Scouting the Eagles: Offensive Line

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 25: Running back LeSean McCoy #25 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the New York Giants during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on September 25, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The offensive line of the Eagles has taken some heat this season. They had a rough preseason, allowing too many hits on quarterback Michael Vick. The last two games, Vick had to leave the game early due to getting hit in the pocket. Does their offensive need to play better or does Vick need to get learn how to avoid big hits? Is it both?

Statistically speaking, the Eagles offensive line has been outstanding, especially in the run game. The Eagles are second in the league in rushing so far this season, averaging 182 yards per contest. Having a scrambling quarterback helps, of course, but LeSean McCoy is averaging 115 yards a game and 6.1 yards per carry. 

Through three games, the offensive line has given up just five sacks. In other words, as many sacks as the 49ers gave up to the Bengals last week. Vick has been sacked four times, while backup Mike Kakfa was sacked once. But that's enough stats for now, let's take a look at the game tape from their game last Sunday against the Giants.

I watched the first three series of the game and have highlighted three plays to take a closer look at. Two are running plays and one is a pass play where Vick was sacked.

First Quarter: 4:16

The Eagles show some creative play-calling here. They fake a reverse to the left to DeSean Jackson and hand the ball off to LeSean McCoy. The offensive line blocks to the right, and the threat of a reverse to Jackson forces right end Jason Pierre-Paul to stay home instead of going straight to McCoy. This allows McCoy a nice cutback lane up the middle for a 13-yard gain.

Q1_416_medium

Look 49er fans! A running lane! To the left you can see Pierre-Paul having to account for DeSean Jackson on the play.

1st Quarter: 2:53

The Giants only rush three on this play. Jason Pierre-Paul does a fantastic job here. He beats left tackle Jason Peters on the outside, as well as McCoy, who tries to help pick him up. He doesn't get the sack, but he forces Vick to scramble to his left, where there are two more defenders waiting for him. Vick is sacked for a six-yard loss. Not a good play for the Eagles line. The Giants dropped eight in coverage, and they even left a tight end and running back to block, but they still gave up a sack.

1st Quarter: 0:11

The offensive line gets a good push on this play, and McCoy finds room to the left side for a nine-yard gain. From what I saw of the game, the line was consistently able to hold their blocks and give McCoy running room. He was able to consistently break off runs of 7,9, and 11 yard runs throughout the game, as evidenced by his stat line of 24 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown.

Q1_011_medium

Pretty easy to see where the running lane is here.

Observations

From what I saw, the Eagles offensive line did a very good job. Perhaps the 49ers have really changed my expectations of what an offensive line should do. Even still, they consistently opened up running lanes for LeSean McCoy and Vick threw from a pretty clean pocket most of the time.

It is worth noting that I didn't see the Giants didn't blitz very much, at least not early in the game. They tried to vary their looks, though. A few times they would show blitz from their linebackers and have them drop into coverage. I can see why teams would hesitate to send the house at the Eagles. With all of their playmakers, you'd better get to Vick or you are going to give up a big play.

I'd expect the 49ers to try to vary up their looks without sending more than five rushers. In a 3-4, it's much easier to do that because you have four linebackers to work with. It's going to be key that the 49ers get a pass rush with only four guys.

Luckily, they are one of the better equipped teams to do that. Both Ray McDonald and Justin Smith have shown that they are two of the better pass-rushing 3-4 defense ends in the league. Both of them need to have great games for the 49ers to have a chance. Obviously, knocking Vick out of a third straight game would help as well.

Shutting down LeSean McCoy is another huge key to the game. The defensive line cannot allow him to get into the open field. He has the speed to burn a defense. Even when a play looks like a sure loss of yardage, McCoy is a guy who can make something out of nothing. Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman should be well-equipped to deal with McCoy. Still, McCoy is the real deal (I refuse to say the real McCoy. I just won't do it), and he scares me.

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