When the Eagles and Lions slam helmets Sunday, they will be showcasing a somewhat controversial defensive philosophy that each team lives and dies by: the Wide 9.
These two teams, because of Eagles defensive line coach Jim Washburn and Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, carry the Wide 9 torch for the league.
The Wide 9 refers to aligning the defensive ends three feet wider than usual. Usually defensive ends in a four man front line up in a seven technique, which puts them on the inside shoulder of the tight end. But in the Wide 9, they line up in the nine technique, which is on the outside shoulder of the tight end.
While the Eagles and Lions major in the Wide 9 (they may use it about 80 percent of the time), many others minor in it, using it selectively based on situations. The Giants, for instance, used it extensively against the Packers in the NFC Championship game last January. The Vikings dabble in it. So do the Titans.
There are two primary benefits to the Wide 9. One is it makes it difficult for offenses to run outside. But the real reason teams use it is it gives the defensive ends excellent angles to get to the quarterback.
“It puts the fear of God into the offensive tackles if you have guys like Jason Babin, Jared Allen, Tamba Hali, Cliff Avril, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young,” Cunningham told me. “All these guys were some of the top speed guys coming into the draft and when you align wide, the OTs have to double kick on pass protection to block the edge. The double kick went out a few years back and now everyone is straight line dropping in the pass, meaning the OTs are holding space to stop the three technique, so the DEs that are wide have a straight line to the 7