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Vikings’ offense a tricky match-up for the Eagles

The Kist & Solak Show #130!

NFL: OCT 07 Vikings at Eagles Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

So far in the 2019, the Minnesota Vikings have an average offense. Conversely, the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense ranks 6th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA. That’s pretty good, right?

Don’t celebrate just yet. When I asked Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders just how much the New York Jets’ blowout skewed those numbers compared to others throughout history, he had this to say...

The Jets’ game has an out-sized impact on an already small sample size. Frankly, we don’t know what this Eagles’ defense is yet. Hence, the Kirk Cousins litmus test. And it’s a sneaky weird match-up for the defense.

I expanded on that thought during The Kist & Solak Show #130. Some thoughts from a loosely transcribed portion of the show:

“This is a team that absolutely wants to be a running team and they’re actually - and this is super rare - more efficient on the ground than they are through the air.

They’re also a heavy play-action team, they’ll use a good deal of boots, 7th overall in play-action frequency for the year and remember before the Jets game the Eagles were giving up a 133 QB Rating to play-action concepts so they’ve had their issues there, and then you have the Vikings tying all of this in to the screen game, which their screen game is something I can see them getting chunk plays from.

Per Sports Info Solutions, they’re 1st in EPA in the screen game this year, 3rd in success rate. The Eagles on the other hand 30th in EPA per screen, 23rd in success rate. The Vikings are creative with their screen game and overall they’re going to give you a lot of the same looks with a lot of different results.

Overall, I think this is an oddly difficult match-up for the Eagles. Right now the Vikings are on pace to have the 4th best EPA rushing attack since 2015. The Eagles run defense is stout, so I’m fascinated to see how that plays out and you wonder how much the Vikings struggle if that efficiency slips for them,

But again, this isn’t like the pass heavy team you worry about going up against the Eagles, but the way they pass the ball attacks the Eagles at their weaknesses... Last year - and our friend Matt Manocherian of the Off the Charts podcast pointed this out after I spoke with their research team - 8 quick game concepts with 0-to-3 step drops against the Eagles, 7 of 8 of those were successful which is tremendous efficiency, they really abused the off coverage looks from Schwartz and negated any blitzes.

Cousins’ intended air yards were only 5.5 that game which was 2nd least that week, you look at his NextGen Stats passing chart and a vast majority of his completions are around the the line of scrimmage, guy went 30 for 37 for 301 yards and a touchdown with just 4 completions past 5 yards. That’s unacceptable and I remember being extremely frustrated that game.

We all joke about the Xavier Rhodes quote from the NFC Championship Game, but the Vikings out-schemed the Eagles on that side of the ball last year.”

One of the major takeaways that we had was that against a heavy screen, play-action and outside zone Vikings’ offense, the Eagles would need excellent play from their edge defenders Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett for various reasons. It’s on them to sniff out these concepts and either fire their gun or stay disciplined. A big, smart game from both of them will go a long way in stifling the Vikings.

We dig into much more about this game on The Kist & Solak Show #130! Listen on the media player below or click here if the player doesn’t load. New to podcasts?! Check out our guide on how to listen to BGN! FLY EAGLES FLY!