Film breakdown shows Eagles front 7 to challenge “up and down play” from Lion’s offensive line
Eagles Front 7 Leads Top NFL Defense
Lions fans should be very familiar with the Eagles defense. It’s the same “wide-9” defense that Jim Schwartz brought to Detroit as their head coach. Now, as the Eagles defensive coordinator, Jim Schwartz is making waves again as his defense is top 5 in the NFL.
As it did in Detroit, the strength of this Eagles defense is in the front 7. The defensive line and linebacking corps is incredibly fast and physical. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox is having a tremendous start this season. His nasty physical play is being showcased in a defense that benefits greatly from interior pressure. The great play from this front 7 has successfully made up for the main weakness in this defense: the cornerbacks.
The cornerback play has been average at best in Philadelphia thus far. There are many plays where the Philly corners give up inside positioning, allowing for wide receivers to control the battle from this point. Once inside positioning is established, the cornerback can be easily exposed once the wide receiver makes the first cut in his route. This problem can become worse if the cornerback has stiff hips and cannot break to the ball or receiver quickly. This could end up being a big issue with this defense as it allows for wide receivers to get great separation on almost every play this occurs.
Luckily for the Eagles, their secondary and linebackers help mitigate this weakness. Both positions have shown great coverage through week 4 due to great athleticism. At both positions, they have the height and speed to compete with any tight end or wide receiver attempting to attack the middle of the field.
Combine this play with the pressure the defensive line is generating and you can see why this defense is top 5 in almost every statistical category. They use their strengths to cover their main weakness. While the cornerback play has been poor, the defensive line has generated pressure so quickly that quarterbacks have not been able to complete the ball consistently to their wide receivers. Offenses need time to develop their routes to create separation. This defense is getting to the quarterback so quickly, opposing offenses have not had time to let their plays develop, which has led to short drives and often no points scored.
Lions Offensive Line Needs to Step Up to Challenge
The Lions offensive line film has shown that they are capable of being an elite offensive line in the NFL. The hardest part for this group has been consistency. Travis Swanson, Larry Warford, and Riley Rieff have been the most consistent from this line, yet are coming off their worst performance of the season last week versus the Chicago Bears.
Laken Tomlinson has shown that he can play well against teams that run a 3-4 defense where the defensive end lines up directly over him. This is in large part due to the fact that Tomlinson is still heavily reliant on power to win battles on the line. If a defender is on his inside or outside shoulder and comes across Tomlinson’s face, he has struggled immensely. He does not have the lateral quickness or foot speed to consistently beat this technique yet. Tomlinson will see a lot of this versus a 4-3 defense that the Eagles run the wide 9 out of.
Both tackles Decker and Rieff have had a hard time against defensive ends that line up wide like we see in the wide 9, where the defensive ends line up in a 9′ technique, outside of the tight ends shoulder. In this position, the tackles are usually left alone on an island, where the defensive end can both bend to the outside or cut across their face and create pressure getting inside leverage on the tackle.
The Lions have had great play by this offensive line, but has crumbled at times. While this Eagles defense is the most formidable group this offensive line has faced, look for the Lions offensive line to step up to the challenge if they have any shot at winning this game.
The good news is if the Lions can find consistency from its offensive line, they are set up for a big day from the offense. With a glaring weakness in at cornerback for the Eagles, if the offensive line can give Stafford time to throw the ball, the offense should be able to move downfield. The wide receivers in Detroit have great route running ability and could take advantage of these corners if they are given time to develop their routes.
With Detroit’s defense looking to be as porous as ever, they will look to their offense to outpace the Eagles in a shootout. If Detroit can keep Matthew Stafford upright, expect him to work the ball outside to their receivers and put up a lot of points at Ford Field to bring a halt to the Eagle’s hot start.