DL Production: Time For Graham To Get More Snaps?

Going into last week’s game, the Eagles appeared to have a big advantage with their defensive line going up against the Steelers offensive line.

But when the teams actually played, Jim Washburn’s group didn’t have much of an impact, failing to get to Ben Roethlisberger and giving up big plays in the run game all day long.

So what happened? Here’s the weekly review of the Eagles defensive line. Let’s start with the numbers:

Total Snaps
Pass-Rushing Opportunities
Pressure Percentage
Jason Babin522913.4%
Trent Cole502727.4%
Fletcher Cox462800%
Cullen Jenkins422727.4%
Derek Landri311300%
Cedric Thornton291200%
Darryl Tapp2211327.3%
Brandon Graham1811545.5%
Phillip Hunt6200%

You’ll notice there’s no column for sacks because, well, the Eagles didn’t have any for the second straight week. But this performance was far different from the previous week’s one against the Giants. The defensive line absolutely had an impact in that game. In this one, the Eagles did not get enough consistent pressure on Roethlisberger, and when they got close, they were unable to bring him down. To be fair, that’s one of his greatest strengths as a quarterback.

As for the numbers, you’ll see a lot of zeroes across the board. But the guy that should jump out here is Brandon Graham. He played 18 snaps and had 11 opportunities to rush the passer. In that time, Graham led the team with five hurries. Keep in mind that hurries are a stat kept by the team’s coaches, not by me or a league statistician. While the rest of the defensive linemen struggled, Graham got to the quarterback more than 45 percent of the time. He’s jumped ahead of Phillip Hunt in terms of playing time, but Graham needs to get on the field more.

One other thing you’ll notice is the Eagles’ lack of interior pressure. Other than Cullen Jenkins, the defensive tackles really were a non-factor when it came to getting to Roethlisberger. Perhaps because of that, we saw some different looks up front with Trent Cole and Jason Babin lined up inside on a few occasions.

Below is the player-by-player breakdown with some more notes:

Jason Babin – Quiet game with no sacks and one hurry. Jimmy Kempski over at Blogging the Beast took a detailed look at how the Steelers blocked Babin. He was chipped or double-teamed just five times all game. In other words, this was not a case of Pittsburgh consistently using extra blockers against him. As for individual plays, Babin showed great hustle, bringing Rashard Mendenhall down after a 24-yard gain (even though the play was called back). The refs missed a blatant holding call as Heath Miller threw Babin to the ground on Roethlisberger’s 9-yard run during the Steelers’ first scoring drive. Babin lined up in a few different places, including right defensive end and left defensive tackle. He got some pressure off the edge, but Roethliberger stepped up and found Chris Rainey for a 6-yard completion. He forced Roethlisberger to step up and throw incomplete on third down in the third. And Babin got his hand on Roethlisberger, but couldn’t bring him down on the big 3rd-and-12 conversion that went for 20 yards in the fourth. Against the run, Babin got blocked by Miller on a 7-yard Mendenhall run in the third.

Trent Cole – Also a quiet game – no sacks and just two hurries. Jordan Raanan of Bleeding Green Nation charted Cole’s snaps and found that he faced a chip or double-team on nine of 30 pass-rushing attempts. In other words, he had plenty of one-on-one chances. Cole got a hand on Roethlisberger in the second, but couldn’t bring him down on what turned out to be a 9-yard scramble. He lined up in different spots, including inside at defensive tackle. Cole hit Roethlisberger after he stepped up on third down in the third.

Fletcher Cox – Probably his least productive game of the season, although I have to take a look at the All-22 to see how often Cox was double-teamed. Cox got some pressure on Roethlisberger on a third down in the third. On one play, he lined up off the line of scrimmage, standing up, and got a running start. But overall, he struggled to get to the quarterback. Against the run, Cox got blocked on Mendenhall’s 9-yard run. He got blocked (and maybe held) on Isaac Redman’s 13-yard run in the third. Overall, three tackles, including one on Redman after a 2-yard run in the fourth.

Cullen Jenkins – He was easily the Eagles’ best interior pass rusher. Jenkins got decent pressure on a twist around Babin in the first, forcing Roethlisberger to step up. He drew a holding penalty on third down in the first as Willie Colon tackled him to the ground. Jenkins nearly had a sack, but drew a holding penalty instead late in the first half. He lined up at defensive end on a couple occasions. Against the run, Jenkins stopped Mendenhall for no gain in the first.

Derek Landri – Not a good game. Zero hurries, and Landri got blocked on several of the Steelers’ big run plays. Mendenhall ran in Landri’s direction for gains of 5 and 17 in the third. He got blocked on Mendenhall’s 9-yard run in the third and again on Redman’s 13-yard run. The good moments: Landri got his hand on a screen in the third and tackled Rainey after a 6-yard completion. He starts, but as you can see from the snap counts above, Cox consistently plays more.

Cedric Thornton – He was OK. Thornton dropped Rainey for no gain in the first and drew a holding penalty on a run play in the fourth. Thornton also did a good job helping to stop a Redman 4-yard run on the final drive.

Darryl Tapp – The coaches credited him with three hurries, second-most on the team, although I didn’t see him have much of an impact, other than earning a personal foul for unnecessary roughness in the first.

Brandon Graham – Mentioned him above. Graham led the team with five hurries. He hit Roethlisberger as he released the ball on a first-quarter incompletion. He charged through a double-team and hit him again, forcing Roethlisberger to throw it away in the second. Fox didn’t show a good replay, but this was the play where Roethlisberger had something to say to Graham afterwards. Graham drove Miller back with relative ease and pressured Roethlisberger into dumping it off for a 2-yard loss, but Nnamdi Asomugha was called for holding on the play. Made the most of his opportunities once again.

Phillip Hunt – He hasn’t had a lot of opportunities, but Hunt has just two hurries on the season. Played only six snaps against Pittsburgh.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

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  • I wonder if Washburn will start Graham instead of his boy Babin. Graham deserves to start.

    • Reyco

      I’m really guessing if it continues they get rid of Babin next year and start him. The only one in the way is probably Washburn.

    • Mac

      Washburn revealed before coming to the Eagles that he was a Graham fan prior to that draft. I believe we are just starting to see Graham’s post injury potential.

  • Jay Grace

    Babin & Cole suck this year

  • Tyler Phillips


  • daggolden

    What I never understand is how other teams(even when McNabb was here) can blitz us to death an there is always someone coming free. Our QB runs for his life. But when we blitz is seems like it gets picked up 75% of the time.

    • Kimbafuzz

      The blitz worked under Jim Johnson’s schemes, but notsomuch since….

    • Because either Reid (or Vick) will not check off and run “hot routes” like every other team in the league. You NEVER see a quick slant….you never see a fade. These plays just don’t exist in this offense and are paramount to defeating a blitz…

  • daggolden

    Brandon Graham is a long list of consecutive 1st round busts. I dont care the reason, injuries etc. Starts with Maclin( A reciever that has never reached 1000 yards on a team that throws 65% of the time is comical, If you use injuries as excuse I then say he is injury prone which = bust). Brandon Graham(injury is a factor)but so far he is a 1st round bust. Danny Watkins is absolutley horrible. He shouldnt even be on the field. He cant pass block on a passing team. Fletcher Cox is showing some promise. Atleast he starts.

    • I’d tend to agree with a few of these points, but I’d like to see 1 full healthy season out of Graham before I throw that label him a bust. I tend to label guys busts that just turn out to be not talented OR can never get healthy. So far its been the latter for Graham, but if he plays a great season he could make Babin expendable next season. That’ll take away the sting a bit.

      I disagree with Maclin, although you’re right its disappointing he hasn’t had a 1000 yard season there’s no reason to think he doesn’t have the talent to do so. I think he’s on the brink of a break out season, but the cancer scare last year and early hip injury this season is not helping his cause. Even though we do pass a lot, you’ve got to realize we’re not a one horse show on offense, we spread the ball around. It’s not hard to see what Maclin brings to the table, just look at the Arizona game he missed. You blanket Jackson and our offense becomes pretty much non-existent. Drop passes are a major concern for me from Maclin, though.

      Danny Watkins is a bust, he was a desperation pick. I’m not sure why you ever would take an interior lineman in the first round unless you’re sure he can step right away and can contribute at an extremely high level. Let alone a 27 year old one. His run blocking is OK but his pass pro is just terrible. This is hard for me to admit because Danny’s a fellow Canadian and seems like a nice guy, but yep he’s a bust.

      Another thing to consider is that these guys are all Banner guys and from an era with no rookie salary cap. We didn’t always draft the best player available, you had to consider what kind of salary demands they we’re going to make. I think we all can see a big difference with how things were done last year, with Howie being able to just go full tilt. Although we had a lot of luck with talent guys falling to us, I expect to see much better draft classes in the future.

    • JofreyRice

      wow, you’re pretty harsh. I’m disappointed in Maclin. He’s a decent route-runner, but he very rarely comes up with a tough grab, and doesn’t really do much after the catch, either. I’d say he’s a decent receiver that will probably never take that next step. I wouldn’t call him a bust the way someone like Troy Williamson was a bust, but we should expect more from a 1st rounder. 4 picks after Maclin Percy Harvin got drafted, and in the NFL, he blows Maclin away, based on the things he can do on the field, but Maclin was considered the better receiver at the time, so what can you do?

      I hated the Graham pick, but he’s actually been pretty decent this year. Right now, he’s one of the only guys consistently bringing pressure.

      There’s just no excuse for Watkins. He’s horrible. Hopefully he’ll just decide he wants to be a firefighter and go do that for a few years before he hits retirement age. What a stupid pick.

    • Jack Bauer

      Too early to call Graham or Watkins busts. Watkins is 1/4 way through his 2nd year and in actual game total so is Graham.
      Graham is sitting behind 2 Pro-Bowlers in a system that requires rotation. If he supplants Hunt at LDE for good in the coming weeks then we can start looking to see if he starts eating into Babin’s snap counts.
      Watkins needs to improve his pass protection, just too inconsistent. He struggles with speed rushers, but is OK against the bigger bodied DTs. His run blocking is fine and I would go so far as to say strong. If he can get his act together and figure out his pass blocking we will be fine.

      Your Maclin quote is laughable.

      Career Stats (REC/YDS/AVG/TDS):

      Maclin: 203, 2761, 13.6, 21
      Harvin: 256, 3032, 11.8, 18

      Harvin has had the luxury of being a #1 receiver on a team w mediocre at best receivers and has benefited from the extra looks, while Maclin had Desean to snag looks. Now I would argree that Harvin is a more complete player. There is just no way to minimize the impact he’s had on our team over the last 3 years.

      • daggolden

        You convienently left out Percy Harvins rushing and return stats. To compare Harvin to Maclin is laughable. Maclin is the 8th best reciever in the NFC East. lol He is a reciever in a league where 30 recievers a year go over 1000 yards. He is a 1st round bust.

        • Sterculius65

          Lord do you ever stop and read just what loose stool you spew out fool?

        • Jack Bauer

          This should be fun:
          1. Name the 7 receivers ahead of him in the NFC East?
          2. 19,17,23 = # of receivers +1000 yds respectively over the past 3 yrs. And all have been #1 receivers w more targets than Maclin (save Jordy Nelson in ’11).
          3. I said Harvin is the more complete player and he is more valuable to his team due to the fact they have such mediocre talent over the last 3 years. Would Harvin’s numbers look better or worse in the Eagles system? I’m betting worse as Jackson would have cannibalized Harvin’s targets/carries. Could he have had a similar impact on special teams? Sure. Now what happens when you put Maclin in the Vikings system that is one of the league’s best at selling play action and give him 115+ targets/yr? We can beat around the bush all you want, but you still haven’t come close to proving Maclin is a bust.

          • daggolden

            1 Victor Cruz. 2 Hakeem Nicks. 3 Pierre Garcon. 4. Desean Jackson. 5. Miles Austin. 6. Dez Bryant. 7 Jeremy Maclin. All are former pro bowlers. All are former 1000 yard recievers expect Dez. You can flip Dez Bryant and Maclin if you want I think they are similar. Maclin may be better but if I had the choice right now to trade for Dez straight up vs Maclin Im taking Dez.

          • Jack Bauer

            I’ll give you Cruz, Nicks, a paid DJAX, a healthy Miles Austin and agree with your Dez Bryant comment (look at us finding common ground). I will disagree with your take on Garcon. From 2009-2011 Maclin has more YDS, REC and TDs than Garcon and their AVG REC YDS are almost identical (Garcon: 13.83, Maclin 13.73). Add to that Garcon 22 drops in 3 years and I have to think Maclin deserves the edge . I think the comparison is a good one as they have both had to deal with pass-first systems where they have been the #2 WR.

    • fran35

      Kind of a ridiculous statement. Brandon Graham has been hurt. He is being fazed into the gameplan and by all accounts, should be playing more now. We don’t know what he is or what he might have been before the injury. Watkins is a two year starter. Would our 1st rounder been better spent, arguably yes. However, he is far from a bust. You seem to be a little liberal with the term “bust”

      • daggolden

        Your right fran how dare I expect more than a few hurries a game from a top 20 3rd year player. He is doing a great job. Lets keep fazing him into the game plan. At this rate by the time he is 30 he will be a full time player. I understand he has been hurt Jerome McDougle and Victor Abiamiri reincarnated.

        • Sterculius65

          He had an injury that required micro-fracture surgery (look it up) which is basically a two year injury to recover from. he was having a productive rookie season before the injury and he has been productive in his limited time back. To call him a bust is idiotic. To call Danny Watkins a bust is idiotic. I sense a pattern.
          You are just another in a long line of whiners who think ripping players makes you look knowledgeable. It doesn’t it just makes you look like a fool to people who actually know the game.
          Now go soil your diapers elsewhere…..

        • fran35

          No Front Office sympathizer here. I simply call it like I see it. McDougle was a bust. Abiamiri was a bust. Teo Nesheim was a bust. Bryant Smith was a bust. I would even venture to list Bunkley as a bust. But to name Graham a bust when he has been injured is not fair. When not injured, he has shown tremendous promise. He was not a reach pick(like many of our picks are). He was the best pass rusher available. And before you throw out the revisionist theory, JPP was not listed as the best DE by most analysts. He was also considered a character risk. So no, I don’t fault the Eagles for drafting him. Would I have rather drafted JPP in hindsight, absolutely. However, take this thought: It was widely reported that the Giants had Graham higher on their draft board and would have done the same thing as us in that position.

  • No doubt that DE’s need to step up. I don’t care if you’re getting chipped more than usual. You don’t think guys like JPP, Jared Allen, DWare don’t get chipped almost every play? They still find a way to produce. I don’t have much worry about T Cole, but I feel like Babin just doesn’t have the strength to be a factor when he’s double teamed. He had a great season playing against RT’s as Cole took all the heat on the other side, but now that the secrets out other teams have him figured out.

  • JofreyRice

    Trent Cole’s been fun to watch for awhile, but he’s not playing at the same level this year. He really was a complete player as a 7 technique End–a good to very good passrusher, and an excellent run defender. Playing him in a 9 tech takes arguably the best run defender upfield from the play, and makes him a 1 trick pony. I guess that was true last year, as well, but I’m just not seeing the same kind of effect from Cole that I’m used to.

    Babin’s 1st three good games were against 3 rookies at RT: Schwartz, Osemele and Massie. Since then, he’s been invisible.

    Like I said, if these guys aren’t getting it done, bring in other guys. More snaps for Graham, get Curry in the mix, etc. Gotta do something, the whole defense is predicated on pressuring the QB with the front four.

    • bentheimmigrant

      Until this game the DEs looked like they’d been doing a good job crashing in on run plays. Maybe the pressure to get sacks contributed to the poorer run D we saw this week?

  • jeff h

    if there was any pressure up the middle ben doesn’t step up in the pocket every time and avoid all the outside rushes.

  • Andy

    Babin may be getting worn down already. Recall, he missed all of training camp. One of the team’s strengths is the depth along the defensive line so it doesn’t make sense to ride Cole and Babin so hard every week. Give Graham and Tapp or Hunt 10 more snaps and the starters may be more effective.

  • Myke Lowery

    Is it time to see what Curry can do with hunts snaps?

    • bentheimmigrant

      It couldn’t hurt.

  • It is so amazing how fickel the Eagles fans can be. At the beginning of the seaason we were killing him as a bust because he was not producing. Though he had a injury. Since we had to compare him to JPP. I still think and have always thought that Brandon is our best DE on the team. Cole and Graham on the ends seems way better to me!!!

    • jaboo

      I disagree, he was hurt and that was frustrating, we just wanted to see him get on the field. His ballooning weight (saying he ate cheesesteaks every week) in the offseason certainly did not help, but now he has put in tons of hard work and his weight is down, he is showing tremendous progress. Comparing him to JPP has started slowing down too