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Super Bowl Breakdown: The Front Seven

By: Jesse Larch, Sports Talk Philly editor 

Leading up to the Eagles matchup in Super Bowl LII against the New England Patriots Sports Talk Philly and Eagledelphia will compare the personnel of the two teams each day until gameday is here. 

In this edition of our week-long comparison we will look at the offensive lines.


New England Front Seven | Trey Flowers, Malcolm Guy, Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, James Harrison

Despite lacking flashy names along their front seven, the Patriots finished the season with 42 sacks - tied for seventh best in the NFL. 

It was a balanced attack with their team leader, defensive end Trey Flowers, having just 6.5 sacks. Second was linebacker Kyle Van Noy with 5.5 and third was defensive end Deatrich Wise with five. 

Van Noy leads the front seven with 73 tackles and Elandon Roberts is right behind him with 67. Flowers was also active against the run finishing fifth on the team with 64 tackles. 

 None of the Patriots' leading tacklers were in the front seven however, that honor belonged to safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung. 

Defensive tackle Lawrence Guy led the Patriots with five tackles for loss. Van Noy was second with four. In all, the Patriots front seven combined for 25 tackles for loss. 

Elandon Roberts has stepped into the middle of the defense with 2016 pro bowler and second-team all pro Dont'a Hightower falling victim to injury. Roberts has performed admirably, but he he is nowhere near the player that Hightower is. 

The fall off is evident by the Patriots' run defense being ranked 20th in the NFL, allowing 114.8 yards per game on the ground. 

Instead of addressing the run defense, the Patriots' opted to bolster their pass rush by signing ex-Super Bowl champion James Harrison. Harrison has proved that he is not washed up by collecting 11 tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble in three games. 


Philadelphia Front Seven | Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan, Vinny Curry, Mychal Kendricks, Dannell Ellerbe, Nigel Bradham

The Eagles' front seven has been lauded all season, and for good reason. Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox make up one of the most feared defensive line combinations in the NFL. Tim Jernigan and the stable of defensive ends that are rotated in also create plenty of problems for opposing offensive lines. 

The Eagles produced 38 sacks as a team. Brandon Graham led the way with 9.5 sacks. Fletcher Cox (5.5), Vinny Curry (3.0), and Tim Jernigan (2.5) also wreaked havoc for the opposition. 

The rotational players along the line were as productive as the starters. Chris Long and rookie Derek Barnett both gave the Eagles 5.0 sacks. Long was also tied for fourth in the NFL in forced fumbles with four. The Eagles defensive lineman provided 37 tackles for loss on their own. 

At linebacker the Eagles have two players in the midst of great seasons. Mychal Kendricks bounced back from a 2016 season in which he was very much absent. In 2017 he has been featured much more heavily than he was in 2016 - in part due to the season-ending Achilles injury to Jordan Hicks

Nigel Bradham turned in another excellent season leading the team in tackles. Kendricks and Bradham combined for three sacks, nine tackles for loss, 14 passes defensed, and 165 tackles. 

The question mark in the Eagles front seven will be Dannell Ellerbe. Ellerbe is an ex-Super Bowl champion, but was out of the league until the Eagles added him to the roster late in the season. Ellerbe has been inserted into the defense as the starting middle linebacker following the placement of Joe Walker on injured reserve, who was Jordan Hicks's original backup. 


Edge

The Eagles defensive line has been lauded as the best in the NFL by pundits all season long. The Eagles may have had less sacks, but they put more pressure on the quarterback than any team in the NFL. 

Defenses in the NFL average time to get the quarterback is 3.85 seconds. The Eagles lead the NFL, taking only 3.38 seconds to hurry the passer. They also had the highest pressure rate in the NFL at 40.8 percent according to Pro Football Focus. 

The Eagles defensive line registered 37 tackles for loss on their own versus 25 tackles for loss by the entire Patriots' front seven. The Eagles clearly have the better defensive line. 

Van Noy Anchors the linebackers for New England without Dont'a Hightower in the lineup. Van Noy is a good linebacker, and Elandon Roberts has been productive since stepping in at middle linebacker. 

Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks combined for 167 tackles while Van Noy and Roberts combined for 140. The Eagles use the rest of their linebackers sparingly while James Harrison is likely to receive a fair amount of usage. The Eagles linebackers are more productive, but the Patriots depth makes this matchup even. 

  QB RB WR/TE OL DL LB DB ST
Eagles    ✓  ✓     
Patriots  ✓   ✓         

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