By The Numbers: How the Eagles offense can exploit Dallas’ defense
The Eagles offense has been put to the test throughout the early portion of the season. When Dan Quinn and his Dallas defense comes to town this upcoming Sunday night, it’ll be the Birds’ biggest test to date.
Dallas’ defense has been a buzzsaw in 2022. Led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Micah Parsons, the Cowboys possess one of the best pass rushing units in the game.
They’ve tallied 20 sacks through five games, good for second-most in the NFL. Their 73 pressures and 33.6 percent pressure rate are both tops in the league. Per Pro Football Focus, Dallas as a team has the highest pass rushing grade on the season, earning a 86.0 mark.
This steady pass rush has helped the coverage on the backend tremendously. They rank seventh in pass defense while surrendering just four passing touchdowns thus far, tied for third-fewest in football.
Dallas’ defense wins when they can pin their ears back and constantly rush the passer, without the threat of the run.
Where the Eagles can win offensively
They key to limiting Dallas’ pass rushing prowess is controlling the ground game and winning the time of possession battle; two areas the Eagles offense has thrived in this season.
The Eagles rank fifth in rushing yards per game (160) while averaging 4.2 yards per attempt and posting a league-high 12 rushing touchdowns. Philly is fourth in expected points added by the running game, posting an impressive 23.43 EXP this season.
When a team can run the ball as effectively as the Eagles do, controlling the clock is easy.
Philly ranks third in time per drive, averaging 3:08 minutes each possession. They’re great at keeping drives alive when they face a third or fourth down as well. Their 43.8 percent third down conversion rate ranks sixth in the NFL, while their 66.7 percent fourth down rate ranks fifth. Combine that with the second-lowest turnover rate in the league (3.7 percent), and it’s no wonder the Eagles consistently win the time of possession battle.
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Dallas’ struggles against the run
Although Dallas’ defense has been pretty stellar across the board, the one area they can’t seem to figure out is defending the run.
The Cowboy’s defense has posted a 54.3 run defense grade this year, 25th in the league. They rank 18th in rushing defense and 20th in yards per attempt.
Their defensive line is one of the best in the league at rushing the passer, but each of the linemen struggle against the run. None of their defensive tackles rank higher than 47th in run defense grade for the position, per PFF. The only edge rusher who ranks inside the top-20 in run defense is Parsons; which is to be expected for a guy who was drafted as a stand-up linebacker.
Their starting linebackers aren’t particularly great at stuffing the run either. Both Leighton Vander Esch and Anthony Barr have posted below average run defense marks this season, earning 63.5 and 59.9 run defense grades respectively.
The Eagles can gash any defense on the ground
Simply put, the Eagles offense can run rampant on any defense they face.
During Nick Sirianni’s tenure, the Eagles have faced the No. 1 rushing defense twice at the time of the matchup.
In Week 11 of the 2021 season, the Saints came to town boasting the best run defense in the game at the time. Heading into the contest, New Orleans was allowing just 66 rushing yards per game and 3.1 yards per attempt. The combination of Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, and Jordan Howard totaled 173 rushing yards on 32 carries (5.4 YPC). Jalen Hurts did his thing as well, racking up 68 yards on the ground and three rushing touchdowns.
All in all, the Eagles rushed for 242 yards on 50 carries (4.8 YPC) against a defense that had allowed just one 100-yard rushing performance in the 10 games prior.
Just a few weeks back against Jacksonville, the Eagles once again faced the challenge of playing the best run defense in the NFL. Entering the Week 4 matchup, the Jaguars were allowing an average of 55 rushing yards per game, the lowest mark in the NFL. They were also one of three teams yet to surrender a rushing touchdown up to that point.
The Eagles, as they always do, ran their opponent into the ground. Led by Sanders’ career-high 134 yards, the team racked up 210 rushing yards on 50 attempts (4.2 YPC) and found the end zone four times on the ground.
Just ponder this for a second. The Eagles literally quadrupled what Jacksonville was giving up on the ground per game and they smacked four rushing touchdowns on the board, against a defense that hadn’t allowed a single one before Week 4.
The numbers speak for themselves here.
If the Eagles rushing attack could gash New Orleans and Jacksonville in the fashion they did, do you really believe Dallas will be able to slow it down?
I think we all know the answer to that one.
We’ll find out for certain come Sunday night.
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