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49ers vs. Eagles: Defense position-by-position breakdown

Rohan Chakravarthi
Jan 25, 2023 at 10:30 AM--

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The San Francisco 49ers and the Philadelphia Eagles will face off in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, with the winner heading to Glendale, Arizona for the Super Bowl, where they'll face the winner of the Kansas City Chiefs and the Cincinnati Bengals matchup.

The 49ers and Eagles were the two best teams in the NFC this season, as well as the two most complete rosters, which is why it only makes sense that we do a position-by-position breakdown to evaluate the state of each team.

Defensive Line: Toss Up

This position group is the hardest to grade, given that the defensive lines on both sides are the anchors of their respective defenses, which are No. 1 and No. 2 in yards allowed this season.

The Eagles have the better pass rush, accumulating a league-high 70 sacks and a stellar sack percentage of over 11%, while the 49ers ranked around the middle of the pack with a 6.91% sack rate.

However, the 49ers are, by far, the better run defense, allowing just 77.7 yards per game and 3.4 yards per attempt, both of which rank second in the NFL, while the Eagles give up 121.6 yards per game on the ground, as well as 4.6 yards per attempt, which ranks 24th in the NFL.

With the strong depth on either defensive line, as well as their respective strengths, it is truly a toss-up as to which unit is better.

Linebackers: 49ers

The 49ers possess the best 1-2 punch in the NFL at linebacker with Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw this season.

Warner is the best linebacker in the NFL, while Greenlaw propelled himself to nearly winning second-team All-Pro honors with a stellar season against the run.

On the flip side, Philadelphia has linebacker T.J. Edwards, who enjoyed a quietly strong season as the Eagles' anchor on their second level, perhaps being the most underrated linebacker this season.

However, it's clear that San Francisco has the better overall unit, especially when accounting for Azeez Al-Shaair, who could be a starting-level middle linebacker on several NFL teams.

Advantage, 49ers.

Cornerbacks: Eagles

While the 49ers possess the best 1-2 punch at linebacker in the NFL, the Eagles possess the best 1-2 punch at cornerback in the NFL with Darius Slay and James Bradberry, both of whom have played at an All-Pro level this season.

The 49ers don't have a bad cornerback room by any means, as Charvarius Ward has stepped into the No. 1 cornerback role and Deommodore Lenoir has enjoyed a productive playoff with two interceptions, but the Eagles certainly have the better room, and arguably the best cornerback room in the NFL.

Even when considering slot cornerbacks, the Eagles still have the overall edge, despite the strong play of Jimmie Ward this season on the last year of his deal.

Advantage: Eagles.

Safeties: 49ers

The 49ers enjoyed a breakout season from second-year safety Talanoa Hufanga, who has become one of the NFL's most exciting playmakers in 2022.

While Hufanga has cooled off in the second half, allowing coverage busts and missing some tackles, the USC product is still vital to the 49ers' defensive success and displays an elite level of intelligence at the position.

San Francisco also has Tashaun Gipson, who has encountered a re-emergence in 2022 playing alongside Hufanga, becoming a valuable contributor to the backend, while showcasing some of his versatility.

The Eagles do have Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, who has been a success for Philadelphia playing that nickel/safety role, but the 49ers do have the better overall room with a more well-rounded unit.

Advantage: 49ers.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.

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