopoaga on the inside is a different story. Jason Kelce was one of my “5 players to watch” this week, and good reason. The last time he faced a true nose tackle was Phil Taylor of the Cleveland Browns in pre-season action. Although the Browns don’t run a 3-4, they use Taylor in the same way those defenses use nose tackles. Kelce did not fare well in that game. Taylor’s big body and strength dominated Kelce’s small stature and technique based game. That was during the pre-season, so Kelce has gotten better, right? Well, not so much.
In short yardage situations last week, it was obvious that he struggles when someone lines up over him. He is good at chipping, double teaming, and getting to the second level. He isn’t as good when he has to muscle someone and get a push. If the Eagles are in a fourth and short situation, or first and goal inside the one, don’t look for any runs behind Kelce this week.