October 26, 2017
The 6-1 Philadelphia Eagles will play Game No. 2 of their three-game home stand against the 0-7 San Francisco 49ers this Sunday. If I'm going to be completely honest, it was difficult coming up with much in the way of five matchups to watch, as the Niners field a dreadful roster.
Still, here's what we came up with.
All season long, the Eagles' run defense has been outstanding. Here's a quick look at what they have done to opposing running backs in each game:
The 49ers' best skill position player is probably running back Carlos Hyde, who has 100 carries for 428 yards and 4 TDs on the season. The Eagles need to continue to take away the run first, and make rookie third round pick C.J. Beathard try beat them through the air.
That will be no different against the 49ers. Flecther Cox has been a terror when he has been healthy, as he has been the focus of opposing blocking schemes and still found a way to be disruptive, while Timmy Jernigan has made defenses pay with penetration.
The 49ers have given up pressure up the middle all season long, so that is a matchup that heavily favors the Eagles.
The Niners' offensive tackles are OK. Joe Staley is a long-time NFL veteran at LT, and Trent Brown is an improving young tackle on the right side. I do like the matchup of Brandon Graham on Brown quite a bit. Brown is a 6'8, 355-pound behemoth, and I imagine he'll have trouble getting leverage on the squatty-but-powerful 6'2, 270-pound Graham.
As of 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, it's not a certainty that Vaitai will simply be plugged in at LT to replace Jason Peters, or if Lane Johnson will move to LT from his spot at RT. I believe that plugging in Vaitai at LT is a no-brainer decision, as we outlined on Tuesday.
At LT, if indeed that's where he plays, Vaitai will primarily face Solomon Thomas, a gifted rookie DE from Stanford who was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. In 171 snaps this season, Thomas has 24 tackles and 2 sacks.
While Thomas has talent, going up against a rookie is probably a good way for Vaitai to ease in as the starter at LT.
No team in the NFL has faced more rushing attempts than the Niners, mostly because they have been down in games this season. As a result, they have allowed 134.6 rushing yards per game (29th in the NFL), 8 rushing TDs (second-most allowed in the NFL), and they've allowed 59 rushing first downs (by far the most in the NFL).
Ideally, the Eagles can lean on their run game in this matchup, and keep Wentz out of peril with a new starter protecting his blind side.
As we noted on Wednesday, the Eagles have lost four of their last six games in which they were favored by 10 or more points, to quarterbacks like Jamarcus Russell, Joe Webb, Stephen McGee, and John Skelton.
This week, they'll face rookie third-round pick C.J. Beathard.
While this Eagles team appears to be mentally different from some of those other Eagles teams in recent memory, they do have to beware looking past an opponent that comes in at 0-7. The Eagles can not afford to have this game remembered as "the C.J. Beathard game."
Take care of business, and get to 7-1.
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