Eagles vs. Titans: 3 matchups Philadelphia can exploit this week
Of the six games remaining on the Eagles schedule, this week’s contest against Tennessee is arguably the toughest.
They’re a fundamentally sound team that plays an old school brand of football. They want to run it down your throat with their 6-foot-3, 247 pound mutant of a running back and beat you up with physicality on the defensive side of the ball. More often than not, the Eagles out-physical almost every team they play. This week, they may meet their match.
Luckily for Philadelphia, the Titans are far from a perfect team. They have holes on both sides of the ball that Nick Sirianni and Co. should look to exploit come Sunday.
Here are three matchups where the Eagles will have the clear advantage over Tennessee in Week 13.
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Eagles defensive front vs. Titans subpar offensive line
It’s no secret that Tennessee is going to try and run the ball as often as possible against the Eagles this week. Philly’s run defense has been a topic of conversation all season and even though they’ve shown glimpses of improvement here and there, the overall stats speak for themselves.
Eagles run defense rankings:
|Eagles run defense||Stat||Rank|
|Total rushing yards||1,328||16th|
|Yards per carry||4.7||24th|
|Yards per game||120.7||18th|
|First downs by rushing||76||14th|
Clearly the Eagles have some work to do on this front. The MVP of Tennessee’s rushing attack is obviously Derrick Henry. He deserves pretty much all of the credit for how effectively they run the ball, because their offensive line has been average at best this season.
Per Pro Football Focus, Tennessee ranks 13th in run blocking this season, posting an overall run blocking grade of 63.0, despite earning a 86.6 rushing grade on the year, good for eighth.
When it comes to run blocking, Tennessee is at least a little above average. Their pass blocking, however, is downright putrid. As a unit, they’ve posted a 50.5 pass blocking grade this year, good for dead last in the NFL. They’ve surrendered sacks on 8.3 percent of their dropbacks, eighth-most in the league.
The left side of Tennessee’s offensive line is where they really struggle. After losing Taylor Lewan for the season at left tackle, Dennis Daley has filled his vacancy. On the year, he’s posted a 51.3 offensive grade, which places him 72nd out of 76 qualifying tackles. In 10 starts, Daley has surrendered 32 pressures, 19 hurries, seven QB hits, and six sacks. For context, no one along the Eagles offensive line has given up more than 23 pressures this season.
The Titans’ starting left guard, Dillon Radunz, has been even worse, posting a 40.7 offensive grade this season, ranking him 80th out of 84 guards.
It doesn’t get much better when you look at the right side of their offensive line, either. Third-round rookie RT Nicholas Petit-Frere has been subpar as well. For the year, he’s earned a 55.3 offensive grade (66th out of 76 tackles), while allowing 23 pressures and two sacks.
One of Philadelphia’s biggest defensive strengths is their ability to get after the passer. They’ve racked up 36 sacks on the year, tied for third-most in the NFL, while posting the seventh-best pressure percentage in the league (24.2 percent). And they’ve managed to generate this pressure while blitzing on just 23.3 percent of their defensive reps, right around the league average.
Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, Haason Reddick, and maybe even Robert Quinn should be able to feast on this offensive line in Week 13. It’s one of the most lopsided advantages the Eagles will have going into this matchup.
Eagles top-tier secondary vs. Titans inexperienced/underwhelming group of pass catchers
If the Eagles can slow down the run (and that’s a big ‘if’), or if their offense can get out to a two or three possession lead, Tennessee is not equipped to play catch up.
Their pass offensive is essentially non-existent. Here’s a look at how their passing offense stacks up.
Titans passing offense rankings:
|Titans passing offense||Stat||Rank|
|Total passing yards||1,935||30th|
|Yards per game||175.9||29th|
Titans signal caller Ryan Tannehill is far from the worst quarterback in the league. His PFF offensive grade of 73.0 ranks 13th in the NFL this season. Part of the reason Tennessee’s passing numbers are underwhelming is simply due to the fact that they run the ball 54 percent of the time, but their lackluster group of pass catchers also play a pretty significant role.
The funniest part in all of this is that most of these issues probably would have been solved if they just paid AJ Brown this past offseason. One team’s cap casualty is another’s saving grace, I suppose.
Without Brown in the fold, Tennessee has been relying on rookie Treylon Burks, veteran Robert Woods, and third-year slot receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine.
Woods was acquired this past offseason to help fill the void left behind by Brown, but he’s been pretty unsuccessful in doing so. In nine starts, the veteran wideout has recorded 32 receptions on 56 targets for 351 yards and one touchdown.
Burks is the most promising of the bunch. After struggling at the beginning of his rookie campaign, the former Arkansas Razorback has racked up 11 receptions for 181 yards over the past two weeks.
Nevertheless, the Eagles secondary has shutdown far superior wide receiving corps throughout this season. Both Darius Slay and James Bradberry rank inside the top-15 in coverage grades this year. As a defensive unit, the Eagles have allowed 2,020 passing yards this year, second-fewest in football. And they’ve recorded a league-high 15 interceptions.
If Tennessee has to rely on the arm of Tannehill to win on Sunday, they’ll have no chance. Obviously, that isn’t what they want to do. It’ll be up to the Eagles run defense to show up and the offense to put up points early and often.
Eagles wide receivers vs. Titans young cornerback group
The Eagles offense is at its best when they run the ball effectively, as evidenced by their historic rushing effort last Sunday night. But, Philadelphia has proven that they can be just as effective through the air when they need to be.
Per PFF, Philly’s offense has the fourth-best passing grade on the year at 83.1. On the flip side, Tennessee has been so-so against the pass this season, despite having one of the best run defenses in the league.
They rank 29th in total pass defense while allowing 19 touchdowns through the air, tied for fourth-most in the NFL. It all starts with their young group of cornerbacks. Rookie second-round pick Roger McCreary has been the most suspect of the bunch, allowing a 71 completion percentage and 106.5 passer rating when targeted. He’s also given up four passing touchdowns.
On the other side, Tennessee’s 2020 second-round selection, Kristian Fulton, has fared a little better, but not by much. He’s surrendered a 56.9 completion percentage along with a 98.6 passer rating and four touchdowns on the year.
It goes without saying that the Eagles have the pass catchers and quarterback to exploit this weakness. AJ Brown is the eighth-highest graded wideout in the league this season. DeVonta Smith is the 25th-best wideout in PFF’s grading system. And while Quez Watkins’ PFF grades aren’t as stellar, he’s been a difference maker over the past two weeks, totaling five receptions for 66 yards and two touchdowns during that time.
If Tennessee successfully limits what the Eagles can do on the ground, Philly should have no issues airing it out to make up the production.
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