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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Vikings-Eagles matchup to watch: Jason Kelce vs. Linval Joseph

By Matthew Coller

As the Minnesota Vikings prepare to face the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship game, we will be highlighting one key matchup every day throughout the week. For Part 3, Jason Kelce vs. Linval Joseph.

In attempts to overcome the loss of starting quarterback Carson Wentz, the Philadelphia Eagles will lean heavily on their offensive line to protect Nick Foles and create big plays in the run and screen game.

At the center of the Eagles’ success in the short passing game and rushing attack is center Jason Kelce, Philly’s veteran center. He will battle in the trenches against Vikings’ star defensive tackle Linval Joseph.

This battle would normally be one to watch, but the intensity and importance will be ramped up even more with likely poor field conditions and the Eagles’ reliance on the run and play-action game.

How do they match up? Let’s have a look…

The stats

Jason Kelce has always been a solid player, but he’s taken his game up to another level in 2017. Pro Football Focus rated him the No. 1 center in the league and he ranked No. 1 among offensive linemen in Pro-Football Reference’s Approximate Value statistic (similar to Wins Above Replacement). He was also named first-team All-Pro.

Philadelphia ranks No. 3 in the NFL in rushing yards per attempt and rushing yards per game. They have also ripped off more 20-plus yard runs than any other team in the NFL.

Linval Joseph ranked 11th by PFF metrics among all defensive tackles and third among nose tackles. The Vikings’ powerful veteran led a defensive line that ranked fifth best against goal line and short yardage runs. Minnesota also finished fifth overall in rush yards per attempt allowed and No. 2 in overall rushing yards.

Joseph is also important in the Vikings’ pass rush, picking up 3.5 sacks and 15 QB pressures (per Football Outsiders).

The skills

Kelce’s mobility and athleticism are huge assets in the Eagles’ offense. At the NFL Combine, he ranked among the elite offensive linemen in the 40-yard dash, broad jump, three-cone and 20-yard shuttle. He gets out to linebackers and defensive backs quicker than most centers. The Eagles ranked third in the NFL in yards gained in the second level on runs plays. Kelce is also competitive and relentless.

Shot 7 – #Eagles get the ball back with under a minute left and two timeouts. First, check out the block by Jason Kelce on this screen pass on first down followed by the ‘Immaculate Recaption’ remake with Torrey Smith, a vertical concept that is constructed to attack Cover 3

— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) January 16, 2018

The Vikings’ DT isn’t just one of the strongest players in the NFL, but he’s incredibly quick for his size. He finished last season with 77 tackles and 68 this year – rare numbers for a nose tackle. But Joseph has the ability to chase down running backs on screen passes or get to the outside and cut off running lanes. He simply cannot be blocked one-on-one, which allows for advantageous matchups for the rest of the defensive line.

.@Vikings #LinvalJoseph is a problem for the @Saints. #BaldyBreakdowns

— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) January 12, 2018

The history

When the Vikings and Eagles matched up last season, Philadelphia had some success running the ball, gaining 101 yards on 26 carries. Both Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles had runs over 15 yards – a rarity against the Vikings’ defense. Joseph had just one tackle and zero sacks.

The familiarity between these two goes back a long way. The first Joseph-Kelce matchup happened on September 25, 2011, Joseph’s second year as a member of the New York Giants. Since then they have played five more times.

The X-factor

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson dialed up a huge number of run-pass option plays and sweeps out of the shotgun last week agains the Atlanta Falcons. Throughout the game, Atlanta’s defensive line wore down as the Eagles controlled the ball in the second half and made them move laterally on nearly every play. If Philadelphia can wear down the Vikings’ terrific defensive line, they may be able to create plays late in the game like the 32-yard screen pass from Foles to Jay Ajayi that sparked a key drive in the fourth quarter against Atlanta.

The post Vikings-Eagles matchup to watch: Jason Kelce vs. Linval Joseph appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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