With five games to go, the focus for the Eagles is clearly on the offseason and 2013.
Jason Babin was let go this week, meaning guys like Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry should see more snaps. While he had his share of issues, was Babin still an effective pass-rusher? And will the Eagles have a tough time replacing his production?
Let’s take a look at the season totals. A reminder that hurries are tracked by Eagles coaches, and pass-rushing opportunities are tracked by Pro Football Focus. Pressure percentage is the frequency with which each player notches a sack or a hurry.
* Let’s start with Babin. Based on reaction, he clearly had become public enemy No. 1 among the fan base. And while his numbers were clearly down from last season, he still had his moments as a pass-rusher, leading the team with 5.5 sacks and behind only Trent Cole in hurries. Many have pointed out that he’s a one-trick pony, and while it’s certainly true that he gives you next to nothing against the run, the Eagles knew that when they signed him. They wanted someone who would rush the passer effectively, and Babin did that in 2011. Having said that, he’ll turn 33 before the start of next season, and I don’t have much of an issue with them letting him go at this point.
* Brandon Graham made the most of his opportunities early in the season, but has leveled off with just three hurries and no sacks in his last three games. Graham’s pass-rushing chances have been limited all season because he’s been behind Babin. Now, the former first-round pick will get a chance to start.
“I think he’s gotten better mentally,” Todd Bowles said yesterday. “I think he was a little immature, and then coming back from injury, he was probably a little hesitant. His work ethic has picked up. He is an intelligent football player, and this is kind of learning the tricks of the trade as you go. Brandon, he’s tough, he’s relentless, and the more he plays the better he gets. We’re looking for good things from Brandon as we go forward.”
Graham’s notched a sack or hurry 19.8 percent of the time he’s had a chance to rush the passer. That’s the highest percentage on the team.
* Some have asked whether Cole could be the next veteran to be cut. The answer is no. Per EaglesCap.com, Cole’s cap value is $5.35M in 2013. If they cut him, they owe $6.4M. Cole’s had a disappointing season with just 1.5 sacks. He turned 30 in October, which really isn’t that old. Cole’s best days might be behind him, but it’s reasonable to expect he can still be a productive player in 2013.
* Watching every week, I’ve felt like Fletcher Cox had significant room for improvement as a pass-rusher, but as you can see, he’s still been the most productive defensive tackle. Cox also leads all Eagles defensive linemen with 51 tackles. The future is bright for the rookie, regardless of what scheme is implemented next season.