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Eagles Laying It On The Line Down The Stretch

This feature is a weekly piece on titled From The Eagles, featuring Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro. The intention is to provide a perspective directly from the Philadelphia Eagles in this forum for the great fans who visit BGN.

The focus is on the quarterback position, where Mark Sanchez steps in for the injured Nick Foles. Attention is paid to the void in the middle of the defense now that DeMeco Ryans is out for the remainder of the season with an Achilles tendon injury.

All just. All valid.

But if the Eagles take care of their business at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, everything is going to be fine, just fine.

I'm talking about the trenches, folks. It's where everything starts in the game of football, and it's going to be the deciding factor for the Eagles in the second half of this season.

And from this perspective, what the Eagles have going up front is capable of taking this team on a deep, deep playoff run.

Let's first look at the offensive line, which has admirably played its way through some first-half-of-the-season injuries that would have crippled many teams. Instead, the Eagles used the next-man-in theory successfully and kept the offense in gear through eight games. The offensive line now is as healthy as it's going to be all year: the return of Evan Mathis at left guard stabilizes that side of the line to give the Eagles a pair of Pro Bowl players (along with left tackle Jason Peters) and Matt Tobin and/or Andrew Gardner take the experience gained from filling in over eight games to plug the void created by Todd Herremans' injury at right guard.

It's a very, very good line. Jason Kelce is a Pro Bowl-caliber center. Lane Johnson is rounding into form after missing the opening four games of the season with his NFL suspension. Tobin is a highly-regarded young lineman. The Eagles have some depth with Tobin and Gardner, Dennis Kelly and David Molk. All things considered, this can be one of the finest groups in the league down the stretch, so look for the running game to continue its rise and for Sanchez to have the time and the pocket space to get the football out to the team's playmakers in the passing game.

On the defensive side of the ball, the three-man (and at times, in the nickel particularly, four-man) front has a huge assignment. Ryans' loss is massive. He is as fine a leader as the Eagles have ever had, and he happens to be a damn good football player. Neither Casey Matthews nor Emmanuel Acho has Ryans' ability to slither off of blocks and get to the football.

So the boys up front have to keep the linebackers clean.

One of the more underrated groups in the NFL, the defensive front here is playing really good football. It's not spectacular stuff, this two-gapping scheme, but it sure has been effective. The Eagles are a so-so 20th in the NFL against the run, but some of those numbers are deceiving. The most important statistic: The Eagles are sixth in the league in third-down efficiency. That's crucial.

Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton, Bennie Logan, Beau Allen, Brandon Bair and Vinny Curry don't get a lot of acclaim but the coaches and their teammates are well aware of their value. They occupy blockers and allow the linebackers lanes to find the football. They give great effort. They are disruptive.

At a time when those who watch the Eagles seem more interested in the Future at the Quarterback Position, the present situation with this team is more reliant on the line of scrimmage. As the Eagles win up front, they win on the scoreboard. That's just the way it is, even if it doesn't make for snazzy headlines and good talk-show conversation.

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