Patriots-Eagles matchup of the day: Thursday

Posted Nov. 24, 2011 @ 11:46 a.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

Here's a key matchup to watch in the Week 12 game between the Patriots and Eagles:

Eagles RB LeSean McCoy vs. Patriots' linebackers

Especially if Michael Vick can't play, RB LeSean McCoy is the Eagles' best offensive weapon. He has scored in every game except one this season and is a weapon as a receiver. McCoy is averaging 22.2 touches a game and he is already over 1,000 yards rushing.

The Patriots' strength on defense is stopping the run, but injuries in the linebacking corps make McCoy a tough matchup, especially on screen passes.

ILB Jerod Mayo, the Patriots' captain on defense, will be counted on to have a huge game against McCoy. Assuming Brandon Spikes remains out, Mayo is the team's best run stopper, and not having Spikes in the game hurts the Pats' run defense.

Undrafted rookie Jeff Tarpinian has filled in at linebacker against the run for Spikes, although he missed the Chiefs game, while special-teams contributor Tracy White has been filling in for Dane Fletcher as a linebacker against the pass. Gary Guyton is smart but has deferred snaps at times to Tarpinian and White, even with Spikes and Fletcher out.

One X-factor in covering McCoy may be WR Julian Edelman, who played 13 snaps (according to ESPN Boston) in Monday night's game against the Chiefs, mainly when the Patriots were in the dime defense. Edelman certainly has the speed to keep up with McCoy should he go out for a pass, but he doesn't have the run-stopping or tackling abilities of a linebacker.

The D-line, anchored by DT Vince Wilfork, will need to win battles at the line to keep McCoy from busting a big run. Rob Ninkovich and players on the edge have to make sure McCoy doesn't bounce to the outside.

Normally, an opponent's passing game is a concern for the Patriots' defense, but McCoy's dual-threat abilities will be high on the Patriots' priority list in terms of stopping the Eagles, especially considering New England's current lack of depth at linebacker.