Eagles Prepare for the Faceless 49ers
PHILADELPHIA - In a practical sense not knowing who to prepare for at quarterback seems like it might be an issue for an NFL team but the Eagles have downplayed that in advance of Sunday night's game at San Francisco.
There are a number of reasons for that tact, starting with the realization most assume that it will be backup Nick Mullens anyway as the 49ers try to get another week of rest for Jimmy Garoppolo's cranky ankle.
"We really don't concern ourselves too much with their injuries. Everybody's dealing with that in the NFL," said Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. "I think the biggest thing there is their scheme has a long track record."
Then there is the fact that many believe Mullens is just as good as Garoppolo anyway, although Niners coach Kyle Shanahan downplayed that this week to some speculating the fourth-year pro out of Southern Miss should get the opportunity to win the job after a stellar performance against the woeful New York Giants.
For Philadelphia defenders, however, it's not so much about the skill sets of either QB when compared to Shanahan's innovative run schemes based on play-action looks that open up the passing lanes for the signal-caller, whoever it may be.
"Honestly, when you look at their offense, there hasn’t been a dropoff," said veteran safety Rodney McLeod. "They’re still playing at a high level whether it’s been Nick or Jimmy back there. That’s been pretty evident."
Cornerback Darius Slay also praised the run-heavy approach.
"Not disrespecting Jimmy G because he's a great talent but they do a great job and the whole line is a powerhouse," Slay said. "You go back to when they played Green Bay in the playoffs, shoot as much for 300 yards (rushing).
“You know, put me at quarterback."
Slay playing QB might be a stretch but Schwartz insists the preparation wouldn't change in any case.
"Coach Pederson says all the time, tells us, 'hey, it's a faceless opponent, it's a faceless opponent," said Schwartz. "Your challenge in a lot of ways is operating efficiently and doing what you do, and I think that any time a team has injuries you have to take that same kind of approach of faceless opponent, let's go out and do our job, let's go battle the scheme, and let's respect every player that they put out there regardless of if they're an all-pro player or a guy that's just brought up from the practice squad.
"Everybody in this league can play and everybody's expected to be able to perform if they get put in the game."
Schwartz's charges seem to have gotten the message,
“We have to just prepare for whoever is at QB," said McLeod. "Nothing really changes. We understand that everything is controlled by their run game. They have a great skill group and we have to prepare as such. It doesn’t matter who’s at QB, TE, or receiver. they’re all producing and they’ve been very successful so far."
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Monday and Friday on SIRIUSXM and every Monday and Thursday with Eytan Shander on SportsMap Radio. He’s also the host of Extending the Play on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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