We’re only 5 days away from the season opener for the Philadelphia Eagles, where the team will travel to DC on Monday night to face off against the Redskins. It would be an understatement to say this is a big game; division rivalry, new coach, new scheme and new players will all make for an extremely interesting game on the big stage. Redskins franchise QB Robert Griffin III, who is arguably the teams most important player, has been cleared to return after his devastating knee injury suffered in the playoffs last year.
Although the former 2nd overall pick may be a tad rusty, there is zero chance the Eagles go into this game banking on that fact. They will plan to play against an RG3 who’s at 100%. The Eagles had mixed success with RG3 last season. In their first match-up he accounted for 284 yards of total offense and threw for 4 TD passes. He was much quieter in the second game, but he was playing banged up. The Eagles held him to 4 yards rushing but still lost the game.
To stop a QB who can beat you with his arms and his legs, it’s a regular strategy to put an athletic LB or safety to “spy” or “shadow” him. He will observe and react to the QB’s actions while sticking around the middle of the field to defend against the inside run and any passes over the middle. When it comes to the Eagles, this choice is a no brainer: 2nd year ILB Mychal Kendricks. Kendricks has a great skill set to fill this role: He’s fast and can cover, but he’s also physical enough to step up and lay a hit on a big QB such as RG3.
There are really 3 things that need to go right to make plays on athletic QB’s:
- Read and react – Player must be able to read the play (is he keeping it or handing it off to the back?) then react accordingly. This could be in the form of chasing the QB outside, stepping up to play the run, or dropping back in coverage of the middle of the field.
- Assess and take the proper angle – This can be one of the toughest parts. Guys like RG3 and Newton are big dudes, but they’re extremely fast. It’s easy to underestimate this speed, especially when you go from watching it on tape to it being in your face. Taking bad angles is something Kendricks struggled with last year, but hopefully we can chalk that up to getting used to the speed of the game.
- Wrap up and take down – Getting there is half the battle, because these new age read option QB’s are big and physical. You can’t run into Newton, Colin Kaepernick or RG3 and expect them to fall over. The player needs to break down and wrap the guy up, or else he’s going to be grabbing for air or bouncing off these guys like Chad Hall trying to tackle King Dunlap. This is another area that Kendricks struggled with last year but we’ve seen improvements this preseason.
In the Eagles 2nd preseason game against Carolina, we saw a glimpse of Kendricks ability to shadow a QB. On one play, as pressure started getting in his face, the extremely athletic Cam Newton rolled out of the pocket while deciding whether to throw or tuck and run. Kendricks darted out towards the sideline and brought down Newton for a loss on the play. This was the only hit the Eagles got on Newton all night. Kendricks was able to read, react, take the proper angle, and wrap up Newton.
If the Eagles want to stop RG3 and the Redskins offense, Kendricks needs to show he’s made the leap from rookie to legit player on the Eagles defense. He has the skill set and talent, he just needs to put it to work on Monday.
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