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Defense Must Be Physical Vs. Run

Green Bay enters Sunday's game minus quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who suffered a collarbone injury on Monday, and remains without tight end Jermichael Finley and wide receiver Randall Cobb. Common theory says that Green Bay will look to run the football at the Eagles and see just how stout the interior of this defense can be.

"They're going to bring it. We expect to have that mindset where we need to man up against the run and win our battles," said rookie defensive tackle Bennie Logan, who made his first NFL start in Oakland and recorded five total tackles in thie 49-20 victory over the Raiders.

"It's a focus for our defense. They've got some physical running backs and we have to get after the ball. Hit 'em hard and wear them down. The whole defense has to get in there against the run."

Eddie Lacy is Green Bay's featured running back, and the Eagles are familiar with his game. Lacy starred at Alabama playing with Jeff Stoutland as the offensive line coach. Defensive lineman Damion Square was a teammate. Fletcher Cox and Logan are part of the SEC contingent on this roster.

Lacy is eighth in the NFL with 596 rushing yards. He's averaging 4.4 yards per carry, and while he was a whirling dervish in college, spinning away from tacklers and outrunning them to the end zone, he has become more of a power back in the NFL.

At 5 feet 11, 230 pounds, Lacy defines a "power" running back.

"He was really a finesse back at Alabama. He had that spin move in college and it was sick," said Square. "I watched from the sidelines when he was on the field and defenders would run into each other.

"Eddie is a complete back who wants to get into the end zone. I'm not surprised at anybody who survived the grind at Alabama. It's very physical there. That's Nick's (Saban, head coach) philosophy that to be the best, you have to practice against the best. We weren't afraid to have our ones go against the offense's ones (starters vs. starters). I saw Lacy a lot. All the time.

"He is committed to attacking a gap. You're not going to see him reverse field. He's going to be patient in the hole. He's going to put his hand on his blockers and get as much as he can through the hole. I'm glad he's having success, but it's my job to get him on the ground this week. That's our defense's job."

Oakland ran for 210 yards last Sunday, much of it coming on quarterback scambles and big yards with a lopsided scoreboard. It was the first time the defense had allowed the opposition to reach triple figures in rushing yards in five weeks.

The Eagles have been far more physical this season than in 2012, and their tackling has been much more secure. The level of play from a young front seven has gotten better and better.

Sunday, the big guys up front are prepared for a bruising afternoon.

"They're going to try to run the ball. Every team does. That's the NFL. They're all great here," said Cox. "We have to get off of our blocks and get to the football as an entire defense and swarm to the football."

Seneca Wallace replaces Rodgers at quarterback, and Wallace brings experience and mobility to the table. He won't be fooled by the Eagles and any scheme changes they might try. Wallace is a dependable backup quarterback in a tough spot. How much will Green Bay rely on him to win the game?

Or will the Packers just look to grind it out on Sunday?

"They have a lot in their scheme and they will show us that scheme," said linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who is having an oustanding season. "First and foremost, though, we have to stop the run. We can't let the Packers establish the line of scrimmage. They have two backs (Lacy and James Starks) who can bring it. We've got to be ready for a physical afternoon."

Where this might have been considered the litmus test for Philadelphia's secondary with Rodgers in the game, the focus now turns to the front seven. How aggressive will the Eagles be at the point of attack? Can they play in Green Bay's backfield enough to get the Packers' offense off the field?

"That's what we have to do," said Logan. "Our mentality is to get off the field. We know that Green Bay runs the football extremely well. It's a good challenge for us."

Consider this, then a sort of "throwback" task for the defense. May the toughest team win in the trenches. If Green Bay runs the football well, the Packers can control the tempo and keep Chip Kelly's offense on the sidelines. If the Eagles defense forces Wallace into some third-and-long situations, well, the Eagles' chances will improve quite a bit.

It comes down to the run for the defense on Sunday, and it may not be pretty. We'll learn a lot about the young linemen in this game as they face some bruisers from the Packers backfield.

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