Belichick is Wary of Eagles D-Line
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - As spectacular as Nick Foles' performance was in the NFC Championship Game, most realize the locomotive that carried the Eagles to Super Bowl LII in the absence of superstar quarterback Carson Wentz was the team's defense.
Jim Schwartz's unit was especially lights out at Lincoln Financial Field, giving up an average of 8.3 points per game during Philadelphia's run toward the big game.
In the postseason the defense allowed Atlanta to score 10 points and Minnesota to do even worse than that with seven. Both teams, meanwhile were completely shutout in the second half.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has taken notice of what's going on with the Eagles and is especially focused on a talented, deep front that has been dominant for much of the season.
Against the Vikings, the clock struck midnight on Cinderella Case Keenum, largely because the Eagles were able to pressure the quarterback on nearly 50 percent of his dropbacks, an almost unfathomable number.
In Belichick's Super Bowl history, the Patriots have won five times and lost twice with both setbacks against the New York Giants and following the same formula, a front four that was able to speed Tom Brady up and get him off his spots.
The Eagles have the personnel to replicate that success and Belichick is well aware of it.
“I wish it was just four [defensive linemen]. It’s about eight or nine," the coach said on Wednesday. "It’s a very disruptive group. Hard to run against, hard to throw against. They are well coached and instinctive against screens and plays like that which you think will take the edge off of the pass rush. Play action, they blow those plays up too.”
The stars are under tackle Fletcher Cox and left defensive end Brandon Graham but tackles Tim Jernigan and Beau Allen, a Minnesota native, and ends Vinny Curry, Chris Long and Derek Barnett are all capable of making big plays.
In fact Long, who won Super Bowl LI as a member of the Pts last season, and Barnett made the splash plays against the Vikings, forcing Keenum turnovers.
Opposing coaches, however, always start with the game-wrecking Cox and Belichick is no different.
“I think Cox is as good as anybody in the league at his position," Belichick said. "He is a very disruptive player."
It's not like you can just double-team Cox and brush your hands of the problem, though.
“They have some edge rushers, a good interior pass rush. They come hard every play,” Belichick surmised. “You have to block them on every play. There are no plays off. To deal with that front down after down, they wear you down. It’s a great group and a huge strength for their defense.”
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen