Eagles Wake-Up Call: Where Are the Sacks?

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Jason BabinBy this point last year, the Eagles’ defense already had 16 sacks. Through five games this season, they have seven.

On Sunday against the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger did not go down once. The Eagles certainly aren’t accustomed to coming up empty, especially since defensive line coach Jim Washburn joined the staff. At least not until the last two weeks.

“We were getting a bit of pressure on him, getting some holding calls early, and they started changing their scheme up a little bit and started changing what they were doing,” said Cullen Jenkins. “They went down to a lot more checkdowns, a lot more screens, things like that, max protections. That stuff makes it tough.”

Trent Cole noted after the Giants game that he and Jason Babin were getting chipped constantly, and that he was receiving more attention than he has ever gotten previously in his career. There appeared to be some of that on Sunday as well, and  the 241- pound Roethlisberger didn’t make their jobs any easier.

“We had chances to get our hands on him,” said Andy Reid. “He’s a big, strong guy. You have to get him down once  you get your hands on him. We knew that was an issue. That’s been an issue with every team that’s played him. We just need to do a little better of a job.”

Roethlisberger is tough to take to the mat, no doubt. But the Eagles also failed to register a sack (or a quarterback hit) against Eli Manning the week before.

The question that needs to be examined is if it really matters that the sack numbers have dropped significantly. While the sack total was sky high this time last year, their record was 1-4. They are now 3-2 and entered Sunday ranked sixth overall as a defense. They came in having produced 73 hurries, an indication that the rush is still having an effect.

“We held them to 16 points,” said Kurt Coleman. “We did a lot of good things against [Roethlisberger] to get after him, and cover up the wide receivers all day long. We definitely gave him a headache.”

But they didn’t make him cough up the ball. Suddenly, a defensive unit that was forcing turnovers at a good rate early now has just one in its last three games.

Are the lack of sacks related?

Chances are, Juan Castillo will have to dial up some more blitzes in the coming weeks to try and figure that out.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Sheil makes his return and gives his patented instant observations.

Michael Vick and Andy Reid were unable to explain the fumbles on Sunday.

But those fumble numbers are piling up pretty quickly.

Brandon Boykin got an early lick on Antonio Brown, who earlier in the week called him, “The Candy Bar.”

“He shut up after that,” the rookie corner said following the game.

Brown had a productive day, including a key 20-yard gain on third down on the Steelers’ game-winning drive. Here’s a look at why Pittsburgh was successful on third down against the Eagles, particularly late.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Dan Graziano gives a rapid reaction to the Steelers’ 16-14 win over the Eagles.

Roethlisberger was able to find some things in the Eagles’ secondary, showcasing what an important part pressure plays in the Eagles’ defensive schemes.Nnamdi Asomugha is not winning consistently enough in man coverage, and Antonio Brown had some fun against the Eagles’ defensive backs. Philadelphia also struggled to contain Pittsburgh running back Rashard Mendenhall in his first game of the season, and they were unable to make the stops they needed to make on the drive that moved the Steelers into field goal range at the end of the game.

Ray Didinger says the Eagles are walking a fine line with Vick.

“You don’t want to keep him from doing the things he does that make him a winning quarterback, but you also don’t want to take unnecessary risks. That is a fine line to try and walk in the middle of a football game.”

There’s at least one member of the defense that isn’t down of Vick for his turnovers. From the USA Today.

“We relish in the opportunities to get on the field and make plays,” said Eagles safety[Kurt Coleman] when asked if Vick’s costly fumbles were deflating. “It gets us more stats. We enjoy it.”

COMING UP

Reid addresses the media at noon. The Eagles host the Lions Sunday at 1 p.m.