DL Viewers Guide: Season hinges on DL winning, slowing run game

DL Viewers Guide: Season hinges on DL winning, slowing run game
December 20, 2013, 11:15 am
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First, to clear up a myth: The Philadelphia Eagles do not run more plays than the rest of the NFL. In point of fact, 11 other teams run more plays per game than the Eagles (66).

The difference is that the Eagles are dead last in the NFL in time of possession, by a margin of almost two minutes. The Eagles are tied with Denver for most yards per offensive play (6.3), all of which underscores less the quantity of plays than the speed (and success) with which they are run.

That will tax in particular the group that usually plays the smallest percentage of plays, per individual player, each game: defensive linemen.

“We’ll sub when we can sub, when it is appropriate,” said coordinator Mel Tucker. “But we will be ready to go the long haul and go the distance with the guys we have out there. We have to play hard and we have to play long.”

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No defensive lineman has played more snaps than the 768 and 750 of ends Corey Wootton and Julius Peppers, respectively. By comparison, Bears linebackers and defensive backs rarely leave the field except situationally or because of injury.

So the plan vs. Philadelphia will involve rotating defensive linemen, which is always part of the Bears’ approach but becomes even more essential against an offense intent on running plays and running defenses ragged.

“This week I think it’s really smart to keep fresh guys,” said defensive end David Bass. “I don’t think we’ve faced too many no-huddle teams but it’s going to be different.”

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Whether the Eagles allow breaks in the action for those substitutions remains to be seen.

What to look for: There is far more to the Philadelphia offense than its play-per-minute frequency. The Eagles are one of only two teams (Green Bay is the other) ranked in the top 10 for both rushing and passing. And the Eagles are the NFL’s best in not only rushing yards per game, but more important, average gain per rush. They are the only team averaging 5.0 yards per carry.

The Bears are allowing a league-worst 5.2 yards per carry and too many of those yards have come because of defensive lineman failing to be in correct gaps and to hold the point of attack. The Cleveland game was a positive with the Browns held below 100 yards but even they rushed for more than their average vs. the Bears.

If the Bears cannot control the line of scrimmage consistently, they will lose.