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The Eagles have plenty of practice at facing top WR duos, results are a mixed bag

With the Bears coming to town Sunday night, the Eagles' focus defensively will likely be on the Bears' WR duo of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, who have combined this season for 170 catches, 2450 yards, and 17 TDs. Statistically, it is the top WR duo in the NFL.

The Eagles have plenty of practice at facing top WR duos, results are a mixed bag

Eagles cornerback Cary Williams. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Eagles cornerback Cary Williams. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

With the Bears coming to town Sunday night, the Eagles' focus defensively will likely be on the Bears' WR duo of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, who have combined this season for 170 catches, 2450 yards, and 17 TDs. Statistically, it is the top WR duo in the NFL.

While Marshall and Jeffery have put up monster numbers, it won't be the first talented WR duo the Eagles have faced this season. In fact, if you exclude the Eagles' WR duo of DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper, the Eagles have already faced, or will face, the top 8 WR duos in the NFC. Jackson and Cooper would be 2nd, just FYI, with 116-2018-16.

Interestingly, the Eagles only faced one of the bottom 7 WR duos in the NFC, which happens to be the Vikings, who shredded the Eagles:

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A look at each WR duo individually, and what they did against the Eagles, starting at the top:

Calvin Johnson and Kris Durham, Lions

Johnson and Durham combined for 3 catches, 53 yards, and 0 TDs on 8 targets. All 3 catches were made by Johnson. Obviously, it is difficult to say whether that was a good defensive performance or not, considering the snowy conditions. However, even with the conditions, if you were given the opportunity prior to the game to sign up for Johnson having 53 receiving yards and no TDs, I think we'd all take that in a heartbeat.

Jordy Nelson and James Jones, Packers

The Eagles held Nelson and Jones to 10 catches, 100 yards, and 0 TDs, all of which were totals below their season averages. However, Jarrett Boykin had a big day, hauling in 8 catches for 110 yards. The moral of the story in this game is that the Eagles can't just worry about the Bears' top two receiving threats. At the Linc in 2011, Earl Bennett went off against the Eagles for 5 catches, 95 yards, and a TD. He remains the Bears' #3 WR.

Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, Giants

The Eagles game-planned to take away Cruz in the first matchup, and that they did. Cruz only had 5 catches for 48 yards on 12 targets, and a long of 14. This was probably Brandon Boykin's best game of the season. However, Nicks and Randle combined for 15 catches for 238 yards and 2 TDs.

In the second matchup in which the Giants kicked 5 FGs but did not get into the end zone, Cruz, Nicks, and Randle were held in check. The three of them combined for 14 catches for 137 yards on 23 targets. That's less than 6 yards per pass attempt, which you'll take every time against that trio of receivers.

Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, Cardinals

These two receivers are actually a lot like Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Fitzgerald goes 6'3, 218, and Floyd goes 6'2, 220. Both receivers do a great job going up and getting balls thrown high in the air. Marshall is a little bigger than Fitzgerald at 6'4, 230, and Jeffery goes 6'3, 216. They also do a great job high-pointing balls.

Fitzgerald and Floyd combined for 10 catches for 171 yards and 2 TDs in Philly a few weeks ago. Fitzgerald's TD came on play in which Patrick Chung lit up the wrong guy (Boykin) as the catch was being made. Otherwise, Boykin's coverage on the play wasn't bad.

Floyd's TD came on a well designed route concept in which Boykin ran into Bradley Fletcher, which allowed Floyd to get open in the end zone from 23 yards out. In other words, stay out of Boykin's way against Marshall and Jeffery this week when they line up in the slot.

Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams, Cowboys

Bryant and Williams combined for 14 catches for 181 yards and a TD. Those are good numbers, but they are a little misleading. This was of course the "Bad Foles" game, in which the Eagles' offense couldn't stay on the field, punting 9 times in the first 37 minutes. Tony Romo attempted 47 passes in this game, which inflated Bryant's and Williams' numbers, but for the most part the Eagles secondary did a good job, holding Dallas to 17 points.

Vincent Jackson and Tim Wright, Buccaneers

Jackson and Wright basically were the Buccaneers' offense when they played the Eagles, combining for 16 catches, 204 yards, and 2 TDs, both by Jackson. 

It should be noted that Wright is somewhat of a WR-TE hybrid, so it may not be the best comparison to the Bears, although he does have similar size at 6'3, 220. However, Jackson is a lot like the Bears receivers, in that he has great size and is excellent at making plays on the ball in the air. Jackson goes 6'5, 230.

Pierre Garcon and Santana Moss, Redskins

In both games against the Redskins, the Eagles built big, early leads. As a result, Robert Griffin III threw 84 total passes against the Eagles this season. No Redskins receivers had a big day against the Eagles, with Leonard Hankerson having the most yards in either game, with 80.

Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson, Vikings

Statistically, this was the worst WR duo the Eagles faced this season. And sure enough, Jennings had the most yards of any receiver to face Philly this year, with 163 yards on 11 catches. Simpson didn't do much, but Jarius Wright added 95 receiving yards.

AFC Opponents

It should be noted that the Eagles faced the best WR duo in the AFC in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. The Eagles did very little to stop anything Denver tried. They also gave up huge days to slot receivers Eddie Royal (90 yards, 3 TDs) and Donnie Avery (141 yards) against the Chargers and Chiefs, respectively. Against the Raiders, the Eagles gave up a long catch and run to Rod Streater, but otherwise did a nice job against the Raiders in a blowout.

Conclusion:

The Eagles' secondary has been a mixed bag against various WR duos this season. If you were to look at it game by game, grading them on a pass-fail basis, with a passing grade being "good enough," I'd give them passing grades against the Lions, Packers (debatable), Giants (both matchups, although the first one being debatable), Cardinals, Cowboys, Raiders, and Redskins (both matchups).

They would get failing grades against the Broncos, Chargers, Chiefs, Buccaneers, and Vikings. Among the teams against whom they failed (based on my highly scientific pass-fail system), they went 1-4.

The Eagles' secondary hasn't completely shut anyone down this season, although they have faced some very good passing attacks. They have, however, often been "good enough." The Eagles need to just be "good enough" against the Bears' WR duo, which will be difficult. As long as they don't let Marshall and Jeffery run amok, I like their chances.

Jimmy Kempski Philly.com
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