New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh understands the daunting task in front of his defense on Sunday when the defending NFC Champions come to town.
The Philadelphia Eagles are 5-0 on the young season and they haven’t even played their best football. They have All-Pros at every position and a coaching staff that is extremely underrated for a group that has won 22 of their last 23 games.
If that wasn’t enough to keep the Jets coaching staff up at night, what makes the Eagles such a daunting team isn’t the fact that their quarterback is playing at an MVP level again, or the fact that they acquired the best defensive line prospect in last season’s draft though. It’s the vaunted offensive line that has been together for the better part of the last decade and is considered the best position group of any in all of football.
“It’s like playing the Peyton Manning of the offensive line,” Saleh said Wednesday. “A lot of respect for Jeff Stoutland, their offensive line coach, he’s one of the best in ball. You see it in the way they play and adjust…you can hit them once, but I promise you they’ll make the adjustment and fix it. It’s pretty cool to watch them play.”
With the likes of All-Pros such as Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson, along with Pro-Bowl talents like Landon Dickerson and Jordan Mailata, the Eagles offensive line has been a group that is beginning to etch their names into football history. Like any all-time great group in the annals of NFL history, the legacy the Eagles offensive line is leaving behind is one of carnage and reverence. Perhaps no play encapsulates that the most than the “Brotherly Shove.”
Philadelphia’s 93% success rate at their quarterback sneak, which sees Hurts being pushed forward by an army in front and behind him has been so dominant that NFL executives and fans are calling the play “unfair.” Over the last two seasons, calls for the unstoppable play to be banned have increased with the latest excuse being a “safety issue” for other teams around the league.
Despite what the NFL might do during the offseason, the Brotherly Shove is here to stay in 2023. That leaves the Jets as the latest team to try and find a way to stop it – with Saleh looking at new terminology to find a way to get an advantage.
“If the quarterback gets the ball, we gotta figure out a way to give him 11 kisses,” Saleh explained with an emphasis on playing physical against Philadelphia. “A lot of respect for it because a lot of teams are trying to do it…we’re going to do our best to try and stop it.”
Saleh later pointed out Philadelphia’s ability to do a lot of different things off the Brotherly Shove such as sweeps and pop passes that confuse defenses – particularly down at the goal line. It makes a play like their version of the quarterback sneak even harder to go up against despite what several analysts have called a “rugby scrum.”
Even with some calling to ban the play in its entirety, the Jets coaching staff won’t go too far with that kind of language with their matchup lingering in under a week.
“If it’s a safety issue, I’d say so but as I say, if you ain’t got haters, you ain’t popping,” Saleh stated. “A lot of people are hating on their play because it works but no one else can seem to make it work to their efficiency. Bravo to them for finding a play.”
Sunday won’t be an easy task for the Jets at all when the Eagles come into town outside of their offensive line and “unstoppable” sneak. They have stars on the outside like A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith who have kept defenses up all night over the last few years. Their defense is opportunistic with a plethora of All-Pro pass rushers in their regard.
Seemingly worrying about one play in a team’s arsenal may be foolish with the way the Eagles have performed recently. But with the Jets trying to notch their first victory in franchise history over the Birds this week, stopping the unstoppable is the first way to do it.
The Brotherly Shove may be here to stay for the remainder of the year, but the Jets have an opportunity to do what no team across the league has been able to accomplish to this point.
With any matchup in a tough game like this, the key will be in the trenches.