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Containing the Enemy: Michael Thomas

The Eagles are true underdogs this week as they go up against the #1 seed in the NFC the New Orleans Saints. The Birds will see a different-looking Saints offense than they have been used to in recent seasons. The Saints are dangerous with Drew Brees under center because he can dissect any defense he plays against, but they won't have to worry about that happening. Instead, they will see the Saints have a mobile quarterback under center in Taysom Hill. All season long we saw Brees get the ball to Alvin Kamara as often as possible, and that kept leading to wins. With Hill in the game, Kamara’s production has dwindled fairly quickly. That's why on Sunday the Eagles will have to contain Michael Thomas.

We have seen Michael Thomas put up historic numbers for a wide receiver ever since he entered the league, and his production has not stopped. Thomas did miss time this season due to an ankle injury, but he has been back to his old form in recent weeks. With Brees playing early this season and no Michael Thomas available, Alvin Kamara was the main threat in the Saints offense. However, with Thomas healthy we have seen that he is Hill’s top receiver. Through Hill’s three starts, Thomas has been targeted 29 times. Through this span, Thomas has registered 22 receptions for 259 yards. It is a different look for Thomas without having any touchdowns because Taysom has only thrown two since taking over as the starter (and those are his only two career passing touchdowns so far). In their matchup against the Denver Broncos, Hill was only 9-16 for 78 yards and an interception. Even with that subpar performance, Thomas still had four receptions for 50 yards on six targets. In that matchup no other receiver had more than one reception and Thomas had 50 of Hill’s 78 yards.

We should expect to see Thomas get the majority of the targets in the passing game this week, and he has to be the number one priority for the Eagles defense. There still are other weapons on this Saints offense, but Thomas has more than double the targets than the next receiver since Hill took over. Hill still does not have much experience, and you need to get him rattled early. The main way to rattle him is to take away his favorite target and make him go through his progression to find the second or third passing option.

By taking away Michael Thomas, you take away a majority of the yards they rely on. That's why the Eagles defense needs to contain Thomas to have any chance to win this game.

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