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Lawlor: Eagles Defense Ready For A Challenge


The Eagles defense has been absolutely dominant over the last month or so. They aren't giving up yards or points and they are making all kinds of big plays. To be fair, they haven't been challenged by an array of dynamic quarterbacks. They played a pair of rookies in C.J. Beathard and Mitchell Trubisky. They played Brock Osweiler and the struggling Dak Prescott. Obviously Prescott is the best player in that group, but he was missing key pieces and playing the worst football of his pro career.

I want to see the Eagles defense challenged. I want to know just how good this group is. Think back to Gang Green and the 1991 season. The defense cemented their legacy by facing the great Warren Moon and his high-flying Houston Oilers on Monday Night Football. The world watched as the Eagles shut down the run 'n shoot offense that had terrorized teams that year. Gang Green pounded on Moon and held the Oilers to a measly six points in the legendary House of Pain Game.

We need to see the current defense tested to get a feel for how good they really are. They need to be challenged. Facing Wilson will be a huge challenge.

A lot of people think Carson Wentz will be the MVP this season. He has had a great season personally and it always helps when your team wins big, as the Eagles are. You can also make a case for Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson as the MVP, with a heavy focus on the words "most valuable".

Wilson has thrown 23 touchdown passes this year. He has run for three of Seattle's four rushing touchdowns. That is crazy. One player accounting for 26 of 27 offensive touchdowns is unlike anything I've heard of in the NFL. Wilson is a great player and the Seahawks would be lost without him.

The problem with Wilson is that he can beat you so many different ways. He can pick you apart from the pocket. He is the best quarterback in the league at throwing on the run. Get him outside the pocket and he can be deadly. Wilson is also a dynamic runner. He has more than 400 yards on the ground and averages more than six yards per carry.

Jim Schwartz will build a gameplan to try and keep Wilson in the pocket. If you can force him to just play quarterback, it takes pressure off your defense. When you let him have the run-pass option outside, it makes life really hard for linebackers and defensive backs.

In order to keep Wilson in the pocket, the rushers must be disciplined. They can't randomly make inside moves and give up the edge. I'm sure Schwartz will use a spy on Wilson at times, but even that doesn't guarantee success. Last week highly touted rookie Reuben Foster was spying on Wilson and let him get free for a first down. Things that work on paper don't always work in reality.

Seattle's offensive line has really struggled this year so there are going to be plays where Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and the other linemen get into the backfield. The Eagles must finish plays when they have a chance. Wilson doesn't go down on his own. He doesn't give up on plays. You must put him on the ground.

Wilson does have some talented weapons. Jimmy Graham isn't a true tight end. He is a giant receiver who can make big plays and dominate a game. He has eight touchdown catches this year. Any time you get to the red zone, covering Graham becomes a priority. I think Malcolm Jenkins will cover him, but it would be interesting to see if Schwartz tried to use Rasul Douglas in some sets. Douglas has good length and plays the ball really well.

Seattle doesn't have great receivers, but they do have speed. Doug Baldwin, Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett can all get down the field and make plays. The Eagles don't have the fastest corners in the league so this will put pressure on them. It is crucial that Rodney McLeod stay deep and keep things in front of him.

The Seahawks used to be a running team, but that hasn't been the case this year. They are middle of the pack, and they're only that high because of Wilson. The running backs have had injury issues and just struggled in general. Eddie Lacy is averaging 2.6 yards per carry.

The Eagles will try to take away the run and force Wilson to beat them. That strategy has worked really well for them this year. The problem is that Wilson is a good enough quarterback that he can actually make enough plays to win the game. We are going to find out a lot about the Eagles defense on Sunday night.

Wentz and the offense can help the defense out by moving the ball and scoring points. Seattle is missing Cliff Avril, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, but that defense still has plenty of talent. They don't cover as well, but the guys up front remain a force to deal with.

I think Wentz will have a good day throwing the ball. He did some good things a year ago against Seattle and that was with a banged up offensive line and fewer offensive weapons. I think tight ends will be a big part of the passing game.

The Eagles need to run the ball well to make play-action passes effective. I'm sure LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi got plenty of lectures this week on ball security. Each of them had a run of 30 or more yards last week that ended with a fumble. That's crazy and unacceptable.

The Eagles have won three straight games by 28 points. I can virtually guarantee you that won't happen. Beating the Seahawks is hard enough, but beating them by more than seven points is rare. This team is incredibly competitive and they battle until the clock goes to zero.

This isn't a week to worry about style points. Doug Pederson has been talking to his team all week about the challenge of playing a good team like the Seahawks and also having to do it at their place, one of the best home-field advantages in the league. The Eagles should be ready on Sunday night.

If they can get the W, it will show this team they can play with anyone and anywhere. There would also be the added bonus that the Eagles would clinch the NFC East title. That would be an excellent early present this holiday season.

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