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Eagles defense vs. Lions offense preview by the numbers

Philadelphia Eagles vs Detroit Lions Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

After breaking down the Eagles’ offense vs. the Lions’ defense using Sports Info Solutions, let’s now turn our attention to the Eagles defense vs. the Lions offense. The aim with these posts will be to search through a ton of data, just like NFL teams will be doing, in order to try and predict what we might see and give you a lot more knowledge and things to look out for when watching the game.

Passing Game

The Lions passing actually wasn’t ‘that’ bad last year! The talent is certainly sub-par, but they did a decent job allowing Goff to have a pretty OK year overall. Goff’s numbers were as follows...

  • 67.2% completion (10th)
  • 3245 yards (20th)
  • 19th TDs (20th)
  • 8 INTs (27th)

So what did the Lions do last year?

Checkdown Charlie

Jared Goff played reasonably well last year, and his style may actually frustrate the Eagles. The Eagles like to play a lot of two-high coverage and allow the checkdown. These were the coverage numbers for the Eagles last year.

Ideally, they want quarterbacks to get frustrated and take the deep shot into coverage, but Goff may not do this. Not only was he very safe with the ball, he had the lowest average depth of target of any starting quarterback, with an ADOT of 6.8 yards. Goff may not the most talent quarterback out there, but if the Eagles let him checkdown, he may keep taking them over and over again.

Expect a lot of 3-stop drops too which make it hard to blitz (more on that later). Goff had the 9th highest 3-step drops last year and completed 68% of his passes with the 9th highest amount of yards too.

Time for more single-high?

Obviously, the Eagles run a lot of two-high to stop the deep shots on the outside. We all remember seeing Eagles cornerbacks sprinting backwards and failing to stop a deep completion under Jim Schwartz’ single-high scheme. But looking deeper at Jared Goff’s pass map, it’s clear he really struggles to complete deep throws outside the numbers.

Just look at those % on outside the numbers throws. The exact numbers don’t look any better. That’s 2/10 on the right outside and 3/17 on the left outside. This may be the game where the Eagles can trust their cornerbacks more and run some more single-high.

In fact, looking deeper into this, Goff’s numbers on go/fly routes on the outside were almost hilariously bad last year. He had 95 yards which ranked 28th in the league, just above superstars like Drew Lock and Geno Smith.

Not the time to Blitz

I think we all know the Eagles did not blitz much at all last year. The data backs that up.

I would love the Eagles to blitz a bit more this year, but this may not be the week to do it. Goff’s numbers were surprisingly good against the blitz last year. It probably links to my earlier point about him willing to check it down. When blitzed, Goff’s YPA was at 7.5 which is a huge increased on the 6.3 YPA when not blitzed. He also threw 7 TD’s and only 1 INT when blitzed, and still had a 67% completion. His passer rating went from 87 when not blitzed, to 105 when blitzed! This may not be the week to blitz.

Watch out Eagles linebackers and safeties

As highlighted above, the Lions and Goff were awful targeting wide receivers outside the numbers. But, they were very efficient when targeting tight ends and running backs, largely due to having TJ Hockenson and DeAndre Swift. Goff’s numbers when targeting RBs and TEs (combined) were really strong:

  • 213 attempts (8th)
  • 163 completions (8th)
  • 76% completion!
  • 1396 yards (9th)

The Eagles better be prepared to stop Swift and Hockenson in the passing game.

Running Game

The Lions running game wasn’t particularly great last year and as they fell behind in games a lot, they didn’t run the ball as much as you may expect.

  • 427 attempts (21st highest)
  • 1886 yards (19th)
  • 12 TDs (25th)
  • 27 broken tackles (22nd)

Let’s look at their running game a bit more.

Gap Run Time

With a lot of the NFL running more and more zone running concepts, the Lions are a bit more old school.

This might suit the Eagles (of last year, it could be totally different this year) as the Eagles struggled a little bit more with zone runs last year, giving up the 10th most amount of yards to zone runs last year in the league.

Expect to see some 21 personnel

The Lions have 2 backs they like a lot (Swift and Jamaal Williams) so expect to see them both on the field at the same time tomorrow.

The Eagles went pretty aggressive against 21 personnel last year, playing a lot of 3-4-4 against it (so expect to see a lot of Jordan Davis!).

This helped them to shut down the run last year against 21 personnel. Despite facing the 12th highest amount of running plays from 21 personnel last year, they gave up only the 20th amount of yards at lass than 3 yards per carry and 0 touchdowns. If the Lions continue to run 21 personnel, it will be interesting if the Eagles continue to aggressively shut down the run and whether the Lions will counter by putting Swift out wide and testing the Eagles linebackers. I think that might be the biggest matchup there is.

Overall, the Lions were not a scary offense last year and if you stopped the backs and tight ends, you pretty much stopped them on offense. They will be slightly different this year, with Amon-Ra St. Brown in his second season, but I think the wildcard will be DJ Chark. Look at how bad the Lions were throwing deep outside the numbers last year and you will see why they added DJ Chark. He didn’t do much last year but has proven he can be a threat, so the Eagles should watch out for him.

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