When Jim Washburn was brought in to take over the Eagles defensive line, we knew that we would see a different scheme. This scheme, the wide nine, has been implemented, and we’ve had some opportunities to see it live against both the Ravens and the Steelers.
Simplistically, the idea of the wide nine is to create wider gaps with the front four, get up the field and attack the quarterback. The scheme was very successful against the Ravens with the defense registering six sacks. However, we saw that it can be susceptible to the run as well.
Pittsburgh took advantage of the aggressive scheme by using their run game. They attacked the large gaps and were able to move the Eagles linebackers out of the running lanes in order to pick up big chucks of yardage.
Tonight, the Browns will likely look to find success on the ground as well. They’ll be without wide receivers Mohamed Massaquoi and Josh Cribbs, but they will have the services of Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty.
For a young quarterback like Colt McCoy, it’s always a good idea to try to establish a run game early. I’m sure they’ve seen what Pittsburgh was able to do last week, so I think they’ll look to run the ball early and often.
The big thing to watch will be how the Eagles defense, especially the linebackers, will play against the run.
Casey Matthews will look to stand his ground much better than last week. He was pushed around by the Steelers offensive line, and now there’s a lot of question about whether or not he’s talented enough to start in the middle.
Although Matthews has been the big focus, there are a lot of questions surrounding the entire unit of linebackers. They’re all very young, and are clearly the biggest area of concern for the Eagles defense.
The biggest thing I’ll be looking for them to prove tonight is that they can stop the run. With the Eagles having the corners that they do, teams are going to want to run the ball more anyway. If the linebackers really struggle to stop the run, teams will run the ball against the Eagles a ton.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the Browns will test the Eagles defense with their run game tonight. It will be interesting to see how the linebackers perform.