Everyone knows what the Browns do best. They run the football — down your throat, over and over and over again. While it may be easy to predict what’s on the horizon in Cleveland, it still may be impossible to stop for an Eagles defense ranked near the bottom of the league against the run.
“Yeah, it’s our biggest challenge of the season in the run game,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz told reporters on Tuesday, “and how well we stop the run is going to go a long way to how well we play in this game. They are an outstanding run team. Probably the best two running backs we face this year. Not just the best two on the team, but the best two overall.”
That’s strong praise from Schwartz but it’s far from hyperbole. The Browns rank fourth in the NFL for total rushing yards (1,431) and rushing yards per game (159) with nine rushing touchdowns. They live and die on the hefty shoulder pads of standout backs Kareem Hunt (633 yards) and Nick Chubb (461 yards).
Not only that, these guys are the most physical rushers in football. Chubb has averaged 2.7 yards after contact (fifth-best) while Hunt has averaged 2.6 yards after contact (seventh-best). They have a combined 557 yards after the first hit.
Rodney McLeod: "I think we're a good running defense. It's going to be a battle. It's going to be one of those games where you pack an extra mouthpiece and extra shoulder pads." They know what's coming, just got to stop it. Browns rank fourth in rushing yards (1,431). #Eagles
— Michael Greger (@mike_greger) November 17, 2020
“They are a good contact-running team and like I said both of those guys, Hunt and Chubb are both outstanding running backs,” said Schwartz, “and it’s going to be our biggest challenge of the year and we need to be up to that challenge.”
Eagles safety Rodney McLeod took it one step further. He’s bringing an extra suitcase to Cleveland.
“I think we’re a good running defense, first of all,” McLeod said. “It’s going to be a battle. It’s going to be one of those games where you pack an extra mouthpiece, pack extra shock pads.”
Rushing Yards Over Expected Week 10 Leaders (entering MNF)
• Ronald Jones finished with +109 rushing yards over expected, 2nd-most RYOE by a RB in a game this season
• Browns RB duo of Nick Chubb (+42) & Kareem Hunt (+28) both made top 5
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) November 16, 2020
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How Bad Have Eagles Been Against the Run?
Statistically, the Eagles are the eighth-worst defense against the run after allowing 1,197 yards on the ground on 275 attempts. They have also surrendered 14 rushing touchdowns, the third-worst mark in the league.
Take the splash plays out and the Giants only averaged 3.2 yards per carry last week. It hasn’t been nearly good enough but Schwartz has liked some of what he’s seen, particularly in containing the opposition’s running backs. Obviously, they need to do a better job limiting mobile quarterbacks.
“I’ve continued to be pleased with the way our defense has stopped running backs but that’s not enough,” Schwartz said. “All those rushing yards count and particularly the quarterbacks.”
Bigger Role for Will Parks Moving Forward
There was modest hype surrounding Will Parks coming into training camp. The versatile safety was supposed to take over the “big nickel” role and possibly fill-in at cornerback in a pinch. Granted, Parks missed the first five games with a lingering hamstring issue.
I just remain humble, smile, and show up ready to work everyday. That’s it.
— William (@PhillyWill11) November 17, 2020
Still, the Philly native has seen his number of defensive snaps fluctuate randomly since coming off IR. Parks logged a season-low six snaps last week after seeing 28 against Dallas. According to Schwartz, it has more to do with down and distance than performance. The Eagles aren’t going to put three safeties on the field on 2nd-and-1 or 3rd-and-1.
“When it’s third down and one and they are in 13-personnel, we are not going to be in three safeties,” Schwartz said. “We’re going to have our load-up defensive line and linebackers on the field and that’s the way this game just played out. It was more a fact of that than not having a plan for him or not having confidence in him.”
Good to hear. Remember, Parks was rumored to be on the trading block before the deadline but ended up staying in his hometown.
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