As we’ll do every week to get you ready for the upcoming game, our X Factor of the week. Sometimes it’s a player, unit, concept, or scheme. Our X Factor for tomorrow’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles
X Factor: Devin Bush
The Eagles are starting twine and paperclips at receiver – again – with Alshon Jeffrey and Desean Jackson ruled out for tomorrow’s game. Philadelphia’s best weapons continue to be their tight ends in Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. Ertz is the team’s leader with 19 receptions. Goedert is third with 13.
Pittsburgh hasn’t had the easiest time against tight ends either. Evan Engram would’ve had a bigger Week 1 performance had it not been for self-inflicted wounds, pass interference and drops. Noah Fant cooked the team as part of the Broncos’ comeback. Denver ran the same concepts the Eagles like to run. Three-level, sail concepts that get the tight end running to the corner, defeating inside leverage.
Bush hasn’t played poorly this season and has shown improvements in coverage, his end zone breakup against Daniel Fells vs Houston was a terrific play, but he’s searching for more splash plays. He’s been part of just one takeaway – interception, forced fumble, or fumble recovery – over his last 13 games.
But it isn’t just about big plays. Being able to match up on Ertz, be competitive at the catch point, and get him on the ground when he does haul in passes are all obvious and critical. Ertz is twice the size of Bush so that won’t be an easy task.
Bush will also have to be disciplined with his eyes in the run game. The Eagles love using misdirection and have athletes in the backfield. Everyone from Miles Sanders to Carson Wentz to rookie QB Jalen Hurts, making an impact on the offense the last two weeks. Bush has to read his keys, not overpursue, and do a better job of working off linemen. Philadelphia loves getting their centers and guards free to the second level and I want Bush to do a better job taking on those blocks and defeating them as opposed to ducking around. He’s shown improvement there but has a way to go.
One last thing. He’ll be dealing with crowd noise for the first time of the year. Not a lot, there’s only 5500 fans at Heinz Field this weekend, but it’ll feel like full capacity after playing and practicing in front of empty seats for weeks. Crowd noise impacts a defense the same way it does a visiting offense. Bush is wearing the green dot this year. That makes him the central, key communicator. Tomorrow will be a new challenge for him.