Eagles: Containing Deebo Samuel is pivotal for Gannon’s defense

There’s a lot to break down and look at when it comes to Kyle Shanahan’s offense in San Francisco. The zone running game is usually what comes to mind first, followed by tight end George Kittle’s impact. But wideout Deebo Samuel deserves to be respected as one of Shanahan’s top weapons.

He’s easily the most versatile weapon at Shanahan’s disposal — Samuel lined up in four different positions in Week 1 — and one could argue he is the most versatile wideout in the entire NFL.

Samuel is the only player on San Francisco’s offense that’s capable of lining up anywhere on the formation. Brandon Aiyuk and Trent Sherfield are more prototypical receiving threats, whereas Samuel is a true running back/wide receiver hybrid.

Last Sunday, Samuel lined up primarily on the outside, with 30 of his offensive snaps coming out wide. He also spent 15 snaps in the slot, along with one a piece in the backfield and as an inline blocker. He can beat you in a multitude of ways, namely with his YAC ability. Samuel averaged 12.1 yards after the catch per reception in Week 1. And he was dominant in single coverage, posting the most receiving yards in single coverage of any wideout in the league last week.

He’s been a dynamic ball carrier throughout his entire career. On 41 touches in 2020, Samuel broke 11 tackles, meaning he broke at least one tackle on 26.8 percent of his touches last season. In his rookie season, Samuel was the only rookie wideout who totaled more than 60 percent of his receiving yards after the catch and averaged over two yards per route run, per Pro Football Focus.

With running back Raheem Mostert now out for the year, expect Shanahan to utilize Deebo’s running ability even more moving forward. For his career, Samuel averages eight yards per carry on 22 total rushing attempts.

If the Eagles are to slow down Samuel and prevent him from dominating like he did in Week 1, containing his run after the catch prowess is priority No. 1. Jonathan Gannon’s defense did a fine job tackling in Week 1, missing only two tackles as a team and posting a missed tackle percentage of just 2.5 percent.

The defense did find themselves out of position a lot in the first quarter of last week’s contest in Atlanta. Although they did clean it up tremendously from the second quarter on, coming out of the gates with disciplined football will be paramount in this one.

Deebo Samuel isn’t the only weapon on San Fran’s offense that can take advantage of missed tackles, but he’s certainly the most dangerous. As long as Gannon’s group keeps tabs on where Samuel lines up throughout the game and enforces a disciplined game plan against him, the Eagles will have a shot to win this game. But if they fail to contain this dynamic weapon, Gannon’s defense will be in for a long day.

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