RUSSELL WILSON might not be the first mobile quarterback the Eagles will face this season. But, from a rushing standpoint at least, he will be the most formidable one.
A week after effectively putting a muzzle on the NFL's leading individual rusher, DeMarco Murray, the Eagles will face the league's No. 1-ranked rushing team Sunday when the Seattle Seahawks visit the Linc.
The Seahawks will have not one, but two ballcarriers the Eagles must worry about every snap - running back Marshawn Lynch, who is fifth in the league in rushing with 956 yards, and Wilson, who is 15th with 679 yards and an impressive 7.5-yard-per-carry average.
Wilson isn't an accidental runner who takes off only to escape pass-rushers. Fifty-two of his 91 rushing attempts have come on zone reads or designed runs.
"When we played San Francisco and [Colin] Kaepernick, they didn't really run the zone read much,'' linebacker Connor Barwin said. "These guys run it. That's their No. 1 play. Cam Newton didn't run it. RG3 didn't run it [last year].
"He'll be the first guy to really run it. He pulls it [away from the running back]. He does a great job of running with the ball. And he protects himself and doesn't get hit.''
Wilson is ninth in the league in rushing first downs with 39, which is just 10 fewer than Lynch's 49. He leads the league in third-down rushing with 210 yards on 21 carries.
Wilson is averaging 5.9 yards per carry on zone reads and designed runs (52-306) and a whopping 9.6 yards per carry on scrambles (39-373).
He hasn't been too shabby throwing the ball, either. He's completed 63.9 percent of his passes and has thrown 15 touchdown passes and just five interceptions in 335 attempts. He's also been sacked 31 times, the sixth highest total in the league.
"We've got to make sure we contain him, got to make sure we get after him,'' linebacker Brandon Graham said. "But it's like last week. We've got to make sure we stop that run [first]. We've got to stop big boy [Lynch]. Then we've got to stop [Wilson] too.''
Wilson is on pace to rush for 905 yards, which would be the most by a quarterback since Michael Vick set the single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback in 2006 with 1,039. He has rushed for 70 or more yards in three of the last four games and already has three 100-yard rushing games this season.
"They call the zone read a lot,'' Barwin said. "They run the ball so well [with Lynch] that it obviously opens things up for him.''
The Eagles have plenty of defensive coaches who know how to defend the zone read. While defensive coordinator Bill Davis has spent his entire career in the NFL, most of his assistants have extensive college backgrounds, where the zone read is as common as soft pretzels in Philly.
Defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro followed Chip Kelly from Oregon. Bill McGovern, who coaches the outside linebackers, spent 12 years at Boston College before joining the Eagles. Inside linebackers coach Rick Minter was the defensive coordinator at Kentucky before getting hired by Kelly.
"Our guys have spent a career defending it, and it's old hat to them,'' Davis said. "They've got answers for everything right away.
"As an NFL lifer, I haven't had to have those [zone read] discussions a lot in my career. But over the last 2 years - again, we face it in practice everyday, so that's a benefit to us. And then the coaches that we have are not only outstanding coaches on any scheme, but the read option is part of what they know well."
Of course, knowing how to defend it and actually defending it aren't quite the same.
"When we played the 49ers and Panthers, we prepared a little bit for them to run it, but they didn't," Barwin said. "This will be the first time to see if what we do works against it.
"I'm confident it will work. It's just about us executing. The coaches have the right calls for it, but we still have to go out there and execute."
Barwin, Graham and the Eagles' other outside linebacker, Trent Cole, will play key roles in stopping Wilson and the zone read because it is the outside 'backer Wilson will play cat-and-mouse with when he makes his decision whether to give the ball to Lynch or keep it.
"Everything's going to be committed to stopping the run," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "That's their bread and butter. That's what they're going to do, and then their play-action [pass] game comes off of that. That's when they'll get their shots [at big plays]. When he's running around scrambling. We need to keep them in a dropback passing game. They can do it, but that's not what they're best at."
Keeping Wilson in the pocket is easier said than done. The Eagles probably won't blitz very much. They've sent five or more pass-rushers after the quarterback just 30 percent of the time this season. Against Kaepernick, they blitzed on just eight of 34 pass plays (23.5 percent). Against Newton, on just 13 of 49 (26.5 percent).
"You have to be a little more disciplined against a guy like him," said Barwin, who has a career-high 12 1/2 of the Eagles' 42 sacks.
"You have to rush together. You have to really try to keep him in the pocket. He likes to get out of the pocket. He makes some of his best plays outside the pocket. At the same time, you can't sit back and let him stand there in the pocket [without pressure]. He can throw the ball there as well. So you've got to get there too."
The Eagles have held their last seven opponents to only 3.7 yards per carry. That's the fifth best average in the league over that period.
But the 1-2 punch of the 5-10, 215-pound Lynch and the elusive Wilson presents a unique challenge.
"One of the stamps of this defense has been their effort to the ball," Davis said. "Eleven guys running to the ball. They pride themselves on it.
"When you have a mobile quarterback, two elements occur. One, you have to finish all the way to the ball. You have to have all the guys in pursuit.
"But the real key is on the back end, plastering in the coverage when it goes from a 3- to 4-second coverage mode to 5, 6, 7, 8 seconds when these quarterbacks run around in space and still have all the arm to throw it."
On Twitter: @Pdomo