Andy Reid And the New Blood

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy ReidWhat does the Andy Reid drama mean to a recent import, exactly?

Everyone in this town knows the tale backwards and forwards. Every win and every loss is a piece of a larger mosaic. We know where it fits and what it signifies. Do trade acquisitions and free-agent signings, plucked from one culture and plopped into another, appreciate what this all means? Do they understand the magnitude of this season?

Probably not. And therein lies the value of building through the draft. Players who are reared in one place are more likely to have an appreciation and loyalty towards the men who guard the walls. It’s just not the same if you are a transplant.

That is not to say that the new crop –which includes Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, DeMeco Ryans, Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin — all lack perspective or an emotional attachment to their coach.

“One of the things when I got traded here, I was mad at the time — not really mad, but I didn’t understand why I was traded. But when I got here the first thing I realized was the history of the Eagles, coming into a winning organization. And you can credit Andy Reid for that,” said Rodgers-Cromartie. “Just looking at him as a coach, just here two years, I can appreciate everything he does. That’s why you want to get them games, the games you are supposed to get. You want to go out and fight that much harder.”

The Eagles are 3-4. If Jeffrey Lurie means what he says, Reid will not be back for a 15th season if they continue on this trajectory. While that may be an acceptable outcome for a large contingent of the fan base, most players find significant value in Reid — even the new ones.

“First and foremost, Coach Reid has done a fantastic job. He is one of the best coaches in this league. Guys around the league want to come to Philly and play here because he’s such a great coach, it’s such a great organization,” said Ryans. “You want to go out and make things happen. I feel like if we do our job, everything will take care of itself.”

And does the coach’s job being on the line provide extra motivation?

“First you play for yourself, that’s always. Then you find other reasons,” said Rodgers-Cromartie. “You’ve got family, kids. But then another reason has to be Andy Reid because the type of coach he is, you know what he’s doing and you know all around he’s a good guy and a good coach. You don’t get that too often, and we’d love to keep that around.”

Some would suggest that if the players are that desperate to preserve their head coach’s job, they have a funny way of showing it. The Eagles are now a game under .500 over the last two seasons. Are there too many foreigners and not enough locals? Did recent draft miscalculations, which forced in a wave of  outside talent, water down the Reid culture?

It is one of the working theories.

Bottom line, there are nine games left to save that culture.

“It’s pretty simple: It’s trickle-down,” said Babin. “Everybody wins, everybody does good and everybody’s life and situation is good. When you lose, that trickles down as well. Nobody wants that.”

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All-22: Why the Eagles’ Pass-Rush Is Struggling

Here’s an All-22 look at the issues plaguing the Eagles’ pass rush, with a focus on last week’s performance against the Falcons.

Play 1: The Eagles got the Falcons in a 3rd-and-8 on their first possession and sent a blitz. Both linebackers (DeMeco Ryans and Casey Matthews) went after Ryan. Nobody got close to the quarterback.


One-on-one blocks all around, and look at that pocket. Granted, Ryan got rid of the ball quickly, but I would bet the Eagles haven’t given Michael Vick a pocket like this against a six-man pressure all season.

Meanwhile, the Falcons set up with a bunch look to the left. The Eagles appeared to be in man coverage with two deep safeties, but there was one problem: No one accounted for Drew Davis, who was left wide open.


The result is a 15-yard completion and a Falcons first down. After the game, Todd Bowles took responsibility for making a bad call on the first drive. This could have been the play he was talking about.

Play 2: Another clean pocket in the first for Ryan. Here, he finds Tony Gonzalez for an 11-yard completion.


The Falcons kept a running back in to block, and the Eagles only rushed four. But check out Trent Cole. One-on-one with Sam Baker, and he’s nowhere close to affecting the play.

Now is a good time to address the “He got rid of the ball quickly” argument. Last year, J.J. Cooper of Football Outsiders tracked how many “quick sacks” various defensive linemen had. These were sacks that occurred in 2.5 seconds or less from when the ball was snapped. Jason Babin had eight of those, and Cole had five.

Pretty much any time I’ve interviewed a defensive lineman in the past two years, he’s talked about the need to get off the ball quickly to be effective in Jim Washburn’s system. In other words, the pass-rush is supposed to account for quarterbacks getting rid of the ball quickly. That doesn’t always translate into sacks, but it should mean making life difficult for the opposing offense. That’s not happening nearly enough right now.

On the play above, Ryan got rid of the ball in under three seconds, but the Eagles made it pretty easy for him.

Play 3: On the first touchdown, the key was Julio Jones (red circle). Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Kurt Coleman reacted to a possible WR screen as Davis ran right past them.


By the time they realized he was behind them, it was too late. Touchdown.


Again, it didn’t help that Ryan again had a clean pocket. The Falcons kept in seven to block. Babin got a one-on-one, although that was probably because he rushed off the edge. As you can see, he and the Eagles’ other linemen got nowhere near Ryan.


But the touchdown here was clearly on the coverage.

Play 4: Tim already did a good job of breaking down the Jones 63-yard touchdown against Nnamdi Asomugha, but again, look at the pocket for Ryan.


He once again got rid of the ball in under three seconds, so it would have been difficult to sack him, but Eagles defensive linemen are nowhere near him. Brandon Graham got chipped. Derek Landri initially faced a double-team, and then the guard moved to Darryl Tapp. To be fair, it didn’t help that Ryan often had his first read open. On all levels, this was just too easy for the quarterback.

Play 5: Here, it’s another 11-yard completion to Gonzalez. Ryan again gets rid of the ball in under three seconds. But the pocket is clean.


Cullen Jenkins was double-teamed. Everybody else had one-on-ones. You can make the case that Cole got held, but Babin isn’t close to Ryan. Again, too easy for the quarterback.

Play 6: So, if the quarterback’s getting rid of the ball quickly and you’re not getting pressure with the front four, what do you do? One option is to blitz. Overall, the Eagles blitzed seven times – not really an increase from what we saw in the first six games. I showed one of them earlier. Here’s another.

The Eagles send six (Mychal Kendricks and Ryans), but no one gets a hand on Ryan. The blitz goes up the middle, setting up one-on-ones for both ends, but Ryan hits Roddy White on the drag route for 14 yards.

Play 7: It probably goes without saying, but the back end plays a critical role in pressure. Take a look at this play near the end of the first half. Asomugha has single coverage on Jones, and the Falcons try a double-move. Asomugha doesn’t bite, the Eagles pressure Ryan, and they drop him after a 1-yard scramble.

Here, you see that the coverage was good, leading to pressure on the quarterback. Rather than blitzing, this is probably the Eagles’ best option for fixing the pass-rush. Cover better, make the quarterback hold the ball, and give the defensive line more time to get home.

Play 8: Another example here of how this is supposed to work. Graham bull-rushes the right tackle and makes things difficult for Ryan.

Ryan has a receiver open, but the defensive line makes it hard to get rid of the football, so he has to scramble.

And it’s not as if Ryan held onto the ball here. The first image was captured about 1.9 seconds after the ball was snapped. Graham just got to him quickly.

Play 9: In the third quarter, Cole shows he’s capable of doing the same, beating Baker one-on-one and forcing Ryan out of the pocket.

The pressure got there in about 2.1 seconds. It sounds simple, and it is. One way to fix the pass-rush: Get there faster! Again, they did so in 2011. They’re not doing so enough this year.

Play 10: In the red zone in the third, Cedric Thornton breaks the sack drought with a pressure up the middle.

Did Ryan hold on to the ball too long? Nope. This sack took place in about 2.2 seconds. You can see the right guard is pushed back into Ryan’s face. He wanted to go White, but Asomugha had good coverage.

Once again, evidence that the front end and the back end have to work together for this defense to be successful.

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Eagles DL Review: Where Are Cole And Babin?

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Jason BabinThrough seven games, it’s official: Any conversation about why the Eagles are struggling has to include a mention of the defensive line’s lack of production.

It’s true that sacks aren’t everything, and that the front four can affect the game in other ways. We’ve shown that with the All-22 on several occasions. But Jim Washburn’s group just hasn’t been good enough, and the lack of production has been stunning when you consider pretty much the entire organizational philosophy was built around getting pressure from the defensive line.

It’s not as if the Eagles stood pat either. In the offseason, they actually bolstered the unit, spending a first-round pick on Fletcher Cox, who has been their best defensive tackle. They also got a healthy Brandon Graham back, and he has been one of their more productive pass-rushers.

But as a whole, there’s been a huge dropoff. Against the Falcons, I didn’t see a lot of max-protect. Tony Gonzalez stayed in to block just three times, per Pro Football Focus. Atlanta’s backs chipped on occasion, but my guess is they do that every week. Matt Ryan got rid of the ball quickly at times, but he also had all day when he needed it. Per PFF, Ryan was 5-for-7 on passes that traveled 10 yards or more from the line of scrimmage. Combine that with Atlanta’s success on screens, and it’s no wonder that Ryan picked the Eagles apart.

There were a couple minor tweaks in personnel. Graham played more, and Jason Babin played less. Cox, who has played starter’s snaps all season, was actually on the field alongside Cullen Jenkins to begin the game.

Here’s how the production looked. If you’re new to this weekly breakdown, “Hurries” are a stat tracked by Eagles coaches after they look at the tape. And “Pressure Percentage” is how often a player notches a sack or hurry, taken opportunities into account.

 
Pass-Rushing Opportunities
Sacks
Hurries
Pressure Percentage
Trent Cole33026.1%
Cullen Jenkins291417.2%
Fletcher Cox24000%
Cedric Thornton19105.3%
Brandon Graham180211.1%
Jason Babin18015.6%
Derek Landri14000%
Darryl Tapp8000%

I’ll get to the player-by-player breakdown below, but a couple things stand out here. Cole and Babin combined for three hurries and three tackles. That’s not even close to good enough. The four Eagles defensive ends (throw in Graham and Darryl Tapp) had five hurries and no sacks. To put that into perspective, Cole had a sack and eight hurries by himself against Atlanta last year.

Other than Jenkins, the Eagles got little pass-rush production from their defensive tackles – one sack and zero hurries from the other three guys (Derek Landri, Cox and Cedric Thornton).

Here’s the player-by-player breakdown:

Jason Babin – Saw his playing time cut drastically and did not produce when he was on the field. No sacks, one hurry and zero tackles. He had not dropped back into coverage once all season (per PFF), and when Babin did so in the first, he was called for defensive holding on third down. Huge play that allowed the Falcons to continue their drive and eventually score a touchdown. He rushed upfield and got taken to the ground as Ryan scrambled for 10 yards in the second. Babin couldn’t get off Tony Gonzalez’s block as Jacquizz Rodgers found a big lane between him and Jenkins for 10 yards in the second. He fell for the fake handoff as Julio Jones took the end around for 9 yards to his side. Babin bit on the fake toss to Jones, allowing Ryan to shovel the ball to Jason Snelling for an 8-yard gain on 3rd-and-3. He doesn’t give the Eagles much against the run, so if Babin fails to produce a pass-rusher, he’ll likely see his snaps continue to shrink.

Trent Cole – He abused left tackle Sam Baker in last year’s matchup but was mostly a non-factor this time around. Cole was credited with two hurries. The most notable was when he chased Ryan out of the pocket in the red zone in the third, helping to force an incompletion. Cole had three tackles. He dropped Rodgers after a 3-yard run in the first. And he helped bring Michael Turner down after a gain of 4 in the second. Simply not playing at the level Eagles fans have come to expect over the years.

Brandon Graham – He got more snaps, but did not set the world on fire as a pass-rusher with just two hurries. Graham, however, was good against the run. He had six tackles – more than Babin or Cole have achieved in a single game all season. Graham tackled Turner after a 3-yard gain and then after a 1-yard run. He brought Rodgers down after a 1-yard pickup and had another stop for no gain. On the second touchdown (the screen to Snelling), the Falcons left him unblocked. Graham was close to Ryan, and a hand up might have at least made Ryan’s throw more difficult. As a pass-rusher, Graham chased Ryan out of the pocket and forced an incompletion in the third. He had a good bull-rush on the next play, but Ryan scrambled for 7 yards. I’d expect him to continue to get more snaps in Babin’s place.

Darryl Tapp – Not a factor on defense. Not a lot of chances, but zero hurries vs. the Falcons and just one in his last two games.

Fletcher Cox – According to the coaches’ stats, he had 11 tackles, the most of any Eagles defensive lineman all year. Some of those showed up on TV, but I’m guessing his impact will be more evident when the All-22 is released. Defensive tackles don’t get too many opportunities for interceptions, but Cox couldn’t hold on to the one that was right in his hands on the first possession. He tackled Snelling after a 5-yard dumpoff in the first. And Cox showed his athleticism, hustling to get to Jones on a WR screen, but he couldn’t bring the WR down as he picked up 37. Cox dropped Turner for a 1-yard loss in the third. He’s the Eagles’ best DT against the run, but is still inconsistent as a pass-rusher (zero hurries). On the season, Cox has 34 tackles, the most of any Eagles defensive lineman.

Cullen Jenkins – He was easily the team’s best pass-rusher in this one. Jenkins got a “gimme” sack late as Ryan just went down to keep the clock running. But he also had four hurries earlier. Jenkins was all over Turner on the screen where Cox nearly had the interception. He got good pressure on the third down where Babin was called for holding. He dropped Rodgers for a 2-yard loss in the first and pressured Ryan on third-and-goal in the red zone. Jenkins brought Ryan down after a 1-yard scramble. Later in the game, he started lining up at left defensive end in place of Babin and Graham.

Derek Landri – Not sure if he’s injured, but Landri has been a non-factor as a pass-rusher. He had zero hurries for the second straight game. He has one hurry in the last three and three hurries in the last five. He did have five tackles. Landri dropped Turner for a loss of 2 after Thornton got in the backfield. He and Kurt Coleman dropped Turner after a 1-yard gain in the second. Landri was initially double-teamed, but got no pressure at all on Ryan on the 63-yard touchdown to Jones. He nearly sacked Ryan in the second, but couldn’t bring him down behind the line of scrimmage.

Cedric Thornton – He’s showing signs of improvement. Thornton had a career-high eight tackles (six solo) and ended the Eagles’ sack drought with a takedown of Ryan. He got great penetration, but missed a tackle in the first as Landri cleaned up. Good hustle throughout from Thornton. He brought Turner down from behind after a gain of 6 on a screen in the first. He chased Rodgers down after a gain of 5 on another screen. And he was the one who finally tackled Rodgers after a 43-yard gain in the third. Thornton also stopped Turner after a 1-yard gain in the third.

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D-Line Diagnosis: Where Are the Sacks?

When asked last week why the Eagles’ defense has been unable to come up with more sacks, Todd Bowles pointed to four specific things.

“Part of the time, the ball is coming out quick,” he said. “Part of the time they’re max protecting. Part of the time we have to beat one-on-ones. Part of the time, coaching-wise, we have to scheme it better and help those guys get free.”

Let’s take a look at those four things individually.

Matthew Stafford consistently got rid of the ball quickly last week. But here’s the thing: For much of the game, that played right into the Eagles’ hands. Because of Stafford’s lack of patience and his focus on getting the ball out of his hands, he missed several opportunities at big plays downfield (see the All-22 breakdown here). And he also threw a lot of incompletions on the shorter/intermediate routes.

According to Pro Football Focus, before last week, Stafford was completing 77.1 percent of his passes between 0 and 10 yards. Against the Eagles, he completed just 12 of 22, or 54.5 percent. In other words, it’s not as if the defense was just giving up the shorter plays and allowing the Lions to methodically march down the field. They took a good number of those away. On the season, opposing quarterbacks are completing just 52.7 percent of their passes against the Eagles. That’s the best mark in the league. The secondary gets credit for that, but pressure, or even the possibility of pressure, has factored in also.

Bowles also talked about max-protecting. I showed this in the All-22 breakdown, but in case you missed it, here are a couple images.

In both cases, eight blockers against four defensive linemen. Tough to get to the quarterback in these situations. The Eagles simply have to rely on their coverage. It’s not that the Lions max-protected all game, but they chose their spots, specifically on plays downfield. I’d expect other teams to do the same going forward.

Bowles also talked about scheming better and helping the pass-rushers get free. Some might think that means increased blitzing. But I’d be surprised if the Eagles started to send a lot of extra pressure at opposing quarterbacks. The point of bringing Jim Washburn and the wide-nine was to generate pressure from the front four and not have to blitz. The Eagles have enough talent on the defensive line where they should still be able to do that.

“If it works, it’s great. If it’s not, don’t do it,” Bowles said, when asked about his philosophy on blitzing.

In other words, you might see more of it some weeks than others. It all depends on the opponent and the game-plan.

Something Washburn said the other week caught my attention too.

“We used to watch [Bears linebackers Brian] Urlacher and [Lance] Briggs,” Washburn said, via Paul Domowitch of the Daily News. “They’d stand up there in the A-gap. The other team would be scared to death to chip the ends. Urlacher and Briggs rarely came, but their presence standing up there in the A-gap affected what the offense did.”

It might not always be blitzing, but perhaps the threat of blitzing would help create space for the defensive ends.

And finally, winning one-on-one. That’s a simple way of saying the defensive linemen need to play better and take advantage of opportunities that present themselves.

Keeping all that in mind, below is the table we use every week to measure pass-rushing production. It takes into account opportunities (courtesy of Pro Football Focus), sacks and hurries (as tracked by the coaches). It also shows pressure percentage, which is simply the frequency with which each player notches a sack or a hurry.

 
Pass-Rushing Opportunities
Sacks
Hurries
Pressure Percentage
Jason Babin1852.52314.1%
Trent Cole1851.52313.5%
Cullen Jenkins1720148.1%
Fletcher Cox1521N/AN/A
Derek Landri114097.9%
Cedric Thornton83022.4%
Darryl Tapp730.5711.0%
Brandon Graham440.51331.8%
Phillip Hunt28027.1%

What stands out here? Let’s start with the defensive ends. Cole and Babin have combined for just four sacks. Their hurries and opportunities are identical. Both guys have track records of being productive pass-rushers. If Bowles and Washburn can scheme a way to get them more one-on-one opportunities, the sacks and turnovers are likely to follow.

It also seems like Graham is long overdue to get more snaps. On a per-play basis, he’s been easily their most productive pass-rusher. Graham played 24.4 percent of the snaps against the Lions. That number’s got to increase.

Some have asked about second-round pick Vinny Curry getting a shot. I’d have no problem with that. If he’s going to play, it’d almost definitely be for Tapp at right defensive end. Or he could step in for Hunt as the ninth lineman on gamedays, but Hunt plays special teams too.

At defensive tackle, you’ll notice the table is not filled out completely for Cox. That’s because there was a mix-up with his hurry numbers that I’m working to get clarification on.

With 14 hurries, Jenkins has been fine, but the Eagles are getting nothing out of Thornton and Landri.

Landri has nine hurries, but has struggled recently with just three in the last four games. And Thornton has just two hurries all season. Getting more interior pressure is critical going forward.

Note: Soon after I Tweeted out the link to this piece, Derek from Iggles Blog asked about the possibility of going with a 4-DE nickel look. That’d be one way to get Graham on the field more, especially considering what little pass-rush production the Eagles are currently getting from their defensive tackles.

Other than potentially getting Curry into the mix, I don’t see any personnel changes being made here. But getting more production out of this group has to be high on the list of priorities going into the final 10 games.

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

All-22: What We Saw From the Eagles’ Defense

Here’s what we saw from the Eagles’ defense after having reviewed the All-22 tape.

Play 1: I mentioned yesterday how Brandon Graham led the team with five hurries, even though he only had 11 chances to rush the passer. Here’s one of them. He gets double-teamed by two Steelers offensive linemen.


But he fights through them as Fletcher Cox twists behind him.


And Graham hits Ben Roethlisberger as he throws the ball away.


Nice job all around by him.

Play 2: After re-watching the game, it became clear that the Steelers designed plays to help Roethlisberger get rid of the ball quickly. According to Pro Football Focus, 23 of his 32 passes were thrown within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. And he was just 2-for-9 on passes that traveled more than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. If you take into account Roethlisberger’s ability to escape pressure, along with the Steelers’ game-plan, I don’t think it’s time to panic about the Eagles’ pass-rush. The defensive line did not play great, but I think Jim Washburn’s group will be fine. Also remember, pressure doesn’t always lead to sacks. Check out this play near the end of the first half. It looks like Brown is past Boykin, and there’s no safety deep.


But because of pressure by Cullen Jenkins, Roethlisberger is forced to scramble.


Even if he’d seen Brown and got him the football, Willie Colon was called for holding on Jenkins. The defensive line clearly had an impact here that didn’t show up in the stat sheet.

Play 3: Another example of pressure impacting a play. Here, Roethlisberger is forced to step up and gets hit by Trent Cole.


He has nowhere to go with the ball and throws incomplete in Brown’s direction. It was a third down, and the Steelers were forced to punt.

Play 4: Many have questioned why the Eagles didn’t blitz more in the second half. One theory: Because on the few occasions when they sent extra pressure in the first half, they got burned. On this play, they blitz Ryans and Mychal Kendricks, creating a six-man rush.


The Steelers pick it up, and Roethlisberger gets rid of the ball quickly to Brown, who has Nnamdi Asomugha one-on-one. It’s only a 4-yard pass, but Asomugha doesn’t take a good angle to the ball, and Brown makes a nice move, turning it into an 18-yard gain.

Play 5: Not a good performance against the run. Here, Derek Landri and Jamar Chaney get blocked, leaving Kurt Coleman as the only defender in the way of Rashard Mendenhall and a big run.


Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders does enough to get in Coleman’s way, and Mendenhall picks up 17.

By the way, be sure to check out this Iggles Blog All-22 post with more details on the run defense in the second half.

Play 6: Asomugha’s taken a lot of heat this week. Roethlisberger clearly was not afraid to throw in his direction. But on some plays, you just have to give the other team credit. For example, look at Asomugha’s coverage here on a third down in the third.


You simply cannot have a receiver blanketed any better. Keep in mind, this image is from the moment when Roethlisberger releases the ball. The throw was perfect, to Brown’s outside shoulder, and so was the timing. The result was a 6-yard completion and a first down that extended the Steelers’ drive. Later in the game, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was on Mike Wallace on an almost identical play, but Wallace dropped the ball.

Play 7: This looked to me like some great improvisation by Roethlisberger in the third. Wallace runs a shallow crossing route, and Rodgers-Cromartie has him locked up.


But Roethlisberger gets pressured and steps up in the pocket. He presumably sees that there is all kinds of room behind Wallace and lofts one downfield, allowing the receiver to try and make a play, even though I don’t believe that’s where the route was originally intended to go.


Wallace gets a hand on the ball, but can’t come up with the catch. As you can see, the Eagles dodged a bullet. A reception here is almost certainly a 54-yard touchdown. Instead, the Steelers are forced to punt.

Play 8: The Eagles dodged another bullet in the fourth on a well-designed play by the Steelers. If I’m reading it correctly, this is disguised as a wide receiver screen to Brown.


It looks like Heath Miller is going to block Asomugha. That gets Casey Matthews to bite. But instead, Miller runs right past Asomugha and into his route.


Miller is open as Matthews tries to recover, but Roethlisberger’s throw is off-target, and the result is an incompletion. It helped here that pressure from Babin forced Roethlisberger to drift to his left as he made the throw. The Steelers had to settle for a field goal.

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

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
Hurries
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.

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.

DL Review: Did Eagles’ Pass-Rush Get To Kolb?

Philadelphia Eagles defensive line coach Jim WashburnIn Sunday’s matchup against the Cardinals, the Eagles’ defensive line accounted for three sacks, but Jim Washburn’s group managed just six hurries.

As a point of comparison, the defensive line had 24 hurries against Joe Flacco and 19 against Brandon Weeden.

The reasons? For starters, Kevin Kolb only dropped back to pass 29 times. And often, his goal was to get rid of the ball quickly. While Kolb hit on the one 37-yard touchdown to Larry Fitzgerald, most of his throws were on short-to-intermediate routes.

The table below details snap counts and pass-rushing opportunities from Pro Football Focus. Sacks are self-explanatory. Hurries are official team stats kept by Eagles coaches. And pressure percentage simply shows how often each player notched either a sack or a hurry.

Note that these numbers are just for Sunday’s game.

 
Total Snaps
Pass-Rushing Opportunities
Sacks
Hurries
Pressure Percentage
Derek Landri3917000%
Jason Babin35211.5323,8%
Trent Cole34200.5215.0%
Fletcher Cox3316016.3%
Cullen Jenkins3019015.3%
Cedric Thornton288000%
Darryl Tapp2890.5011.1%
Brandon Graham1760.5016.7%
Phillip Hunt123000%

Those are the numbers. Below is the player-by-player breakdown:

Jason Babin – He led the Eagles with 1.5 sacks and three hurries. Babin lined up like a blitzing linebacker and rushed unblocked, splitting a sack with Cole in the first. The Eagles showed the same look on the next third down, but only rushed four, instead of six (like the first time). Babin hit Kolb and nearly had a sack, but he flipped the ball to Fitzgerald. His pressure forced Kolb to scramble on third down in the third. And Babin showed good hustle, chasing and tackling Kolb 1 yard short of the first-down marker on the play. The offensive lineman pushed Babin into Kolb for a sack in the third. Against the run, he tackled Beanie Wells after a 2-yard run in the first. And Babin tackled LaRod Stephens-Howling for a 2-yard loss, somehow avoiding a horse-collar penalty.

Cullen Jenkins – Relatively quiet game for Jenkins. He pressured Kolb out of the pocket and forced him to throw the ball away in the second for his only hurry. A huge hole opened up between Jenkins and Cox on Ryan Williams’ 25-yard run on the 3rd-and-17 draw in the fourth.

Derek Landri – Played more snaps than any other defensive lineman, but was also relatively quiet. Landri dropped Williams for a 1-yard loss in the first. No sacks, no hurries.

Trent Cole – Solid game, but I thought Cole would dominate in this one. He lined up like a blitzing linebacker and steamrolled the center, splitting a sack with Babin in the first. Cole let Kolb spin out of his grasp on the 79-yard pass to Andre Roberts that was called back. I can’t imagine he was excited about dropping back into coverage on 3rd-and-8 in the first. Kolb completed a 12-yard pass to Roberts on the play. Cole and Cox dropped Stephens-Howling for a 1-yard loss in the fourth. And he stopped Wells after a 2-yard run in the first.

Fletcher Cox – He left the game in the second because of a migraine, but would return. Good penetration, forcing a Wells cutback on a 5-yard run in the second. He and Cole dropped Stephens-Howling for a 1-yard loss in the fourth. One hurry, no sacks. It’s worth noting that he started at left defensive tackle in place of Jenkins in the second half.

Cedric Thornton – I thought this was easily his best game of the season. Thornton and Tapp stopped Wells for no gain in the second. On a separate run play in the second half, Thornton shoved the center back into the ballcarrier and then hustled to assist on the tackle near the line of scrimmage. No sacks, no hurries, but Thornton got good push up the middle on the Tapp sack that was taken away because of the holding penalty. Thornton got a good push up the middle again on the sack that Graham and Tapp split.

Darryl Tapp – Also thought this was his best game of the season. Tapp really should have had 1.5 sacks were it not for the botched holding penalty that should have been declined. His pressure forced Kolb to scramble for 3 yards in the fourth. Against the run, he tackled Wells after a 4-yard run. He and Thornton stopped Wells for no gain in the second. Tapp and Mychal Kendricks dropped Williams for a 4-yard loss in the third. And he tackled Stephens-Howling after a 5-yard run. Good game out of Tapp.

Brandon Graham – His snaps have gone from four to nine to 17 in the first three weeks. Graham was credited with half-a-sack. He got pressure on Kolb in the first, but the quarterback stepped up and hit Fitzgerald on a shallow cross. Against the run, Graham dropped Stephens-Howling for a 2-yard loss in the fourth. On the final series, he dropped Stephens-Howling for a loss on consecutive plays.

Phillip Hunt - Quiet game for Hunt, who saw Graham bite into his playing time a bit. No hurries, no sacks in limited opportunities.

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

DeSean Jackson Fined 10K For Throwing Punch

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean JacksonDeSean Jackson was fined $10,000 for throwing a punch at Ravens cornerback Cary Williams Sunday, according to the league offices.

It was also confirmed that Cullen Jenkins was hit with a $7,875 penalty for unnecessary roughness.

Jackson detailed the dust-up on 97.5 The Fanatic.

“The Baltimore Ravens, they’re one of those defenses where they feel they are the big brother where they feel they can punk everybody and do whatever they feel is right,” said Jackson. “I caught a ball and a defender got in my face and I pushed him out of my face. It went from one push to another push and eventually went to some blows. A lineman grabbed me from behind. Gladly nobody was thrown out.

“That got me pumped up. I told my boy Ray Lewis, ‘Man, you better get your corner over there before I torture him all day.’”

Cullen Jenkins Fined For Unnecessary Roughness

Cullen Jenkins said he’s been fined $7,875 by the NFL for unnecessary roughness against the Ravens.

The flag came in the first quarter after Vonta Leach‘s five-yard touchdown run, as he mixed it up in the end zone with a Ravens defender. It was just one example of the chippiness between the Eagles and Ravens Sunday.

The prime example was the dust-up between DeSean Jackson and Cary Williams, where the two came to blows. Jackson hinted that he was slapped in the wallet as well.  ”Probably did, but that’s my personal business,” he said.

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