Scouting report: Fast Eagles in dome, on turf

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Scouting report: Fast Eagles in dome, on turf

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December 13, 2013, 1:45 pm
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After surviving eight inches of snow outside in Philadelphia, the Eagles' offense will get to run around indoors in Minnesota. (AP)

The Vikings really don’t do anything special to stop opposing offenses. They’re 31st in total yards allowed, 22nd in rushing defense and 30th in pass defense.

Even worse, they’re 30th in points allowed (30.4 points per game), 30th in third-down percentage (44) and 27th in red-zone efficiency (61.5). They also don’t hit quarterbacks much, with a meager 30 sacks, 21st in the league.

Their lukewarm defense combined with the Metrodome’s fast track caters to the Eagles’ speedy nucleus of running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

The Vikes, coached by former Eagles defensive assistant Lezlie Frazier, play a base Cover 2, so Chip Kelly should have his run game going early with McCoy. In light of Bryce Brown’s struggles, Chris Polk should see more snaps than normal. He ran for 50 yards on four carries against the Lions, including a 38-yard touchdown, and Kelly hinted that Polk could see an increase in workload this weekend.

Minnesota’s front line isn’t what it used to be, but it’s still the strength of the defense. Defensive end Jared Allen is still a nasty, physical menace on the edges. He only has seven sacks, though, and they need him to be a double-digit guy. Jason Peters is back to his All-Pro form lately and should keep Allen from doing too much damage. Right tackle Lane Johnson has made drastic improvements over the past few weeks, but he’ll be tested by Brian Robison, a high-motor pass rusher who also has six sacks and gets second-effort pressures.

Inside, 33-year-old three technique Kevin Williams can still bring it against the run, but that’s about it. He’s about three seasons removed from being an elite interior defender. Rotational tackle Letroy Guion is another high-motor guy who can’t win on talent alone. He rotates with Fred Evans. Rookie first-rounder Sharrif Floyd, who tumbled in the draft, is still figuring out how to play at the professional level given his shortcomings in size and wingspan.

At the linebacker level, MLB E.J. Henderson is the team’s best overall defender. He’s stout against the run and smart in coverage. He has five passes defended and two interceptions. Strong-side ’backer Chad Greenway isn’t as sound against the run and can get picked on in the passing game. Look for Kelly to get McCoy and his tight ends isolated against Greenway in the passing game.

If McCoy’s having a decent game, play action should be there for the Eagles against a struggling Vikings secondary that probably won’t have rookie slot corner Xavier Rhodes, a first-round pick. Left corner Josh Robinson has top-end speed and could cause some problems for Jackson, the same way right cornerback Chris Cook’s size (6-2, 212) should help against Riley Cooper. This might be the game where slot receiver Jason Avant makes more of an impact. Avant hasn’t caught more than four passes since Sept. 19, but his downfield and screen blocking keeps him on the field.

The Vikings aren’t a heavy blitzing team. They rely on the front four to generate pressure and like to keep safeties deep to prevent the long ball. They’ll probably have to show more single-safety looks than they’d like to slow down the Eagles’ rushing attack, which should open the door for Nick Foles to counter downfield. Vikes safety Jamarca Sanford is their best tackler in the secondary.

Frazier has shown that he’ll bring pressure if he can exploit a weakness. He brought the slot corner or safety often in that 2010 upset of the Eagles at the Linc -- the infamous “Joe Webb Game” (see story) -- but Foles hasn’t shown the same vulnerability against disguised blitzes or blindside pressure Vick did.

Barring a total meltdown and slew of unforced errors, the Eagles shouldn’t have problems moving up and down the field.

For a look at how the Eagles' defense matches up with the Vikings' offense, click here.