Below is a player-by-player look at the Eagles’ defensive line after having re-watched Thursday night’s preseason game against the Steelers. And in case you missed them, here are write-ups on the linebackers, the defensive backs and the offense.
Cullen Jenkins – He started the game at left defensive end, but later moved inside to his usual tackle spot. When he was inside, Jenkins got good pressure on Ben Roethlisberger, but the QB got away and found Chris Rainey for an 8-yard gain. If the Eagles continue to use Jenkins at DE, I might have to nix my projection of them keeping six true defensive ends.
Antonio Dixon – He started at defensive tackle and sniffed out a screen, bringing Isaac Redman down from behind after a gain of 5. Dixon doesn’t give the Eagles much as a pass-rusher, which means he might be left off when they go to 53.
Derek Landri – Started at defensive tackle and had ups and downs, but he definitely made plays. Landri got blocked as Redman found a hole between him and Darryl Tapp for 4 yards in the first. On the very next play, though, he beat the left guard badly and was the cause of the Tapp/Brian Rolle sack. Landri got good push up the middle on 3rd-and-11, but Roethlisberger escaped and hit Emmanuel Sanders for a 17-yard gain. He did a good job against the run as the Eagles dropped Baron Batch for a 1-yard loss in the red zone. On the same series, Landri dropped Rainey for a 9-yard loss. On a 3rd-and-13 play, Landri had a chance to bring down Rainey, but couldn’t finish the tackle as he bounced outside and picked up a first.
Darryl Tapp – He started at right defensive end and got good pressure in the first quarter, but Roethlisberger escaped and hit Rainey for an 8-yard gain. As I mentioned, Tapp benefited from Landri’s rush and combined with Rolle to sack Roethlisberger. Good pressure on third down, forcing Roethlisberger to throw to the flat. And he pressured Byron Leftwich, forcing him to throw the ball away in the second. Good game overall. Valuable rotational player. As Tim pointed out yesterday, the Eagles are going to have decisions to make at DE.
Brandon Graham – He had been waiting to get on the field and played well. Graham got past the tight end and got to Roethlisberger right as Phillip Hunt was sacking him in the first. He stripped the ball, but the refs ruled that Roethlisberger was down. Graham got good pressure from left defensive end on another play, but Roethlisberger escaped and hit Rainey for an 8-yard gain. Good pressure on third down, but Roethlisberger stepped up and hit Sanders for a 17-yard gain. Graham pressured and hit Leftwich in the second, helping to force an incompletion. He beat the right tackle and sacked Leftwich on the next play.
Fletcher Cox – We saw a glimpse of his athleticism on a toss to the right, as Cox assisted on the tackle with Cedric Thornton and stopped Redman for no gain. He was blocked by David DeCastro on Jonathan Dwyer’s 33-yard run. And Cox dropped Batch for a 1-yard loss down near the goal line.
Cedric Thornton – Nice game from Thornton. He did a good job of getting to Redman on a toss to the right, stopping him for no gain. He clogged the initial hole that Batch was trying to run through down near the goal line; the play resulted in a 1-yard loss. Great penetration by Thornton, dropping Rainey for a 3-yard loss in the third. And he got pressure up the middle, sacking Jerrod Johnson in the third. Thornton is on the roster bubble, but has a good chance to make the team.
Phillip Hunt – He really played well, lining up at both left and right defensive end spots. After initially getting fooled on a play-fake, Hunt hustled downfield to bring David Johnson down after a 6-yard gain. He beat the left tackle and sacked Roethlisberger in the first. Hunt had another nice rush off the edge and stripped Leftwich in the first. He beat the right tackle and pressured Leftwitch in the second. And Hunt even made a nice play against the run, tackling Batch after a 1-yard gain in the second.
Vinny Curry – He lined up at right defensive end and made a couple nice plays against the run. On one, Curry dropped John Clay for a loss of 2 in the third. And on another, he dropped Batch for no gain in the third.
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