When the Jets battle the Eagles on Sunday, all eyes will be on one pivotal matchup:
The Jets defensive front seven attempting to contain the Eagles league-best rushing attack.
Last week, Robert Saleh challenged the Jets offensive line to dominate the line of scrimmage against the Texans — and they answered by rushing for 157 yards.
This week’s obstacle is much bigger.
The Eagles produce 158 yards rushing per game. They’ve been scorching-hot over the past three games, averaging 222.
“This is a team that is deliberate in the way they want to run the football,” Saleh said.
Unfortunately for the Jets, they’re one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. They allow 128.7 yards on the ground, which is the 27th most. In nine of their 11 games, the unit allowed over 100 yards rushing.
The last time the Jets faced a heavy run team, the Colts, they allowed 260 rushing yards.
The problem starts with Eagles QB Jalen Hurts, who is a dynamic dual threat. Hurts suffered a foot injury in the Eagles’ 13-7 loss to the Giants. But Hurts told reporters Wednesday he should be good to go.
“You see an unbelievable offensive line. A lot of creativity from the coordinator. A quarterback who’s dynamic with the ball in his hands and he’s always a threat to run,” Saleh said. “Whenever the quarterback is involved in the run game, you’re creating an extra gap. It becomes 11-on-11 football.”
Hurts is the fixture in their offensive attack, leading the team in rushing with 695 yards which is second most for a quarterback, and has a team-high eight touchdowns. Hurts also has tossed 13 touchdowns through the air.
At least 341 of Hurts’ yardage was created through designed runs, which is the most for a quarterback according to Next Gen Stats. The Eagles feature Hurts with read-options and power runs.
The Eagles rushing attack opens up Run-Pass-Option plays and Hurts has 632 passing yards from RPO, which is second most.
They also run counters, traps, whams and misdirection with QB reads. When they pull the guard and tackle on power plays, that could pose problems for the Jets defensive line, who attack up the field on each snap. The counters could catch the Jets unit out of position and lead to offensive lineman latching onto Jet linebackers.
But Saleh won’t alter the approach of the defensive line attack.
“It doesn’t change our style in terms of trying to attack and create new lines of scrimmage,” Saleh said. “With just understanding that you got to keep your head on a swivel and understand that their run game and their blockers can come from every direction.”
It’s not just Hurts. Running backs Miles Sanders, Boston Scott and Jordan Howard contribute to the dominant rushing attack too — in four games, they racked up 458, 258 and 274 in four games yards, respectively.
The Eagles’ offensive line is excellent with their double teams in creating running lanes on inside zone runs for their running backs. It’s why they lead the league in rushing yards.
So the Jets’ interior linemen Quinnen Williams, Sheldon Rankins and Folorunso Fatukasi will own a gigantic responsibility Sunday.
“You look at the way they run the ball, a lot of double teams inside and they’re hanging on those doubles,” Sheldon said. “So guys gonna have to be stout inside. Guys gotta be focused and strain on those blocks, because if you lose focus for a second, you get driven off the ball three, four, five yards. And those are scenes that we can’t allow. And when they’re finding those scenes, they’re home runs so definitely gonna be a lot onus on the guys inside.”
The reason why the interior lineman must raise their level of play is because of how dominant the Eagles are out of 11 personnel. They’ve rushed for 1,895 yards on the season, but 1,183 yards and 10 touchdowns have come out of this grouping, most in the NFL.
The grouping prevents defenses from loading up with an 8-man box to stop the run. And along with the Eagles just plain good offensive line, it creates an advantageous situation for them.
“It’s their ability to operate in an RPO system, they can get the QB zone read system, they’re o-line is really good,” Saleh said. “They got so much speed on the outside that they can create space and they can get the safeties pulled back… Jalen, I just think he’s kind of the piece that puts it all together with his ability to again go off schedule and he can carry the ball.”
The Eagles want to spread defenses out and attack lighter boxes. That’s why the Eagles have 298 carries, most in the NFL, against light and neutral boxes. It’s difficult to load up with eight man boxes when the Eagles are in 11.
In Week 13, the Jets face the toughest ground attack they’ve seen since Thursday Night Football. Their run defense better show up for their own sake.
Source: Berkshire mont