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Eagles at Dolphins preview: Looking at Philadelphia defense

Seattle Seahawks v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins host the Philadelphia Eagles this weekend in a game featuring two teams on two-game losing streaks. Which team will right themselves? Which team has the advantage heading into Sunday? I had a chance to speak with Brandon Lee Gowton, the manager of Bleeding Green Nation, SB Nation’s Eagles site, to get a closer look at Miami’s Week 13 opponent.

We will start with when the Dolphins have the ball. On offense, the Dolphins have struggled, especially on the ground, this year. The offense is currently 30th overall with 264.9 yards per game, 27th in passing with 201.7 yards per game, 32nd in rushing offense with 63.2 yards per game, and 30th in scoring offense with 14.8 points per game. It has not been pretty

Philadelphia, meanwhile, is 12th in overall defense allowing 325.7 yards per game, 12th in passing defense allowing 231.7 yards per game, fifth in rushing defense with 94.0 yards per game allowed, and 16th in scoring defense allowing 22.5 points per game. According to Gowton, those numbers are even better over the past few weeks:

The Eagles’ defense has been the strength of the team in recent weeks. Jim Schwartz’s unit has allowed an average of just 15.25 points over the past four games. Football Outsiders has the Eagles ranked seventh in defensive DVOA.

Miami’s biggest offensive weakness this year has clearly been the offensive line, where the team is expected to start combination number nine on the season. The group has struggled to protect quarterback Ryan FItzpatrick and, as Gowton points out, that is not a good situation when facing the Eagles:

The Eagles’ ability to generate pressure is key. Pro Football Focus has Philly graded as the NFL’s fourth best pass rush. The Eagles have logged 28 sacks in their last seven games, which is twice as much as the Dolphins have in all 11 games so far. Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox are key contributors to the team’s defensive line success.

If Miami can give FItzpatrick some time to throw, the secondary for Philadelphia seems to be improving after a rough early portion of the year. Gowton explains:

The Eagles’ biggest defensive weakness is their secondary. The Birds were worse off earlier this season when injuries forced backups Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones into the starting lineup. Those dudes were getting torched on a weekly basis. The return of Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills — the Eagles’ starting cornerbacks en route to their Super Bowl LII victory — has since stabilized the defense. Darby and Mills are hardly lockdown corners but they at least bring some level of competency to the position. And yet I’m still worried about Ryan Fitzpatrick being able to shred them like he did when he was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 2 last season.

Fitzpatrick threw for 402 yards on 27-for-33 passing with four touchdowns and an interception in that 2018 contest. He led Tampa Bay to the 27-21 win over Philadelphia. Can the Fitzmagic from that game reappear this week in Miami? The Dolphins are going to have to slow down the Eagles pass rush and score more than 14.8 points if they are going to win.

Check out Bleeding Green Nation for more on the Eagles and my answers to Gowton’s Dolphins questions. Come back here later today for Gowton’s look at the Eagles’ offense.