This is a matchup that will leave many salivating. A run-heavy Titans team who like the Eagles, are trying to take pressure off a previously injured quarterback, meets the league’s best run defense.
Through three games, the Titans have rushed a stunning 98 times, which averages out at around 33 attempts per game. Their ‘double d’ duo of Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis are both averaging under 4 yards per carry as they struggle to get to the second level, but the continued emphasis on the run sees the team average over a stunning 122 yards per game. Not only that, but there’s the obvious threat of containing one of the fastest quarterbacks in the league, Marcus Mariota.
Although he’s been banged up to start the season, Mariota still pulled off some Houdini like moves against the Jags to tally 51 rushing yards and an impressive 15 yard breakaway to help keep momentum on side.
Conversely, the Eagles defense is allowing an average of just 61 rushing yards per game. If not for a rogue 30-yard dash by Andrew Luck, that number would’ve been halved against the Colts, which just speaks volumes. The Eagles had the league’s best run defense last season and that trend has carried into the early stages of the 2018 campaign.
What happens when two Giants collide? Jim Schwartz knows just how big the challenge that lies ahead really is.
“Whatever the opponent does, we’re going to have to stop.” The Eagles defensive coordinator told reporters earlier this week. “You don’t get any extra points for running the ball or for passing the ball. All the yards count the same, and I’ll include penalties in there, too. They don’t discount them because it’s five yards as a run or five yards because of illegal use of a hands on defense.
So our goal is to get opponents stopped. However we do it, we do it. They are committed to the run. They’ve invested a lot of resources in it. Drafted a couple offensive lineman, offensive tackles. I think one was like the eighth pick of the draft and one was like the 11th. They’ve got a veteran offensive line. They have a Heisman Trophy running back. They had probably their premier, free-agent pick this year, [Titans RB] Dion Lewis, and they have a running quarterback. So obviously it’s what they want to do and they’re committed to it, so it’s our job to combat that.”
For the Eagles, the emphasis on stopping the run has to be paramount, not just to make the offense scramble for a plan B, but because it’s going to force Mariota to step up in the pocket and throw.
Although he’s been injured, it’s safe to say Mariota hasn’t been amazing so far. He had a fantastic game against the Jags considering the circumstances, but he’s yet to throw a touchdown pass and threw 2 picks against the Dolphins in that elongated week one loss. He’s also averaging just 5.97 yards per passing attempt. If the Eagles can force Mariota to stand in the pocket and make a play, the pass-rush is going to have a field day. There is always the chance that Mariota escapes and turns a dead play into a touchdown, but if discipline improves and the Eagles can seal the edge, they can reduce that danger and focus on completely smothering the run.
This matchup is going to be one where the winner simply wants it more. Can the Titans stay committed to the run, or shake it up enough to make something work against a defense that has become a brick wall for running backs?
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