Eagles Wake-Up Call: D-Line Getting Chippy

Philadelphia Eagles defensive line coach Jim WashburnThe Eagles’ defense has seven sacks through four games. By this point last year, Jason Babin matched that total all by himself.

The numbers are down across the board.  Juan Castillo‘s defense is on pace for 28 sacks, while last year’s unit amassed 50. Against the Giants, the Eagles failed to register a single quarterback hit on Eli Manning. The difference is the way the front four is being attacked.

“Oh shoot, we got extra attention,” said Trent Cole, coming off the Giants game. The veteran defensive end  has 1 1/2 sacks to date. “We got extra attention the past three games. This year is just totally different. I’ve been playing for eight years, and I’ve never gotten chipped like that. Either the tight end was hitting you, or the back was hitting you, and then when you get off that you’ve got to fight the tackle. He gets on you after you get chipped, and then you have to fight the guard, too. All we can do is keep fighting. We don’t make an excuse of it, we say, ‘OK, wow. I guess we have to fight harder, harder than them.’”

Opposing coordinators are obviously aware of how potent this defensive line is, and how disruptive it can be under Jim Wahburn‘s pedal-to-the-floor approach. Adjustments have been made to try and limit the damages. Statistically speaking, it has worked. Babin, who was flirting with Reggie White‘s team single-season sack record last year, has 2 1/2 sacks so far. He was asked following the Giants game what type of tackle he prefers going against.

“I prefer not to get chipped,” he responded, “but that’s wishful thinking. That’s probably not going to happen for the rest of my time.”

Not that the D-line isn’t still managing some heat. They are credited with 73 hurries over the first four games (Babin and Cole have 17 apiece.) It’s just that the sacks are down.

The statistic that matters, of course, is win-loss total. And that is working out pretty well so far.

The attention given to the defensive ends in particular opens up opportunity for others. The Eagles’ defensive tackles are taking advantage.

“Our d-line played well, but  Cullen [Jenkins] and Fletcher [Cox], I thought, did a nice job,” said Andy Reid. “When they’re chipping your outside defenders, your defensive ends, then you’ve got to make sure that you take care of business with the inside players and so I thought they were able to give good inside pressure on the quarterback.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

The Eagles aren’t getting much love from the national media despite a 3-1 record.

Brian Rolle was released on Tuesday, and vows to prove the Eagles wrong. 

Here’s a player-by-player look at the linebackers’ performance Sunday night. Mychal Kendricks was a bit of an unsung hero.

If you missed Monday’s Birds 24/7 show, here’s a link to the podcast.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

The Eagles shot up two spots to No. 7 in ESPN’s latest power rankings.

Amazing what happens when you don’t turn the ball over, eh? The Eagles are 3-1 in spite of it all and on top of the NFC East, and they are the highest-ranking team in the division this week.

Don Banks of SI.com is high on Vick after Sunday night’s game.

If Philadelphia’s gritty 19-17 conquest of the defending Super Bowl champion Giants was a referendum of sorts on Vick’s status, as some made it out to be in the week leading up to the game, then No. 7 earned a sizable vote of confidence with the Eagles’ win. Vick played his most efficient and smartest game of the year, and his first turnover-less performance of 2012 was the biggest reason Philadelphia will enter the season’s second month sitting atop the division.

“I just felt in control out there from the beginning of the game,” Vick told me afterwards, just outside the Eagles locker room. “I just didn’t want to put this team in a bad position, and the thing is, I know how to play quarterback. I know how to play it and play it well. I just wanted to put our team into position where we could compete throughout the entire game, regardless of how tough it was going to be.”

Jerry Jones is getting angry after Dallas’ lackluster performance against Chicago. And you wouldn’t like Jerry when he’s angry.

“Let me say this … I know this: I couldn’t be more disappointed,” Jones said Tuesday morning on KRLD-FM. “Frankly, I’m surprised we didn’t play better.”

COMING UP

The Eagles begin preparation for the Steelers. Practice starts up at 1:50. The Philly media will be talking to Ben Roethlisberger and Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.