Philadelphia Eagles run defense is the key to victory
The Philadelphia Eagles dominant run defense has been the formula to victory so far.
The Philadelphia Eagles defense has continuously terrorized opponents all season. The unit ranks within the top ten in allowed yards-per-game as well as points given up per-game. The catalyst of such a potent attack force is the defensive performance in the run game.
Since the run defense has been so prominent, opposing teams have had to become pass heavy instead of balancing out the offense. The key to the dominant defense starts with the architect and moves through its creation. It takes three key factors on the Eagles defense to successfully stop the opponents rush attack.
Defensive Coordinator, Jim Schwartz, has received praise for the Eagles change of play. The 2016 campaign didn’t bode well for the Eagles statistically. The defense allowed 100+ rushing yards in seven contests that season – numbers may have been inflated due to lack of offensive consistency. The new and improved Eagles defense has allowed only one loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Much can be attributed to the improvement of Schwartz’s “Wide-9” scheme. Brandon Graham attested to the maturation of the players’ understanding:
"We’re more aware of being able to read both [run and pass]. I think we’ve got a lot of smart guys up front. We play well together."
Under Schwartz, the defense has been able to control games. This progression begins and ends with the front seven.
The Eagles’ defensive line is the foundation for the top-rated rushing defense in the league, allowing just 66.4 rushing yards per game. The D-line has continued to get consistent play out of its defensive ends by reading the run correctly and constantly rushing the passer. Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham lead a pack of edge rushers who know how to find the ball. Wiley veteran, Chris Long, and the first-round pick, Derek Barnett, have played a huge role this year. Altogether, the four ends have totaled for 56 solo tackles, 13.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles.
The defensive line is anchored by two-time Pro Bowler, Fletcher Cox. The monstrous defensive tackle may not have mind-boggling stats, but 4.5 sacks at this position shows his dominance. Newly acquired defensive tackle, Tim Jernigan, has enjoyed his time this year as well. He has posted 11 solo tackles, along with 1.5 sacks – not to mention he recently inked a four-year, $48 million extension. Winning the battle in the trenches leads to a tough day on the ground.
Linebacker play is an integral part of the run defense. If the defensive line is the foundation, the linebackers are there to aggressively fill the cracks. The “Gang Green” Linebackers have certainly done their job. Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks led the team in total tackles with 50 and 47 respectively. The two outside linebackers have been a terror through nine games. Their downhill play has amounted to three sacks between the two.
Despite the loss of middle linebacker Jordan Hicks to injury, Joe Walker has stepped in to fill the void. The recent free-agent signing of Dannell Ellerbe gives the Eagles defense more experience and depth. A player like Ellerbe allows for another veteran in run support, but also a situational pass rusher.
The Eagles have eight wins and one loss this season. In each of their eight wins, the opponents have rushed for less than 100 yards. In their one and only loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the backfield managed to rush for 112 yards.
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The logic is simple when the Eagles defense can hold their opponents under 100 yards rushing, they win the game. Let’s see if they can handle the test of one of the best rushing offenses in the league this Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys high-powered rushing attack.