The Matchup: Eagles Vs. 49ers
Here’s a look at how the Eagles match up with the 49ers.
WHEN THE EAGLES RUN…
LeSean McCoy has been unable to get going – both because of how defenses are playing him and because the Birds’ offensive line is so banged up. McCoy is averaging 2.9 YPC on 60 attempts. He had just 19 carries for 22 yards last week. And it’s unlikely that there will be significantly more room for him on Sunday.
David Molk struggled last week against Washington, but will continue to get the nod in place of injured Jason Kelce. The Eagles’ foundation run play, the inside zone, can get wrecked by opposing nose tackles. Molk is in for a big challenge this week against San Francisco’s front.
Matt Tobin played really well in the preseason and is expected to get the start at left guard. He missed the first three games with an ankle injury. Dennis Kelly was OK at left guard, but struggled to transition to right guard in the fourth quarter of last week’s game. Todd Herremans will be a one-week band-aid at right tackle until Lane Johnson returns.
Tobin, Molk and Kelly all played together at the same three spots in the summer with the second team.
The 49ers play a 3-4 with nose tackle Ian Williams flanked by Justin Smith and Ray McDonald. Inside linebacker Patrick Willis is a seven-time Pro Bowler and San Francisco’s leading tackler. Veteran Michael Wilhoite fills in for NaVorro Bowman at the other spot.
San Francisco is giving up just 3.8 YPC so far this season (10th-best).
WHEN THE EAGLES PASS…
Nick Foles turned in one of the most impressive performances of his career last week. Playing behind a patchwork line, he completed 27 of 41 passes for 325 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers. Foles took a pounding all game long, but kept getting up.
After looking shaky in his first two outings, Foles looked like the guy we saw last year against Washington. On the season, he’s completing 61 percent of his passes and averaging 7.95 YPA. Foles has thrown six touchdowns against two interceptions.
San Francisco’s pass rush is not as formidable as it’s been in recent years because the Niners are playing without Bowman and Aldon Smith. They rank 25th in adjusted sack rate and have four sacks through three games. At 34, Justin Smith is still getting it done. He’s got three sacks on the season and will challenge Tobin and Molk.
McDonald and Williams can present some problems on the interior as well.
Ahmad Brooks will likely match up with Herremans, who filled in at tackle last week but hasn’t started there since 2012. Jason Peters should be able to handle ROLB Dan Skuta. Rookie Aaron Lynch will rotate in at outside linebacker as well.
Jeremy Maclin had a monster game last week and has totaled 16 catches for 296 yards and three touchdowns. He has four catches of 20+ yards, and there have been chances for many more. Riley Cooper has been quiet, but Jordan Matthews could be in for a big game. He’ll get matched up against another rookie – first-round pick Jimmie Ward (5-11, 193). Matthews scored a pair of touchdowns vs. Washington and will have a size advantage against Ward.
The 49ers are expected to be without starting cornerback Tramaine Brock. It’ll be Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver starting on the outside. San Francisco is solid at safety with veteran Antoine Bethea and Eric Reid (6-1, 213). Reid, a second-year player, made the Pro Bowl as a rookie.
San Francisco has been good against tight ends (fourth) and running backs (eighth), according to Football Outsiders’ coverage numbers.
Through three games, opponents are averaging 6.8 YPA vs. San Francisco (10th-best) and have a passer rating of 92.2 (15th).
Considering their offensive line woes, expect the Eagles to turn to more of a get-the-ball-out-quick, efficiency-based passing game. We saw some of that in the fourth quarter last week.
WHEN THE 49ERS RUN…
Chip Kelly has mentioned all week that San Francisco uses more designed QB runs than any team the Eagles have faced. Going back to last year, the Eagles think they’re prepared for those because they have so many coaches on their staff that have come from college.
Colin Kaepernick has already carried 26 times for 129 yards.
The Eagles are limiting opponents to 3.5 YPC, seventh-best. They had trouble in the first half against the Colts, but have otherwise been stout against the run. Fletcher Cox has been outstanding, Bennie Logan leads the Eagles’ defensive linemen in tackles, and Cedric Thornton continues to be his steady self. DeMeco Ryans has been good against the run as well.
The loss of Mychal Kendricks (assuming he’s out), the team’s most athletic linebacker, will hurt in this one. Emmanuel Acho, Casey Matthews and Marcus Smith II will combine to try and replace him. This plan worked out OK against Washington, but the linebackers will be tested against the Niners.
Frank Gore had just six carries last week as San Francisco went to more of a spread look. He’s averaging 4.0 YPC on 35 rushes and can still do damage.
The 49ers have an experienced line. Left tackle Joe Staley has made the Pro Bowl in each of the past three seasons. Left guard Mike Iupati has made the Pro Bowl in each of the past two. Center Daniel Kilgore is in his first year as the starter. And Alex Boone is in his third season as the starter at right guard.
Jonathan Martin has been starting at right tackle, but it sounds like San Francisco could get Anthony Davis back from a hamstring injury.
WHEN THE 49ERS PASS…
Kaepernick is completing 70.2 percent of his passes, third-best in the NFL. But he’s averaging just 7.38 YPA (14th). Kaepernick has thrown three interceptions, and the 49ers’ offense has managed just three points in the second halves of games this season.
San Francisco has a capable, veteran group of pass-catchers. Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and Stevie Johnson each have over 150 yards receiving. They’ve combined for eight plays of 20+ yards, but none of the three is averaging better than 12.5 yards per reception. Boldin and Crabtree will both see time in the slot.
Tight end Vernon Davis has a chance to return after missing last week with an ankle injury. With his size and speed, Davis presents a serious matchup problem for the Eagles. They don’t really have anyone to line up against him. Malcolm Jenkins might be the best option in passing situations.
The Eagles had all kinds of problems in their secondary last week. Kirk Cousins got rid of the ball quickly and picked them apart. Bradley Fletcher played poorly, and Nate Allen had several issues as well.
Per T-Mac, Nolan Carroll II saw some more first-team reps this week. Based on what we’ve heard from the coaches, Brandon Boykin’s role is unlikely to change.
The Eagles’ pass-rush kept Chad Henne and Andrew Luck uncomfortable in the first two weeks, but that was not the case against Cousins. The following players have combined for no sacks and no hurries (per coaches’ stats): Logan, Cox, Thornton, Vinny Curry, Beau Allen and Brandon Bair.
As a team last week, the Eagles had six hurries. Trent Cole accounted for five of those.
Billy Davis could have trouble generating pressure this week without blitzing.
The Eagles have the third-best special teams in the league, according to Football Outsiders. Chris Polk had a 102-yard kickoff return last week. Cody Parkey is 8-for-9 on field goals, including a pair of makes from 50+. He also hit a game-winner against the Colts.
Phil Dawson has only attempted two kicks of 30+ yards for the 49ers, and he missed them both.