How The No-Huddle Impacts the Eagles Defense

Philadelphia Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans.The Ravens offense deployed the no-huddle 36 percent of the time against the Bengals in Week 1. Judging by the 37 points and 430 total yards the offense racked up, it’s safe to say that the approach worked.

The Eagles are expecting a heavy dose of it come Sunday.

“We’re preparing for the worst,” said Trent Cole. “We’ve been preparing this whole week for that no-huddle situation.”

What does it mean for this defensive unit? And how will they cope with the challenges the no-huddle brings? Let’s break it down by position.

DEFENSIVE LINE

If you need further evidence that the Ravens will lean on the no-huddle against the Eagles, look at this quote from Joe Flacco following their convincing win over the Bengals.

“I think it was big,” said Flacco of the no-huddle. “These guys [the Bengals] can get after the passer big-time — we really found that out two years ago. When you talk to our linemen, it was huge, the effect it had on those guys, and how much it took away from the sense that [the Bengals] could get after us.”

This is telling. If Flacco and the offensive line found comfort in the no-huddle against the Bengals pass rush, don’t you think they’d want a similar feeling when squaring off with this D-Line?

Jason Babin was looking at the matchup in a positive light. He thinks Jim Washburn‘s style of play can be an effective counter to the no-huddle.

“I think our defensive line is a little bit unique,” said Babin. “One, we pride ourselves on stamina, running to the ball and running every play, and then when we get tired we have four new guys coming in. We just have wave after wave and can just kind of bombard them.”

In other words, they stay fresh despite the heightened pace. But won’t it also affect substitution patterns?

“There’s unique ways to substitute. I’ll leave it at that,” said Babin.

Perhaps, but it’s reasonable to suggest that the defensive front will not be able to rotate quite as much in such an environment.

“A lot of people are asking, ‘You’ve got a rotation, how are you going to defend this offense with this rotation you’ve got going on?’” said Cole. “Trust me, we’ll have an answer. I believe in my heart we have the answer.

“Some guys might have to stay out there longer, but we know the guys that stay out there longer are going to get the job done.”

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Safeties and corners don’t have quite as much to worry about in this situation, but there are possible pitfalls that need to be accounted for.

“The only potential issue is knowing the call and making sure you don’t miss the call,” said Nnamdi Asomugha. “When they’re coming up in the no-huddle, you have to know what you’re doing on defense. We have some fail-safe calls that we use during no-huddles, a few that we can rotate.”

Asomugha said that no one  particular player on defense is in charge of calling the fail-safe play out. It is essentially predetermined before they get on the field, though they all communicate to confirm that they’re on the same page before the snap.

“I don’t think it’s as big of a deal as some people try to make it, but it’s definitely something that you have to be wary of,” he said.

The Ravens found a lot of success using the deep ball Monday night. Flacco was 7-10 for 194 yards and a touchdown on throws that traveled 15 yards or more, according to ESPN. Confusion in the secondary may have been a factor.

LINEBACKERS

This may be the greatest area of concern, though the least talked about.

Remember when Andy Reid was flirting with using a linebacker rotation heading into the Cleveland game, but ultimately abandoned it? That had to do with their uncertainty as to whether DeMeco Ryans could play all three downs.

“The thing I mentioned to you was that DeMeco was really a two-down player in the last year or so for the Texans. I thought that he could be a three-down player,” said Reid. “Again, you get into a full game and you haven’t done it for a while, so you want to make sure that you have all of your bases covered. We have some good, young guys that we have trust in that can go in and play. I want to make sure that they have the reps where if they needed to do that, that they’d be in a position to do that and play good football. So who knows as far as what goes on in the future, and we’ll see how it works.”

Juan Castillo also mentioned how he looked at the way Washburn rotates his linemen and thought it would be an effective method to spell the linebackers as well to keep them rested. Ryans played so well that the plan was abandoned; he ended up playing 60 of 62 snaps.

But against a no-huddle? There could be more shuffling in and out, which would not necessarily be a good thing for the Eagles.

Follow Tim on Twitter and email him at tmcmanus@phillymag.com.

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