Saints stand between Peters and his first playoff win

Jason Peters reached the postseason twice before in his NFL career but suffered opening-round losses. Against the Saints, he and the rest of the offensive line will be facing one of the NFL's top pass-rushing teams.
Jason Peters reached the postseason twice before in his NFL career but suffered opening-round losses. Against the Saints, he and the rest of the offensive line will be facing one of the NFL's top pass-rushing teams. (YONG KIM / Staff)
Posted: January 03, 2014

Jason Peters had a publicist in the Eagles locker room on Wednesday. It was defensive end Vinny Curry.

"Comeback player of the year . . . Pro Bowler . . . all-pro," Curry said.

Peters indeed has been named to the Pro Bowl, but Curry threw in a few more suggestions. He wanted to make the point that the Eagles' left tackle is having a standout campaign, and it has come in Peters' first season back from a twice-ruptured Achilles tendon.

"Look at his ankle. Think that doesn't bother him?" Curry asked.

Peters' recovery made last week's Pro Bowl announcement especially rewarding. It's the sixth such honor of Peters' career, and the 31-year-old emphasized Wednesday that the injuries added meaning to the accolade.

Despite Peters' extensive resumé, he has never won a playoff game. He reached the postseason twice before since entering the NFL in 2004. Both trips ended with opening-round losses.

Minutes after beating the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Peters discussed his desire to finally experience a playoff victory. For the Eagles to advance past Saturday's game with the New Orleans Saints, they need Peters and the offensive line to help carry them.

The Saints' 49 sacks rank fourth in the NFL. Defensive end Cameron Jordan finished the regular season with 121/2 sacks. Outside linebacker Junior Galette, who played three seasons at Temple, followed with 12.

"The best I've seen this year as far as rushing the passer," Peters said of the Saints.

Even though Jordan is listed as the right defensive end and Galette is the left outside linebacker, Peters expects to see them both. Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, the son of former Eagles coach Buddy Ryan, moves his defensive players around the field.

"You just can't come out and say, 'Hey, that guy is the left defensive end and we know where he is,' " Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. "He's going to move them around. And then with all the blitz packages that [Ryan] does bring, they get singled up a lot - and when they get singled up, they exploit that."

During Galette's three-sack performance against the Carolina Panthers on Dec. 8, two came from the right and one from the left. During Jordan's 21/2-sack performance Nov. 21 against the Falcons, two came from the left.

Peters and right tackle Lane Johnson must prepare for two top pass rushers who have different styles.

"Galette's more of a Trent Cole guy," Peters said. "He's got pop-out moves and spin moves and stuff like that. Jordan is more of a bull rusher, hand-swipe guy. Two different rushers, but both effective."

The Eagles have allowed 37 sacks this season, the 12th-lowest total in the league. Their ranking would be even better if the Cowboys did not sack Nick Foles five times. Dallas ran certain stunts that disrupted the Eagles, but the Cowboys and Saints have vastly different defenses. Ryan was replaced as defensive coordinator in Dallas by Monte Kiffin, who brought a new scheme and defensive front.

The Eagles' offensive line remains one of the strengths of the team. Curry's endorsement of Peters was merited. He has allowed only four sacks and three quarterback hits this season, according to Pro Football Focus. Only three tackles with more than 1,000 snaps have allowed a lower combination of sacks and hits.

Johnson, the fourth overall pick in 2013, has allowed 10 sacks. Only three have come in the second half of the season. That's a sign of improvement, and he now must hold off the fatigue that rookies often feel this time of year.

The Eagles tackles are not looking past the Saints, but any path deep into January would require wins against the NFL's top pass-rushing defense. A win against the Saints would set up a date with the Carolina Panthers, who led the NFL with 60 sacks.

"It's not getting any easier," Johnson said.

Peters said that the Eagles line is confident. There are no "style points," he noted, and the line must help the Eagles continue their run. The Saints are the first test.

"We've just got to hold them off, get Foles some time, and make some plays," Peters said.


zberman@phillynews.com

@ZBerm

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