The San Francisco 49ers face a serious test on Sunday when they face the Philadelphia Eagles defense. The 49ers are sending out rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard for his second start, and it is safe to say he’ll face a lot of pressure from the Eagles. The Dallas Cowboys increased their blitzing pattern last week, and one has to think the Eagles will look to do the same.
I chatted with Bleeding Green Nation editor Brandon Lee Gowton this week about Sunday’s game, and inquired about the Eagles defensive strengths and weaknesses. I didn’t realize how well their run defense has been playing. It’s at such a level that they are facing a historically low number of rushing attempts. The 49ers can’t afford to get into a game where Beathard has to constantly throw the ball. He could win some matchups like that, but probably not against the 6-1 Eagles.
Here’s what Brandon had to say about the Eagles defense.
The Eagles have the best run defense in the NFL. Jim Schwartz's unit is only allowing 67 rush yards per game. The Eagles are so good at stopping the run that other teams haven't even been trying to stick with it. Philadelphia has only faced 123 rushing attempts this season, which is the second fewest through seven games since all the way back in 1952.
Philly's strong run defense forces opposing offenses to be one-dimensional. It's hard to drop back and pass every play against the Eagles because Philly has a number of talented pass rushers. Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan, Vinny Curry, Derek Barnett, and Chris Long can all get after the quarterback. Life is easier for them, too, when they don't have to respect the run and can just tee off on the quarterback.
One glaring weakness on the Eagles' defense is the cornerback position. Jalen Mills and Rasul Douglas have given great effort this season, but they're not the most ideal starters right now. Both players are vulnerable to getting beat in coverage. The Eagles figure to be better off at corner when Ronald Darby returns to action. That could potentially be as soon as this week, though that's not for certain. 2017 second-round pick Sidney Jones is on the reserve/non-football injury list and it's unclear when he'll return this season, if at all.
Another concern for the Eagles is losing middle linebacker Jordan Hicks. In addition to being a really good player, Hicks was responsible for getting everyone lined up on defense. Hicks is one of the better coverage linebackers in the NFL so the Eagles might be a little more prone to giving up yards to tight ends. Vernon Davis and Jordan Reed were very productive against Philadelphia after Hicks left the game early on Monday night.