All-32: Haason Reddick, Eagles' Most Important Defender

Philadelphia Eagles ER Haason Reddick
Philadelphia Eagles ER Haason Reddick
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

Welcome to All-32, a game-by-game preview of every matchup on the NFL slate each week. The goal is to provide a look at the most critical part of each game with a marriage of data and film study. As the season rolls along, the focus will narrow in on the specifics, but for this week, many of the featured players and units are big-picture projections for the teams in question.

If you're interested in our game picks, you can find them on this page.

Let's get to it. All times listed as Eastern.

San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles—Sunday 3 p.m

SF Offense vs. PHI Defense Key Unit: PHI Edge Rushers

Kyle Shanahan wants to run the ball. The endless pool of talented pass-catchers at his disposal makes it easy to pivot to a pass-centric game plan, but at its core, the Shanahan offense works best when the run game and passing game are married.

Last week, the Cowboys defense gave the 49ers some fits in the run game. The 49ers found some success with downhill bully ball in the third quarter, but for much of the affair, they struggled to win the edge the way they usually do. Both DeMarcus Lawrence and Dorance Armstrong put on a showcase on the edge and stymied many of the runs their way.

This was the first play of the game.

In this clip, the 49ers are running a version of outside zone with a splitter towards the play side to help dig out the edge defender. Both the Cowboys' scheme and Lawrence's individual skill nullified that. At the snap, Lawrence spikes inside rather than moving with the flow of the play, a tactic intended to either cut the runner off or make him bounce outside where the linebackers can run him down and finish the play. Lawrence is met by Kyle Juszczyk (44) quickly, but it doesn't deter him. Lawrence eats the block, forces the runner to cut back, then works back across the face of the block to help with the tackle.

This time around, Dallas is in a funky personnel package.

The Cowboys are in a bear front with defensive end Dorance Armstrong (92) slid inside to one of the 4i (inside shade of the left tackle, 71) spots. The edges are occupied by Anthony Barr and Leighton Vander Esch, typically off-ball linebackers. The odd personnel package works, though. The 49ers try running at Armstrong, but they can't dig him out. Barr does a great job setting a hard edge versus one of the pullers (George Kittle, 85) while Armstrong fights to get off the outside shoulder of the left tackle and take over the gap. Though a completely different run than the last clip, the 49ers again failed to create space on the edge of the defense the way they want to.

As a bonus, Lawrence made one exceptional play in space.

The 49ers fake the outside zone lead pitch to the right before countering back the other way. While this would be enough to influence most defensive ends out of the play, a veteran like Lawrence isn't so easy to fool. Lawrence sees the run coming back his way, works to get outside of the fullback, and somehow tracks down Deebo Samuel in space before he can get to the perimeter.

How does this relate to the Eagles? The uber-athletic Haason Reddick has the capacity to make this kind of play. The 49ers have to be wary of that.