After seeing the Eagles get gashed multiple times by featured running backs, many fans started to chant the same, monotonous mantra: “Scrap the wide-9! Scrap the wide-9!” Well, folks, I’m hear to tell you that you should end that silly chant and appreciate a defense destined for stardom.
The wide-9 didn’t work so well last season. Fine, I’ll give you that much. But what makes it incapable of improvement in 2012? I just don’t see the reasoning behind arguments that the Eagles should revert back to Jim Johnson’s blitz tactics.
The wide-9 is extremely effective in terms of pressuring the quarterback, and fans could see that last year.
Philadelphia was tied for the league lead in sacks, with 50, and defensive ends Jason Babin and Trent Cole combined for an incredible 29 of those. Babin alone had 18, 3rd-best in the entire NFL.
There were plenty of times during the season in which teams were driving against the defense, only to see their progress cut short by a third-down sack. Even though they silently enjoy the Eagles’ ability to sack the QB, a quality that is extremely important in today’s pass-happy league, fans and analysts say that it isn’t enough to overshadow the rush defense handicaps of the wide-9 scheme.
Anybody who says that the wide-9 leaves Philadelphia incapable of stopping the run is just being plain old ignorant.
DeMeco Ryans is a downhill, run-stuffing tackling machine. The only middle linebackers in the league who can defend the run as good or better than him are Patrick Willis, Ray Lewis, Jon Beason, and Brian Urlacher. You can also make thinly-lain arguments for David Harris and London Fletcher.
He has the second-most tackles (156) by a rookie ever in the NFL, behind only Willis’ 174. He had three more straight 110-plus-tackle seasons, becoming one of only a handful of players to have triple-digit tackles in his first four seasons.
After an injury-riddled, but still productive 2010 campaign, many critics point to Ryans’ 2011 statistics as a major negative in his otherwise shiny resume. However, that can be pin-pointed to the Texans defensive switch to a 3-4, where Ryans, a pure middle linebacker, found himself contained and confused within his own defensive scheme.
DeMeco plays the game hard, and is excellent at getting into the backfield and stuffing the run, something the Eagles sorely missed last season out of the middle linebacker position. So there’s that.
There is also one other positive effect of Ryans’ placement at MLB. Jamar Chaney gets to take his talents, speed and above average ball skills, to the outside where he can do what he does best: defend the outside run and cover tight ends.
Finally, defensive tackle Antonio Dixon will be returning this season after missing 12 games in 2011. His run defense is widely underrated due to his poor showing in statistical terms. He is a force in the middle, because he can use his size and athleticism to find open lanes and clog them up, bringing down runners or forcing them into the open arms of other Eagle defenders.
Convinced yet? You should be. The Eagles clearly have the ability to stop the run this season, even without much help from defensive ends Jason Babin and Trent Cole. Mike Patterson and Dixon are two good run stoppers at the defensive tackle position, and the addition of DeMeco Ryans coupled with the move of Jamar Chaney to the outside means that Philly has the linebacking corps to do it as well.
The verdict? Sit back and enjoy as the wide-9 turns heads around the league.
Please comment with your thoughts on the wide-9 scheme below. It’s your opinion I would like to hear!