In the 2nd installment of the trenches matchup we highlight the Patriots Offensive Line vs. the Eagles Defensive Line which will also be a crucial matchup in Super Bowl 52. Though the Patriots front five are not as talented as the Eagles front they still do a great job keeping a clean pocket for QB Tom Brady throughout the game.
Brady’s only perceived weakness is he cannot scramble out of the pocket and favors staying in the pocket the Patriots make sure the interior of the line are players stout in pass protection with strong base and good leverage to maintain good pocket integrity against the rush.
This is especially true for C David Andrews and RG Shaq Mason, who both finished ranked 18th and 19th in Pro Football Focus top 25 offensive lineman, with grades of 83.2 and 83.0 respectively. Between both players they have given up only 3 sacks in 968 snaps showing how efficient they have been in pass protection.
They will have their hands full with the left side of the Eagles pass rush in DT Fletcher Cox and DE Brandon Graham, who both finished ranked in the top 5 at their respective positions. Mason specifically will see most of Fletcher Cox throughout the game and this matchup should be a very intriguing one both in the run and passing game.
Mason on film shows an elite combination of strength and power as he can stall a pass rush with a great leverage, anchors very well and seems to deliver outstanding power with his hands as he delivers a punch to the rusher. He has the ability to move his feet well going backwards while delivery several blows to the opponent to keep him off balance.
Cox on the other hand, displays an elite blend of strength, power and quickness on tape.
Typically lining up at the 3 technique Cox displays both the ability to use his powerful hands to push the opponent backward and has the ability to naturally bend, get under the pads, and use his lower body strength to collapse the pocket. Center Andrews will be a key factor when the Eagles line up in their “Wide 9” formation and they attack using stunts and hard slants to attack opposite gaps from where they lineup pre-snap.
This is where both DT Cox and DE Graham use their quickness and ability to get skinny through holes to rush the passer. RG Shaq Mason seems to struggle a little moving laterally and I expect Andrews to help more on the right side with combination blocks and chips.
Arguably the weakness of the Patriots Offensive Line may be at RT in #71 Cameron Flemming and he himself is a solid RT. He had a good game in the AFC Championship against the Jaguar pass rush giving up one sack to DE Dante Fowler which was more of a “hustle” sack in which Flemming mirrored him for the most part, then falling on a nice spin move by Fowler.
Flemming, who has solid feet in pass pro when using his kick step to get in his pass set, may have a much harder matchup when going against Graham. Graham is not your typical “left defensive end” and is a unique talent that allows him to effective at the position.
Where Flemming may struggle is that he seems to stay up high in his pass set and that will allow Graham with his strength and smaller size to get under Flemming’s pad level and use his natural leverage to push Flemming backwards. Graham also has a great blend of quickness and bend to get around Flemming especially when lined up at the 9 technique, giving Graham two possible advantages against Flemming.
If Flemming is able to get his hands on Graham, specifically his “high” hand or inside hand where he displays much of his strength, he can deliver a punch he can stall Graham’s initial pass rush.
The Eagles front 4 may or may not present the hardest task for the Patriots front 5. They did a fairly good job against the Jaguars talented 4 in the AFC title match who statistically had a better season than the Eagles, but the Eagles have the ability to continue rotating a much deeper pass rush from depth standpoint.
If the Eagles can keep the game close this can be an advantage for them as they may have fresher bodies throughout the contest and get enough pressure to slow Brady down. The game is mainly won in the trenches and both teams will display some great talent and great matchups throughout Super Bowl 52.
The Eagles clearly have the advantage here as they have the talent needed to dominate on both sides of the ball.
That’s of course going to still be a challenge as the Patriots will still trot out the greatest advantage of all time and that’s at the QB position in Tom Brady.
Prediction: Patriots 37 Eagles 24.