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O Line Must Win In Trenches

Posted Nov 30, 2013

Where is the blitz? Who is lining up where? Is everyone on the same page in those nano-seconds before the ball is snapped? What happens mentally for the offensive line holds the key for the Eagles offense on Sunday ...

Arizona's defense is an attacking one, designed to confuse quarterbacks and confound offensive lines. With depth in talent and some creative schemes from coordinator Todd Bowles, Arizona's defense is as legitimately hot as any in the NFL right now.

This is something the Eagles have learned very intensely during the week of preparation for Sunday's 1 p.m. game (FOX) at Lincoln Financial Field. Mental mistakes are going to be costly. Physical blunders will be challenging to overcome.

"It's been a great week of preparation," said center Jason Kelce. "We know that Arizona likes to bring pressure and they're very good at doing so. If you are not ready for that, you're going to pay the price. Arizona's defense has been bringing it the last several weeks."

As the Cardinals have won four consecutive games, the defense has turned up the heat. Arizona thrives on takeaways and setting up its offense in prime position. Arizona has won four straight games and has manhandled Atlanta, Jacksonville and Indianapolis along the way.

So what do the Cardinals do that works so effectively? They bring pressure from everywhere and they disguise it well. The base talent is outstanding, which enables Arizona to win its share of one-on-one battles.

And Bowles has the Cardinals playing disciplined football. That's a huge key. Arizona is the second-best defense in the NFL against the run.

"You don't see Arizona making a lot of mistakes. They are in the right position to make plays," said guard Evan Mathis. "They have size and they have quickness, too. It's just a really good defense."

Bowles this week called running back LeSean McCoy a "modern-day Barry Sanders," and suggested that taking No. 25 out of harm's way is the first priority for the Cardinals. Does that mean they load the box and dare quarterback Nick Foles to win with his arm against a talented secondary? Or does that mean Arizona focuses on the run first on the way to the pass, and that every defender stays in his lane and does not allow McCoy to gain yardage with his reverse-field moves and cuts?

"We stop (number) 25," said linebacker Daryl Washington. "That's the mindset."

It's really a litmus-test game for the Eagles and for Foles against the best defense they've faced for many weeks, if not the entire season. Arizona has great team quickness and Bowles uses that to his advantage.

"We have to go out and play our game and execute. Get the ball out and make good decisions," said Foles. "I have a lot of respect for Arizona and what the defense does, but I also have a lot of faith and confidence in our coaches to put us in a great position to make plays. It's up to us to execute out on the field."

The matchups are great on Sunday. How do the Eagles deal with lineman Darnell Dockett, who is a big, explosive and versatile player? Can the blocking scheme neutralize Calais Campbell, who is a monster of a man at 6 feet 8, 300 pounds? Washington's speed is a factor and he has been a problem in past games against the Eagles, so how can the offense minimize Washington's sideline-to-sideline abilities?

Can head coach Chip Kelly find a way to get McCoy the football and create some space to do his magic? The matchup of cornerback Patrick Peterson against wide receiver DeSean Jackson is going to get a lot of attention down the field, but Foles needs time to throw when the Cardinals line up and call a Triple A-gap blitz, something they've used sparingly and very effectively in recent games. Foles and his hot read against the blitz must be locked in mentally.

The fun is nearly here, and the guys up front for the Eagles' outstanding offensive line will determine the success of the offense. It's going to be a huge chore, an outstanding gauge to determine just how far the front line has come this season.

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