The Philadelphia Eagles have a clear weakness that the New Orleans Saints should be able to exploit with star running back Alvin Kamara Sunday.
In addition to having a somewhat vulnerable secondary, Philly’s linebacking core has been a struggle for them all year.
After losing guys like Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill over the past two years, they’ve been relegated to starting two undrafted free agents with less than three years of combined experience — Alex Singleton and T.J. Edwards — and Duke Riley.
According to charting numbers by PFF, that position group is allowing a completion rate of about 82.7% when targeted this season, to go along with over 10 yards per catch allowed.
Whether it be gullibility on play action passes, miscommunications when they try to play Cover 1 Man or just flat out not having the speed/athleticism to stick with receivers, these guys are liabilities in the passing game.
The Eagles are one of the most Cover 1-heavy teams in the league, deploying that coverage over 40% of the time, which is a top five mark in the league.
Benjamin Solak — Deputy Editor at Bleeding Green Nation — pointed out a huge miscommunication with the “Rat” or underneath middle-of-the-field player in Cover 1 against the Packers that led to an easy touchdown.
The Eagles busted a pretty basic coverage check on the Robert "BIG BOB" Tonyan touchdown against the Packers— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) December 7, 2020
Why they're in that check
When and how it actually worked
What the Packers did to manipulate it
When you're on your 4th-string LB, this is what you can expect! pic.twitter.com/8r3rZ9XIKQ
So, this video is an example of the Rat player not understanding his responsibility to take over an in-breaking route, which leads to a TD. And that is important.
But what’s also very important is about 1:14 into the video where Solak says, “Usually you would bracket the running back, but the Eagles use this to bracket the tight end.”
That’s huge, because if they’re going to bracket the tight end or the inner-most slot receiver to the trips side and leave Kamara singled up to the weakside, he could feast.
Option route, wheel routes, fades from the slot after motioning him out — you name it.
Two consecutive plays from early in the Eagles matchup with the Seahawks also caught my eye, where miscommunication or just being slow to diagnose resulted in chunk yardage by the RB.
On the first play, the motion confuses them, and they just leave Chris Carson wide open on the swing route with room in front of him.
On the second play, Carson is motioned out, and the linebacker is too slow to get there and takes a poor angle. Easy 12 yards.
The Packers and Seahawks didn’t really look to exploit this aspect of the Eagles defense all that much, as they each only targeted their RBs five times on mostly dump-off routes or screens.
But then again, they don’t have AK.
Another reason to get Kamara the ball is because of how good the Eagles defensive line is. They have basically carried this defense, with 38 sacks (2nd-most in the NFL) and a 39.7% pressure rate (3rd-highest).
Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham are beasts. And edge defenders like Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat and Vinny Curry are all more than formidable players who have a positive impact.
So, my point is getting the ball out of Taysom Hill’s hands quickly in this game would be smart. And who better for him to get the ball to on quick-developing patterns that AK or Michael Thomas?
While MT has been getting his touches and doing wonders with them lately, Kamara has only seen five targets in the passing game over the past three weeks. That is pretty alarming for a guy of his talent-level.
And they have had some plays where he was designed to get the ball that haven’t worked out.
Like this screen that Taysom refused to throw for whatever reason:
And this clear-out option route that he fell down on last week:
I would expect Sean Payton to make it a point to get the ball in this game to the guy who was averaging more yards per route run that Julio Jones and Deandre Hopkins before Taysom became the QB in Week 11, especially considering the ferocity of the D line they’ll be facing.
Other than Alvin, there will be opportunities for various guys in the offense to try and take advantage of this defense with.
Mike Thomas should have a tough assignment in Darius Slay, who’s a good corner even though he’s been toasted by Davante Adams and D.K. Metcalf the past two weeks. However, if Philly is going to leave him singled up on Slay with inside leverage all night, he can easily put up digits.
And if they want to double him, then Emmanuel Sanders will be singled up outside with Avonte Maddox, who’s had rough year. Time to eat, Emmanuel.
I would also look for the continued high play action usage with Taysom under center, as it could open up passing lanes on in-breaking routes behind the LBs.
The ultimate key will be Hill not hanging on to the ball too long and making sound decisions from the pocket. For the most part he’s done this in his three starts, but he’s got to cut out the few disastrous plays mixed in there that he tends to have every game.
Keeping Kamara in mind as his security blanket should do wonders in this aspect.
The Eagles’ only hope is that Taysom gives them a few, whether it be through fumbles or errant throws. If he doesn’t succumb to that, I think the Saints will be 11-2 at the end of the day.
What do you think will be the key to victory against the Eagles on Sunday? Let us know in the comments. Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @AndrewBell_98.