Football season is finally upon us and the Eagles kickoff their year with a home game against the Cleveland Browns. Carson Wentz and Robert Griffin III may be the players attracting all of the media attention, but there’s one aspect of this game that’s being tremendously overlooked, what the Browns Defense has in store for the second overall pick.
Cleveland went 3-13 last season and that isn’t going to miraculously turn into a 13-3 record under Huge Jackson. However, the appointment of Ray Horton as Defensive Coordinator could at least be the first building block, which if you’re Doug Pederson..is a little worrying.
The Eagles have elected to hedge their bets on rookie quarterback Carson Wentz in 2016, a man who despite having all the tools and mental attributes, played just seven games in 2015 and threw 24 times in preseason after suffering a hairline fracture in his ribs. The step up to the NFL is what many are concerned about, especially after such limited amounts of action..but while the Eagles are confident in his ability to lead this team and really start building a solid base for next season, Ray Horton is a shark who can smell blood.
Last season, Horton was the Defensive Coordinator of the Tennessee Titans and even though his team went 3-13, like the Browns..his Defense ranked seventh in the league against the pass..very much unlike the Browns.
That in itself is startling for Eagles fans..but what is a little more worrying, is how the Defense played against “mobile” quarterbacks last year. For instance, against the Buccaneers, Jameis Winston was held to a QBR of 64, sacked four times and forced into two interceptions.
This was to be no fluke, as the Titans showed similar levels of efficiency against quarterbacks of a similar style.
It’s important to remember that the Titans Secondary was hardly incredible last year..but their ability to rush the passer was unprecedented. Five sacks on Cam Newton and four each sacks on Bortles and Taylor is sheer dominance..and something we can expect to see from Jim Schwartz..but also something Carson Wentz can expect to experience.
This week will be the first NFL Defense to be faced by Carson Wentz, meaning that it could well be a trial by fire..and Ray Horton knows that. As Cleveland’s Defensive coordinator in 2013, he showed a similar mentality. Blitz often, blitz hard and keep Offenses guessing with various different fronts.
To see what kind of effect Horton’s Defense had on Jameis Winston and the Bucs, check out this great all-22 by Tucker Bagley. With a more prolific Secondary at his disposal lining up against an Eagles receiving corps that has plenty of its own question marks..and an Offensive line that not only struggled protecting the passer in preseason, but allowed over 200 yards of Offensive penalties last year..the Browns Defense may not seem like an elite unit, primed to dominate the league..but they could be strong enough to unsettle the second overall pick and force him into making some worrying throws under pressure.
That sentiment brings its own concerns, Carson Wentz has notably struggled under pressure throughout his career. According to PFF, in his preseason debut, Carson Wentz had a 0.0 passer rating when under pressure. The Bucs capitalized on a poor O-line and got to Wentz 11 times, forcing him to scramble once..the result was a disappointing debut that showed flashes of the brilliance he possesses.
In College, the story was similar.
Sam Bradford was the most-accurate NFL QB under pressure last season (74.6%).
Carson Wentz was accurate on 57.1% pressured passes in 2015.
— PFF (@PFF) June 9, 2016
This year is going to be a season of teething problems and development for the Eagles Offense in its first year under Doug Pederson, Carson Wentz is by no means exempt from that rule. But with the spotlights being shined heavily on the athletic quarterback, it’s the under-the-radar Browns Defense that through a combination of inconsistent opposing receivers and linemen and a huge unknown in Carson Wentz..may just have enough strength to cause problems for Wentz and neutralize the Eagles Offense.
Mandatory Photo credit: Jeff Haynes/Associated Press