While many NFL-related shows feature five or six analysts screaming at the camera and laughing uncontrollably, ESPN's NFL Matchup actually aims to educate the viewer on what's happening on the field.
During this morning's program, the Matchup crew took a look at the Eagles' run defense last week against the Seahawks, and specifically, Marshawn Lynch's 40-yard touchdown.
I wrote about the play quite a bit in Man Up last week. Seahawks tight end Cameron Morrah came across the formation and blocked Jason Babin, who was rushing upfield. That opened up a huge hole for Lynch on the right side. It's a play we've seen the Eagles' offense run all season with a lot of success.
Not only did Babin get blocked by the tight end, but strong-side linebacker Akeem Jordan failed to get off the block of Seattle's other tight end, Zach Miller. At that point, the only two Eagles defenders who had a shot were Asante Samuel and Jaiquawn Jarrett.
Samuel's effort, in particular, infuriated Matchup analyst Merril Hoge.
"And here is what is extremely disturbing if that [Babin getting blocked] isn't disturbing enough," Hoge said. "Once you get Babin upfield, your corner's gotta jump up there to run support. You can't be hanging back there playing paddy-cake with a wide receiver. You gotta get down in the box and do the other part of the job. You see this week in and week out. It has gotta be the most disturbing thing I see when I study tape of this Eagles defense."
Jarrett, meanwhile, took a horrible angle to the ball, and Lynch scampered all the way to the end zone.
Teams have targeted Samuel and the right side of the Eagles defense all season, knowing he's unlikely to make a play against the run if the tailback gets past the defensive line and linebackers.
As for Babin, the criticism targeted his way in recent weeks has been a bit misguided. I'm not here to argue that Babin is good against the run, but he was brought here to rush the quarterback and has done that successfully. He leads the Eagles with 12 sacks an 38 quarterback hurries. As I mentioned above, we saw the Eagles effectively block some pretty good defensive ends (Osi Umenyiora and DeMarcus Ware to name a couple) with the same play the Seahawks used against Babin last week.
Criticizing Babin for his performance against the run last week is fair, but he's far from the defense's biggest problem. If the linebackers and defensive backs are doing their jobs, we're probably not even discussing Babin's play against the run.
Meanwhile, Hoge said calling the Eagles' overall defense "soft" would be an understatement.
"The word 'soft' would be too kind," he said. "When I look at it, I think of words like avoid, get out of the way, the things you don't want to say if you're talking about a defense that should be attacking, being physical."
Looking ahead to today's game, the Dolphins will use Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas in the run game. Bush is averaging 4.3 yards per carry and has five runs of 20+ yards. Thomas is averaging 3.8 yards per carry and has one carry of 20+.
As always, I'll be chatting the game, starting at 1 p.m.
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