Chubb, Hunt Present Toughest Challenge For Eagles
By ROB MAADDI
Stopping the run is a priority for every defense. It’s imperative the Eagles do it Sunday or they won’t have any chance against the Browns.
Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt present the toughest test of the season for defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and his unit. The Browns are fourth in the league, averaging 159 yards per game on the ground. The Eagles’ run defense is ranked 26th, allowing 133 yards per game. But the numbers are skewed because quarterbacks and wide receivers have done most of the damage, gaining 41 percent of the rushing yards the Eagles have surrendered.
The Eagles have held running backs to 3.4 yards per carry. Quarterbacks have 313 yards rushing and 10.1 average. Wideouts have 166 yards and 7.1 average.
“I’ve continued to be pleased with the way our defense has stopped running backs but that’s not enough,” Schwartz said. “All those rushing yards count and particularly the quarterbacks.”
Schwartz called Chubb and Hunt the “best two overall” running backs the Eagles will face.
“Great balance. Great power. They know what they want to do in the run game,” Schwartz said. “Nothing sort of takes them out of it. There’s not a whole lot you can do scheme-wise that forces them to do something else. They are going to run it. It doesn’t matter what your look is and they are going to take that attitude of if you have an unblocked guy, the running back is going to try to run over them. It’s going to take everybody, it’s not just the defensive linemen, it’s not just the linebackers; our corners are going to have to have an outstanding game defending the run.”
Safety Rodney McLeod expects an old-school, smash-mouth type of game.
“Bring an extra mouthpiece and shock pads. It’s gonna be a battle,” McLeod said. “Those are two good running backs and you know exactly what run plays that are coming and it’s can you stop it. They’re dynamic, they run hard. Everybody has to play their part and we have to get a lot of hats to the ball.”
The best way to stop the run would be to jump ahead early and force Baker Mayfield to throw.
Here are three other matchups to watch:
1. Eagles LT Jason Peters vs. Browns DE Myles Garrett
Garrett leads the NFL with 9.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. He missed two days of practice this week because of illness but was expected to return on Friday if his last COVID-19 test is negative.
Garrett lines up everywhere and has most of his sacks off the right side so Peters needs to be at his best. If not, it could get ugly for Carson Wentz.
2. Doug Pederson vs. Rolling Out Carson Wentz
The Eagles gained 40 yards on consecutive plays in the third quarter when Wentz moved out of the pocket by design.
So why didn’t Pederson roll Wentz out sooner? Or again?
“I think I can do more. I can dial up more of those,” Pederson said.
He needs to. Wentz excels on the move.
“I know I love it,” Wentz said. “I love when I’m out of the pocket and can just kind of make plays and move and change the launch point and everything, but coaches do a good job of sprinkling that in when and where it applies.”
3. Eagles COVID list vs. Browns COVID list
Both teams have coronavirus concerns. The Eagles placed WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, RB Corey Clement and DE Vinny Curry on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. WR Deontay Burnett was put on the practice squad COVID-19 list.
In addition to Garrett missing practice, the Browns had right tackle Jack Conklin and kicker Cody Parkey on the COVID list. Both players have potential to play Sunday.