The Philadelphia Eagles have a big test ahead of them in facing a tough Minnesota Vikings’ defense on Sunday. On the season, the Vikings rank 4th in DVOA while averaging three sacks per game and holding opponents to a fifth-best 14.6 points per game.
It’s not just sacks that make this Vikings’ pass rush go. They’ve also created consistent pressure on enemy quarterbacks, including putting Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers under fire on 54% of his dropbacks. A good deal of that success has to do with a revitalized 31-year old defensive end.
Everson Griffen was tied for the second most sacks halfway through 2017 when he injured his foot, limiting his impact for the rest of the season. In 2018, Griffin dealt with recovering from the injury and an absence from the team for personal reasons. This year we’re seeing early 2017 Griffen and it’s been absolutely terrifying.
Through five games, Griffen has accumulated 3 sacks and ranks t-4th for QB hits (6), t-8th in hurries (18), and 9th in pressures (27). The crazy part? His teammate and fellow pass rusher Danielle Hunter might be playing even better. Hunter has 5 sacks to his name while adding 24 hurries (2nd), 34 pressures (2nd), and PFF’s pass rush productivity metric has him ranked 2nd on the season for edge rushers taking at least 50% of the snaps.
How the Eagles’ offensive line deals with this duo and Mike Zimmer’s blitzes will go a long way in determining how productive the Eagles can be on Sunday. Zimmer brought heat at the 10th highest rate last year and his trademark double A-Gap mug looks will require quick thinking from both the line and the running backs in pass protection.
Speaking of the running backs in pass pro, rookie Miles Sanders hasn’t been the liability that was initially feared and has held up well in that area. Still, from a mental perspective this will be his be his biggest test to date if he’s tasked with identifying multiple potential/actual blitzers coming from all directions. Jordan Howard has a reputation for smart and stout blocking and has plenty of experience dealing with Zimmer’s blitz packages.
Jordan Howard Pass Pro 2018 (Per PFF):
83 pass block snaps, 2 pressures allowed, 0 sacks. The least pressures allowed for any back w/over 30 blocking snaps.
Reliable, smart player in pass pro – pic.twitter.com/ZFIgGhE8xk
— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) March 30, 2019
The Eagles can lend help to their bookends via alignment and chips, but they’ll still need to hold their own on an island from time to time. Left tackle Jason Peters is PFF’s 4th highest graded offensive tackle thus far and right tackle Lane Johnson has only given up two more pressures than Peters this year (11). In their biggest challenge to date, they’ll need to keep Carson Wentz clean if the offense is to thrive.
I was joined by Arif Hasan of The Athletic Minnesota to break down these match-ups and much more on Eye On the Enemy #4! You can listen to that conversation 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!