It’s one of the fundamental core principles Howie Roseman always talks about.
The way to build a football team is along the lines.
That’s why the most encouraging thing we saw in Sunday’s 25-22 win over the Giants was that the Eagles’ offensive and defensive lines finally took over a game. That’s what the Eagles want.
That’s what the Eagles need going forward.
“We go into each game, we say let’s try to control the line of scrimmage, let’s establish the run game, let’s stop the run game,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “It seems like that’s been the theme each week. But I think more and more, as teams pass more, you gotta still put pressure on the quarterback.
“It was encouraging last week to see how our defensive line kind of took over in the second half of that game. And then offensively, I think our guys gained momentum as the game wore on.”
Sure, it was against the Giants. And maybe they don’t have the best lines in football, but it’s at least a starting point. And if those lines can play like that the rest of the way, the Eagles have a shot.
It seems like a lot of the offensive line’s struggles this season were health related. Jason Peters was coming back from an ACL tear, then he hurt his quad, then he tore his biceps. After playing every offensive snap in just two of his first eight games, Peters has played 100 percent of the offense’s snaps in the last three games.
Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson both suffered severe sprained MCLs this season and their play suffered because of it. Kelce got hurt early in the year but has seemed healthier, minus an elbow injury that forced him out of the Saints game early. Johnson missed the Dallas game but has played every snap in the last two weeks. Brandon Brooks hurt his ankle in the last game, but it wasn’t too serious.
“Well, we've always had a lot of confidence in our offensive line,” offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. “It's nice to see them in some instances starting to feel a little bit healthier. Certainly at this point in the season that's a positive. We'll continue to ride that wave.”
The Eagles finally seem to be getting healthy on the offensive line and should theoretically have a better line than the one that won the Super Bowl last year. Even at his age, Peters is an upgrade over Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Isaac Seumalo has gotten better and better since he replaced Stefen Wisniewski earlier in the season.
The Eagles’ defensive line is the highest-paid unit on the team and the Eagles are at their best when that unit plays well. In Sunday’s game, Jim Schwartz, who never likes to blitz anyway, didn’t have much of a choice. He had a bunch of fresh meat in the secondary and he couldn’t leave them exposed. But the defensive line came through.
“And it went to our D-line, and they were up for the challenge,” Schwartz said. “A couple sacks that put the Giants in some long-yardage situations. It helped our coverage out that they did a good job stopping the run.
“I can't say enough about how Fletch [Fletcher Cox] — Fletch was not only playing at a high level, but he was playing with the kind of toughness and leadership that you expect from a guy like that, and that had a lot to do with our ability to come out on the winning side of that.”
The Eagles are certainly missing Derek Barnett, who was lost for the season with a shoulder injury, but they did get back Tim Jernigan in the last game. Having him on the field should only help Cox and the rest of the D-line. The Eagles have 28 sacks this season, which ranks in the middle of the NFL, but it’s not all about sacks. They just need to get pressure and stop the run. When they do, the whole defense is better.
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