Cheat Sheet: Eagles’ Offense Vs. Lions’ Defense

Philadelphia Eagles right guard Danny Watkins.Here are 10 things to know about the matchup between the Eagles’ offense and the Lions’ defense. And if you missed the first cheat sheet, click here.

1. The numbers show the Lions are allowing 28.5 points per game, but that’s a little deceiving when you consider they’ve given up four special-teams scores in the last two games. Football Outsiders has Detroit ranked 20th overall – 24th against the pass and 15th against the run. Like the Eagles, the Lions’ attack revolves around getting pressure up front with their defensive line. They’ve got talent at linebacker, but their cornerbacks are not on the same level as the Birds.

2. Let’s start with those defensive linemen. Don’t expect to see the Lions blitz a lot. Last year, they rushed four linemen 77.7 percent of the time, third-most in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders. And like the Eagles, Detroit will use a rotation. Against the Vikings, seven different players were on the field for at least 20 snaps. Cliff Avril is listed as questionable with a back injury. If he goes, he’ll match up with Todd Herremans at left defensive end. Avril led the team with 11 sacks and 27 hurries last year. Herremans had a poor outing a couple weeks ago against the Giants but was very good against the Steelers.

3. On the other side, Demetress Bell will see a lot of veteran Kyle Vanden Bosch. Vanden Bosch spent five seasons with the Titans, where he learned his trade from Jim Washburn, twice tallying double-digit sack seasons. Now 33-years-old, Vanden Bosch had eight sacks and 15.5 hurries in 2011. Bell has been far from perfect, but he has improved and held up well for the most part in pass protection last week against the Steelers. One key matchup to watch will be right guard Danny Watkins against Ndamukong Suh. Suh had just four sacks in his second seasons, but Football Outsiders had him down for 24 hurries. Watkins continues to struggle in pass protection. Defensive tackle Corey Williams is out with a knee injury.

4. Confusion was an issue for the Eagles up front last week. And while the Lions won’t blitz a lot, they present some challenges for Howard Mudd’s group. Here’s one look from Week 4 where three linemen had their hands on the ground.

Even though there’s a lot of space in between them, Avril is going to twist inside behind Suh.

As you can see, both Vikings offensive linemen block Suh, and Avril runs free. If you want to put this into Eagles terms, we’re talking potentially about Watkins and Herremans. The result is a third-down incompletion and a near sack.

5. Of course, the aggressive pass-rush and use of the wide-nine has its disadvantages, as we’ve seen with the Eagles from time to time. One of those is the run D. Opponents are averaging 4.1 yards per carry against Detroit. In Week 4, Adrian Peterson rumbled for 102 yards, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. The image below may look familiar to you.

Vanden Bosch is lined up wide, ready to get after the passer. But the Vikings call a run with Percy Harvin.

Vanden Bosch is caught way upfield, and Harvin has a huge lane to run through for 14 yards.

The Eagles have put together balanced game-plans in each of the past two weeks. And while LeSean McCoy’s numbers (16 carries, 53 yards) from the Steelers game won’t jump off the page, he ran the ball well. He should be able to do some damage on Sunday.

6. The Lions have some talent at linebacker with Stephen Tulloch, DeAndre Levy (WILL) and Justin Durant (SAM). Tulloch played in Tennessee for five seasons before joining the Lions, so the wide-nine is nothing new to him. Levy, a third-round pick in 2009, has started each of the past four seasons. Durant spent his first four years in the league with the Jaguars before joining the Lions in 2011. Levy’s blitzed 22 times in four games (per Pro Football Focus); Tulloch 15 times; and Durant 10 times.

7. Opposing QBs have completed 66.1 percent of their passes against the Lions and are averaging 7.4 yards per attempt. Detroit has allowed five touchdown passes and has yet to come up with an interception. Veteran Chris Houston and rookie third-round pick Bill Bentley will match up against DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin on the outside. The Eagles could look to take shots at Bentley deep. In the past two games, he’s been called for three pass interference penalties and one defensive holding. Jackson is averaging 4.8 receptions and 78.2 yards per game. Both would be career-highs if they held up the rest of the way. He’s also yet to drop a pass. Maclin hasn’t been able to get going with just 165 yards in four games.

8. Brent Celek could play a big role Sunday. Football Outsiders ranks the Lions 27th at defending the tight end. Vernon Davis had five catches for 73 yards and a pair of scores against Detroit. Tennessee’s Jared Cook had four catches for 77 yards and a touchdown against the Lions. As for Celek, he had a season-low 9 yards receiving last week, although one of his three grabs was a touchdown. Part of the reason was that Celek stayed in to block more – on about 34 percent of the team’s pass plays, compared to about 28 percent the first four games. On the season, Celek has eight catches of 20+ yards, tied for fourth-most in the NFL, and just one fewer than Calvin Johnson.

9. The Eagles have scored touchdowns on 43.75 percent of their trips to the red zone. That ranks 24th in the NFL. The main issue? C’mon… you know this one. That’s right, turnovers. Two Michael Vick fumbles, one Vick interception and one McCoy fumble have hurt the Eagles inside the 20. That’s of added importance this week, given that the Lions boast the top red-zone defense in the league, allowing touchdowns just 16.67 percent of the time so far this season.

10. Leftovers: McCoy has 49 carries for 268 yards (5.5 YPC) to the right and 33 carries for 128 yards (3.9 YPC) to the left. …Fullback Stanley Havili has played more than 33 percent of the team’s offensive snaps in each of the past two weeks. …So much for a larger role for Clay Harbor this season. He’s played 34.1 percent of the team’s snaps, compared to 33.6 percent last season. Harbor has just six catches for 50 yards. …Vick completed 11 of 15 passes (73.3 percent) against the blitz last week.

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