The Eagles are the only team in the league to not allow an individual to rush for 100 yards this season.
That mark will certainly be put to the test this Sunday by rookie running back Doug Martin. The first-round pick out of Boise State is known as the "Muscle Hamster" because of his compact, yet powerful 5-9, 223-pound frame. Martin is tied for third in the league with 1,106 rushing yards and is the league leader with nine rushing touchdowns.
On any week, Martin would be a challenge. However, this week could be potentially more difficult because of the team's decision to implement a more traditional defensive front instead of the Wide-9 technique. Instead of flying up field, the defensive linemen must now read and then react.
"I think he would be a tough back whether we changed the scheme or not. He’s got a little Marshall Faulk in him. He can stop and start and jump in and out of holes with the best of them. He can make you take your gap and jump out of it and then jump back in the hole quicker than you can stop and start," defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. "That makes him a very dangerous player. As a rookie coming in with that kind of quickness and that kind of explosiveness laterally, it makes him a tough player."
In addition to the read-and-react style, the defensive ends will be lined up closer to the defensive tackles. This front helped the Eagles have one of the better run defenses when it was featured in the late 2000s, so it could very well prove to be beneficial. The task is making the adjustment in one week after being taught something else all season.
“I think rep-wise, you just have to get used to it," Bowles said. "It’s just a matter of how much we can get accomplished in a couple of days. But I think all of them have played it at some point in college and coming into the league.
"It’s not going to (become automatic) overnight because it’s a different teaching from what they’ve been learning. As anybody, the first time you get it, it’s not going to be overnight, but I think they’ll grasp it pretty quick.”
Bowles also noted that the Eagles still plan to rotate their linemen, but the frequency will be determined by new line coach Tommy Brasher's comfort level with each of the players. The change up front will also have an effect on the back seven of the defense.
“I think it affects you in the run game. It requires a little more study and sound gap-control as far as where their hands are placed," Bowles said. "Not so much as what they’re doing, but just to understand that the linebackers may not be as fast or slow as they have been in certain situations."
Martin has rushed for 100 yards or more in a game three times, including a 251-yard performance against Oakland back in Week 9. The Eagles will look to keep their streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher alive, but this could be the biggest test yet.
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