Eagles Defense vs. Colts Offense

How will Andrew Luck and Trent Richardson deal with the pass rush and run-stopping units of Bill Davis' 3-4 base?

Andrew Luck vs. Eagles Pass Defense

Colts games have become Hulk Hogan matches from the 1980s - the protagonist takes a beating from someone like The Iron Chief or Rowdy Roddy Packer for the duration of the bout. Then, suddenly, Luck Hogan is imbued with superpowers from the heavens above, turning into a powerful force that can't be reckoned with. A few heavy strikes later, and the dazed opponent tries coming to terms with what just hit them.

Counting playoffs, 19 of Luck's 54 touchdown passes have come in the fourth quarter or overtime, more than one-third (35.19%). Eight fourth-quarter comebacks and 11 game-winning drives go a long way toward defining the danger that Luck-on-a-mission brings when the Colts are behind as time ticks away. The Chiefs playoff game from January didn't quite top 'Reich to the Rescue', but some hardened Oilers fans grimaced knowingly through tight lips at the site of Luck's comeback.

Luck's variation of the West Coast offense is extra-familiar with offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton calling the plays. Hamilton doubled in the role at Stanford working with Luck for two seasons, and brings that familiarity to Luck in this pass-first offense, which operated at about a 3-2 pass/run ratio in 2013.

Luck's shown an evolution in accuracy, from 54.1% completion percentage as a rookie to 60.2% last season. Whether this more attributable to Hamilton's play-calling over Bruce Arians, or Luck's improvement from year one into two, isn't entirely obvious.

What is obvious, however, is Luck's ability to spread the wealth of the passing game. Seven different receivers caught 20+ passes for the Colts in 2013, and 11 separate players hauled in a receiving touchdown. The ACL injury to Reggie Wayne only allowed T.Y. Hilton to blossom into a lethal number one receiver, leading the way with 1083 yards and five scores.

Add Hakeem Nicks to the team, restore the injured Wayne and tight end Dwayne Allen, and this is what the Eagles must set up for. The depth at receiver will surely see Brandon Boykin used much more than he was in the Jaguars game. Nicks would be a daunting slot target, with superior leaping ability, and that will challenge even the cagey Boykin.

Marcedes Lewis of the Jaguars provided a challenge early on for the Eagles defense, so having both Allen and Coby Fleener on the field will test the safeties. Malcolm Jenkins is above-average in coverage, and he'll be called on to take at least one tight end in double-sets, with likely Mychal Kendricks or bigger-bodied Connor Barwin nabbing the other. Empty backfields will be grueling for the Eagles pass D if one safety covers a tight end. That's one less safety to help pick up the deep man over the top, and it could create mismatches.

Trent Richardson, Ahmad Bradshaw vs. Eagles Run Defense

The less worrisome aspect of the Colts offense is spurred by two causes: Richardson's glaring ineffectiveness, and the Eagles being a more-than-capable run stuffer.

The Colts had to abandon the run against the Broncos anyway after finding themselves in an early hole, but Richardson's night was less than encouraging. Six carries for 20 yards carries the lone positive of, "Hey, 3.3 yards a carry is better than 2.9!" Richardson averages 3.33 yards a carry for his career, and still remains starter over a currently-healthy Ahmad Bradshaw, who also doubles as a capable target in the flat (five catches, 70 yards Sunday).

The Jaguars didn't find much success running on the Eagles, with Toby Gerhart's few real gashes nullified by the play of Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, and Mychal Kendricks. Even Trent Cole, at his advanced age, has gotten the hang of run-stopping from the linebacker spot, and this has been the hallmark of Bill Davis' defense to this point: make the opponent one-dimensional.

The Colts are more of a passing team anyway, so more time this week will be spent trying to design plays that create vertical mismatches and lightning-fast bubble-screens to take advantage of any trouble the Eagles have in coverage.

The Colts run is only there to provide a sense of balance and make things a bit more unpredictable. With Richardson a little slow off of the draw, he'll be devoured up quickly by the edge-setting of Cox and the clogging abilities of Bennie Logan. It's hard to go north-south on the Eagles' run defense, and any attempt at such will be to simply keep the D honest.

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