One of the biggest challenges the Eagles face when they face the Saints in the first round of the NFL playoffs this Saturday is matching up against the New Orleans offense. The Saints rank tenth in points per game scored and fourth in yards per game. A lot of those yards come the Saints' passing attack, where they average a second best 307.4 pass yards per game.
The passing attack all starts with one of the NFL's best quarterbacks: thirteen year veteran Drew Brees. Brees ranks second in passing yards and sixth in QB rating. The Eagles defense typically gives up a lot of passing yards, so it's not hard to see why the Eagles will face a tough test in this regard. To make matters more difficult, it only takes Brees an average of 2.72 seconds to throw, which is the eleventh quickest release of all NFL quarterbacks. It will be interesting to see how Eagles defensive coordinator attacks Brees. Davis lauded Brees' talents in his Tuesday press conference.
Drew Brees has excellent numbers, Blitz, no blitz, coverage, non‑coverage. I know he's one of the best rated blitz quarterbacks there is so you bring up a good point. This offense is so efficient, and it is run on Drew Brees and his decision making and quick release, and he really makes you defend the field both horizontally and vertically because all five of his eligible receivers are up and active like a lot of the younger quarterbacks cannot pull that off and a lot of the older quarterbacks can't but he's been in the system and been with Sean [Payton] for a while and they just really stretch you, again, both vertically and horizontally.
Bill Davis and the use of the blitz is something we've discussed in recent days here at BGN. Brees only faces pressure 29.6% of his snaps, due to a combination of his quick release and good protection, but has only the thirteenth best completion percentage (48.2%) when pressure does get to him.
One of Brees' favorite targets, a player who he's targeted on 21% of his throws, is none other than dynamic tight end Jimmy Graham. Graham recorded an impressive 86 receptions for 1215 yards and 16 TD this year. The second closest tight end in yards, Browns TE Jordan Cameron, was nearly 300 yards behind Graham.
He's the No. 1 target they have and he's been their most consistent target. He's a big, athletic tight end, catches everything thrown near him. They move him all over the place so it's tough to practice and get a beat on how to help guys on him. He is the No. 1 target but one of the attributes of all great offenses and like this one, this ball goes to everybody. It goes to the open man, and Drew Brees does a great job of doing that quickly.
The book on the 2013 Eagles defense is well known by now. They give up a lot of yards, but they don't give up as many points. It's a unit that struggled heavily early in the season but has played relatively well since, having gone nine straight weeks of surrendering only 21 points or less at one point. While there are a number of factors in the defense's improvement, Davis credits the team's chemistry as a big reason for success.
I think the biggest thing that's happened in this defense is the chemistry and the type of men that they are made of and how much they are really playing for each other. I've been on a lot of different teams and been through a lot of seasons and this one is unique in that the guys are truly unselfish and they are truly playing for the success of their teammates. They believe ‑‑ and it really is a team win the other night. Our special teams came up with plays and our offense came up with plays and the defense stepped up. All those elements and also had some bad plays and we all rallied around. It's fun to be part of this team element that we have going here and that's probably our biggest thing defensively is the growth of the chemistry.
With the nature of this Eagles defense, there's bound to be a lot of "bending" on Saturday night. But can Davis engineers enough stops to prevent the unit from "breaking"? It remains to be seen, but it should be a great challenge for this unit.