Four Downs: Chaney adds special element to Eagles

Here’s a few thoughts to share after taking in all the film of Week 15. Since we can’t get enough of the Eagles, let’s start with their newest difference-maker on defense.

1. Jamar Chaney is already one of the best MLBs in the league after his first start. He was phenomenal in every phase of the game on Sunday against the Giants, in terms of recognition, physicality, getting off blocks, stopping the run downhill and sideline-to-sideline speed. It’s no knock on Stewart Bradley, but Chaney gives the Eagles their best play from the position in years. He was all over the field. When your MLB is fast and plays fast, it makes the entire defense look fast.

2. I’m not sure a lot of people realize Mike Vrabel is still in the league. His play against the Rams last week was on par with anything we saw while he was winning Super Bowls in New England. He understands offenses, and helped shut down Steven Jackson to make the Rams one-dimensional and stay a game up on the Chargers in the AFC West. I thought he was phenomenal. He still knows how to play the game, and plays with a passion most people only dream about.

3. Time to talk about Peyton Manning. His ability to recognize defenses and when to run the ball, and when not to, is critical. Donald Brown had over 100 yards on three second-down carries last week against the Jaguars. It was Manning who got the Colts not only into a run play, but the right run play. Brown had the best day of his career and had the longest run for the Colts since 2004, and much of the credit goes to Manning. He checks to the right runs at the right time. It’s just one more example of his brilliance. You don’t really think of it this way, but when you’re the guy who has to get your team out of a funk, Manning did it. But he did it by not throwing the ball, but by making the right decisions.

4. Sometimes it’s the plays Ed Reed doesn’t have to make that make him one of the most feared players in the league. The Saints went in to Baltimore last week averaging more than 30 points per game, and left three points short of what they needed. Watching the film, Drew Brees had plays he would have thrown against every other defense in the league, but with Reed lurking, Brees refused to throw the ball into certain coverages. Brees loves to throw when Marques Colston is covered, letting him go up and get the ball. But not against Reed. Brees, on two or three occasions, wanted to throw the ball left but wouldn’t take the chance on that side of the field with Reed over the top . Brees couldn’t be as aggressive as he wanted to be. There’s the TV show “Fear Factor,” and then there’s a fear factor that good quarterbacks have with Reed.

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