Eagles Defense Must Pressure Aaron Rodgers Early

Written By Bob Cunningham On Thursday, January 06, 2011

Rattling Rodgers should be the defense's top priority.

Regardless of seeding, there wasn't going to be a single team in the NFC with an easy road to the Super Bowl, but the Eagles might have gotten stuck with the worst draw of all.

If they don't want to get bounced from the playoffs right away for the second year in a row, the Eagles' defense will have to find a way to contain the always-dangerous Aaron Rodgers and his receiving corps as they face the Green Bay Packers.

Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott will be given the task of figuring out a way to slow down one of the game's top five quarterbacks and, as has become McDermott's M.O., he'll likely try to do it by playing a lot of zone coverage and bringing no more than five guys at the quarterback.

But if that's the route he goes, expect to have a miserable time watching the Divisional round of the playoffs, because the Eagles will likely be golfing rather than playing.

If given time, Rodgers is as dangerous as any quarterback in the league. He's proven that week after week. He's also proven that, like most quarterbacks, he has a very tough time executing with pressure in his face.

His worst two games of the season, for example, came against the New York Jets and the Chicago Bears. Both teams do it in different ways, but they threw off his game but pressuring him and getting in his face.

The Jets are forced to do it with the blitz since they don't have a marquee pass-rusher, but the Bears were mostly able to use their front four and play coverage -- the same thing McDermott will want to do. But, as this defense has shown by allowing mediocre quarterbacks like Eli Manning to throw four touchdown passes, that's not going to cut it.

Trent Cole is a very good pass-rusher, but he can't do it on his own. McDermott doesn't even stunt his linemen, so I'm not exactly sure how he expects them to get pressure on their own.

The only way this defense can get any real pressure is with the blitz. And not just a straight-up here-we-come Buddy Ryan-style blitz, but something more crafty and exotic. This defense is not physical enough to beat guys one-on-one, so they must do it with confusion and the same kind of "organized chaos" Rex Ryan used in Baltimore and uses with the Jets.

The Packers don't have a real running game, so if they can rattle Rodgers a little bit the Eagles' offense should be able to score enough points.

But if Rodgers is allowed to sit back and target Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, and Jordy Nelson and put up points at will, it's unlikely that Michael Vick will be able to out-duel him.

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