Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Saints' D has 2 weaknesses Eagles must exploit

Eliot Shorr-Parks
January 09, 2019 - 8:16 am

Most of the time this week amongst Eagles’ fans will be spent discussing Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints’ high-powered offense. Rightfully so. The unit is the reason the Saints are the No. 1 seed in the NFC. 

To beat the Saints, however, the Eagles’ offense is going to need to have a big day — and that is going to have nothing to do with the Saints’ offense.  

Although they don’t get many headlines, the Saints’ defense has slowly improved this season, and over the last five games — not including Week 17 — the unit has been playing at a high level. 

In fact, in the last five games, the Saints’ defense is giving up an average of just 16.2 points-per-game, an incredibly impressive number in today’s NFL, where offense is king and points are easy to come by. 

The Saints’ pass rush has also been impressive not only over the last five games, but for the entire season. The Saints finished the 2018 regular season with 49 sacks, which was the fifth-most in the entire league. The pass rush is lead by defensive ed Cameron Jordan, who has 12 sacks and 21 quarterback hits this season. The good news for the Eagles is that their offensive line has been playing at a very high level recently, and just turned in a stellar performance against the Chicago Bears' pass rush. 

There are two areas the Eagles’ offense should be able to have success against the Saints, and they are two crucial areas — third-down and red zone. 

The Saints’ red zone defense has not been good this season. They finished 24th overall on the season, allowing a touchdown to the opposing offense eon 63% of their trips inside the 20-yard line. The defense has improved slightly over the last three games, but still allowed touchdowns on 62.5% of opposing offense’s trips inside the 20. 

After struggling throughout the season in the red zone, the Eagles’ offense is now one of the best in the league in finishing drives with a touchdown. Over the last three games the offense is converting on 62.5% of their trips inside the 20. The Eagles’ stellar job in the red zone is the reason they were able to advance past Chicago. The Eagles’ offense went 2-of-3 inside the 20, while the Bears didn’t convert any of their red-zone trips into a touchdown. 

Another area the Saints’ defense has struggled with is third-down defense. The Saints were just 24th overall on season, allowing a third-down conversion on 41.27% of opposing offenses’ attempts. They have been even worse over the last three weeks, allowing a first-down on 46% of attempts, which is good for 26th overall. 

Converting on third down is key for any offense to have a good day, but it is especially true for the Eagles, who are not a big-play offense and need to long drives to get into the end zone. 

Against the Saints, the Eagles should be able to keep the drives alive on third down, and when they get into the end zone, should be able to end their drives with touchdowns. 

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