Four downs with the Eagles Part 2: Defense

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We're back for four downs on the Eagles defense with Jason from Bleeding Green Nation.  The Eagles have a perenially solid defense that flys under the radar.  Given the 49ers offensive struggles we'll have to keep an eye on the Eagles defense.

NN: Mike Nolan was praising Jim Johnson in his Wednesday press conference.  Is there anything in particular we should know about the scheme Johnson brings?  Will we see a lot of exotic blitzes or is the defensive line sufficiently strong enough to create enough pressure?

BGN: Whether the front 4 is getting pressure or not Jim Johnson is likely to bring pressure from everywhere. It's basically his MO, especially when facing a young QB. I fully expect him to send blitzers from every which we he can in an attempt to confuse O'Sullivan.

NN: Given the hefty contract Asante Samuel received, expectations were certainly high.  How has he fared so far?  Isaac Bruce has been the best wide receiver threat so far, so will we see Samuel on Bruce all day or just whomever is on his side of the field?

BGN: Samuel has a couple of interceptions... so far so good with him. It's kinda hard to gauge the impact of a corner in just a few games. I doubt you'll see him on Issac Bruce all day, generally the Eagles don't play matchups with DBs and WRs. They tend to leave their corners covering one side of the field. So depending on where Bruce lines up he could see Samuel, Sheppard, or Brown.

NN: In your Q&A with Hogs Haven the issue of RB and TE coverage was brought up.  The Eagles seem to be struggling in that department.  Given that, how do you see the Eagles trying to stop Frank Gore in both the rushing and passing games?

BGN: I think our struggles against TEs and RBs in coverage is a by product of the blitz. When teams have had success with those guys, it's been on screens and quick dumps that are designed to counter act the Eagles blitz. So my only hope is that when they do blitz, they blitz smart and always be watching for the screen.

As for stopping Gore on the ground... until last week the Eagles hadn't let a team rush for more than around 70 yards. Their run d against some good backs(Steven jackson, Forte, Barber, Willie parker) was stifiling... but last week Clinton Portis racked up 140 yards on us... So many of us are certainly paying special attention to what they do against Gore this weekend. What is the real Eagles D? The one who was leading the NFL in rush defense over the first 4 weeks, or the one we saw last week? I think the important thing will be to seal off the edges. Even the Redskins, who ran all over us, weren't able to get much up the middle where the Eagles are very solid. When they've struggled it's been on the edges. If the 49er TEs and OTs are able to seal off the Eagles LBs on the edges Gore could have big day.

NN: In the recent past the Eagles defense always seems to be solid without getting a lot of media attention.  Aside from Brian Dawkins, Asante Samuel and maybe Sheldon Brown my knowledge of the Eagles defense is rather limited.  Is there one guy, aside from those three who could make a big impact this Sunday?

I'll say Stewart Bradley. He was a 3rd round pick out of Nebrask last year and won the starting middle linebacker job this year. So far he's really been exceeding our expectations. He's a big, fast run stopping guy in the middle and is really growing into one of those field generals you love to see as and anchor of your defense. If Frank Gore has a bad day on Sunday, it'll probably be in large part to Stewart Bradley.

Thanks again to Bleeding Green Nation.  The Eagles will definitely be a tough opponent.  While this is anything but a guaranteed win, the 49ers really need to avoid a long losing streak right now.

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