Which Eagles Free Agents Will Be Back?

Philadelphia Eagles LB Akeem JordanWe’ve started to preview free agency in the past few days with breakdowns of the cornerbacks and the safeties.

And we’ll continue to look at other positions the rest of the week. But for now, here’s a peek at the Eagles’ own pending free agents, with some thoughts on who could be back.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – As you know by now, the Eagles chose to not franchise Rodgers-Cromartie. He has size, speed and a Pro Bowl under his belt, yet Rodgers-Cromartie seems destined to be on his third team in four years. Given the cornerback depth in free agency, it’ll be interesting to see what the demand is like for DRC. There could be a slim chance that the Eagles consider a short-term deal after letting him test the market. But more likely, another team will see his age and talent and take a shot on him.

Jake Scott – He was out of the league until the Eagles’ ninth game of the season in 2012. But Scott got seven starts at right guard, taking over for Danny Watkins. While he wouldn’t be a bad option for depth/competition, my guess is the Eagles will go with a younger option. Scott turns 32 next month.

Derek Landri - He was really good in 2011, but that production did not carry over to last season. Landri was part of the defensive tackle rotation (46.1 percent of the snaps, per Pro Football Focus), but didn’t have a sack all year. Even though he had seven tackles for loss, Landri struggled against the run also. I would be surprised if the Eagles brought the 29-year-old back.

King Dunlap – I’ve seen arguments by people who think he deserves a legitimate shot to start somewhere, and I have to disagree. Dunlap, a seventh-round pick in 2008, deserves credit for having stayed in the league this long. He’s a complete non-factor as a run blocker and had nine penalties, tied for the most among Eagles offensive players. Dunlap demonstrated competency as a pass blocker on occasion, but it’s highly unlikely that his body could hold up as a 16-game starter. The 27-year-old will look to find a roster spot elsewhere.

Akeem Jordan – It seems like the Eagles try to get rid of him every year, and he just keeps finding his way back on to the 53-man roster at the end of training camp. Jordan has played in 82 games the past six seasons for the Eagles. Last year, he ranked third in special-teams points and led the Birds with 15 special-teams tackles. Jordan played 36.6 percent of the team’s defensive snaps last year, per PFF. Even though it feels like Jordan has been around for awhile, he’s only 27. Right now, the Eagles only have two linebacker spots nailed down with DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks. The likelihood is that Jordan will be gone, but depending on what the Eagles do in free agency and the draft, perhaps he could get another look as a depth/special teams option.

Darryl Tapp – I think we can safely say the Seahawks got the better of this trade. The Eagles sent Chris Clemons and a fourth-round pick to Seattle for Tapp back in 2010. Tapp has had six sacks in 39 games with the Eagles as a rotational defensive end. Clemons has 33.5 sacks in 48 games as a key member of the Seahawks’ defense. Tapp played 28.5 percent of the Eagles’ snaps, per PFF, but managed just half-a-sack and eight hurries. At 28, he’ll try to catch on elsewhere.

Jon Dorenbos – I’ll admit to not knowing the intricacies of the long-snapper market these days. Dorenbos turns 33 in July and has appeared in 101 games in seven years for the Eagles.

Colt Anderson – He’s the only restricted free agent in this group, meaning the Eagles can match other teams’ offers. Of the eight players listed, Anderson is the most likely to be back. He battled back from a torn ACL, led the team in special teams points and was OK in four starts at safety towards the end of the year. If Chip Kelly is making special teams a priority, he’ll hold on to Anderson as the team’s fourth safety.

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Making Sense Of the Eagles’ Inactives

The following Eagles are inactive for today’s game against the Giants: Greg Salas, Chris Polk, Danny Watkins, Matt Kopa, Evan Moore, Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks.

Cox and Kendricks both suffered concussions last week against the Redskins. Derek Landri will start in Cox’s place. The Eagles will continue to go to a rotation that includes Cullen Jenkins, Landri, Cedric Thornton and Antonio Dixon, who just re-signed with the team last week.

Akeem Jordan gets the start at WILL in Kendricks’ place.

With Nick Foles out, Michael Vick will get his first start since suffering a concussion against the Cowboys on Nov. 11. Trent Edwards will back him up. If Vick suffers a serious injury, the Eagles could be on the hook for a $3 million guarantee (details here).

Watkins is a healthy scratch for the second straight week. The backup offensive linemen will be Demetress Bell and Matt Tennant.

Fullback Stanley Havili returns to the lineup after missing last week’s game.

Darryl Tapp was a healthy scratch last week, but is back in the lineup.

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Eagles DL Production: Checking In On Graham, Curry

Philadelphia Eagles DE Brandon Graham.Coming off an outstanding performance in Week 15 against the Bengals, the Eagles’ defensive line was not nearly as impressive Sunday afternoon against the Redskins

The D-Line failed to sack Robert Griffin III, although the Eagles certainly pressured him at times. Alfred Morris had 91 yards rushing, but he needed 22 carries (4.1 YPC).

Once again, the defense got no help from the other two phases. Washington’s five scoring drives started at its own 28, its own 41, its own 47, midfield and the Eagles’ 25. This is nothing new. Opponents have dominated the Birds in terms of field position all year long.

Focusing back on the pass-rush, here’s a look at opportunities (from Pro Football Focus), sacks, hurries (as tracked by the coaching staff) and pressure percentage (frequency with which each player notched a sack or hurry).

 
Pass-Rushing Opportunities
Sacks
Hurries
Pressure Percentage
Trent Cole21029.5%
Brandon Graham18015.6%
Cullen Jenkins15000%
Derek Landri13000%
Fletcher Cox11019.1%
Cedric Thornton11000%
Phillip Hunt6000%
Vinny Curry4000%

A lot of zeroes on that board.

Trent Cole led the Eagles with two hurries. Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox added one apiece. Everyone else was shut out.

The Eagles made the decision to sit Darryl Tapp and give his snaps to Vinny Curry. But they’re also playing the starters (Cole and Graham) more, which resulted in Curry only getting four opportunities to rush the passer.

Below is the player-by-player review.

Brandon Graham – He didn’t produce eye-popping numbers, but I thought Graham played well once again, with a hurry and five tackles. He got pinched inside on Santana Moss’ 12-yard end around in the first, but hustled to eventually bring him down. Graham showed good discipline on a play-fake in the first, chasing Griffin to the sideline on a 4th-and-2 incompletion. Really nice job breaking up a shovel pass in the second. And Graham shoved the right tackle back before stopping Morris on a 1-yard gain in the second. He forced Griffin out of the pocket on a third-down incompletion in the second. And Graham came from the back side to tackle Morris after a 2-yard run in the fourth. Active game, and the effort has been outstanding all season.

Trent Cole – He had a tough matchup with Trent Williams and was up and down, finishing with two hurries and five tackles. Good read on the end around, but couldn’t make the tackle as Joshua Morgan picked up 7 in the first. He tackled Morris after a 1-yard run in the second. Good pressure on a third-down play in the second where Williams got away with a hold. Cole couldn’t get off of Williams’ block on Morris’ 9-yard run in the third. He tackled Morris after a 5-yard run in the third. Cole batted a pass at the line of scrimmage and shoved Griffin to the ground in the third. He tackled Morris after a 1-yard run in the third, but was blocked by Chris Cooley on Morris’ 14-yard run in the fourth.

Fletcher Cox – The reason he didn’t see more snaps is because Cox suffered a concussion. He had a hurry and three tackles before being sidelined. Cox combined with Graham to stop Morris after a 1-yard run in the second. He chased and hit Griffin on the next play – a third-down incompletion. And Cox got into the backfield on Morris’ 5-yard run on 2nd-and-27 in the third. Already a very good player. Has a chance to be a Pro Bowler based on what we saw during his rookie campaign.

Cullen Jenkins – Very quiet game. No sacks, no hurries, two tackles. Todd Bowles went out of his way to praise Jenkins last week, but didn’t see much out of the veteran in this one.

Derek Landri – With Cox sidelined, he saw increased snaps. Landri had a quiet game as well with no sacks, no hurries and two tackles. A huge hole opened up between him and Cole on Morris’ 14-yard run in the fourth.

Cedric Thornton – Two tackles for Thornton. He did a good job stuffing Morris for no gain in the second. And Thornton brought Morris down after a 2-yard run in the fourth on the Redskins’ final drive. He was called for an illegal block in the back on Colt Anderson’s interception.

Phillip Hunt – He spelled Graham at left defensive end, but did not have a good showing. Hunt got caught way upfield and left Morris with all sorts of room on his 10-yard touchdown run in the third. He had a chance to tackle Griffin behind the line of scrimmage on an option play in the first, but couldn’t get a hold of him. Hunt had a chance to sack Griffin in the second, but let him escape.

Vinny Curry – As I mentioned above, Curry did not play a lot – 11 snaps total. He only had four chances to rush the passer and was a non-factor there. Against the run, Curry had ups and downs. He did a really nice job of slipping past Williams, getting penetration and forcing Morris inside, where Thornton made a tackle for no gain in the second. But Curry was blocked to the ground by Williams on Morris’ 4-yard run in the second. Overall, he’s had some nice moments against the run, but Curry has zero sacks and zero hurries. He’s had 32 chances to rush the passer, per PFF.

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Eagles DL Production: Cox, Cole And Graham In 2013?

The Eagles’ defensive line turned in its best performance of the season Thursday night against the Bengals.

Brandon Graham had a career game. Trent Cole looked like the old Trent Cole. Fletcher Cox continued an impressive rookie campaign. And guys like Cullen Jenkins and Cedric Thornton contributed as well.

In all, the defensive line combined for six sacks and eight hurries. Andy Dalton was under constant pressure and completed just 13 of 27 passes for 127 yards.

In a future post, we’ll break out the All-22 and look at why the Eagles defensive line was successful. But first, the player-by-player breakdown.

Sacks are tracked by the NFL. Hurries are tracked by Eagles coaches. And pass-rushing chances by Pro Football Focus. Pressure percentage measures the frequency with which each player notched a sack or hurry.

 
Pass-Rushing Opportunities
Sacks
Hurries
Pressure Percentage
Trent Cole33129.1%
Cullen Jenkins28103.6%
Fletcher Cox271.5214.8%
Brandon Graham272.5322.2%
Derek Landri130N/AN/A
Darryl Tapp9000%
Cedric Thornton80112.5%
Vinny Curry4000%
Phillip Hunt3000%

As you can see with the numbers, Graham added a team-high three hurries to his 2.5 sacks. He notched either a sack or hurry once every 4.5 chances. Cox had 1.5 sacks and two hurries for the second-highest pressure percentage among linemen – impressive, considering he’s rushing from the tackle spot.

There appears to have been an error with Derek Landri’s stats. That’s why you see an N/A next to his name.

Vinny Curry only had four chances to rush the passer. Those came from the right defensive end spot.

Below is the player-by-player review, after having re-watched the game.

Brandon Graham – I feel confident in saying he turned in the most productive game of any of the team’s defensive linemen this season. Graham had 2.5 sacks, three hurries and 10 tackles – the best single-game mark for an Eagles DE this season. Graham and Colt Anderson stopped BenJarvus Green-Ellis for no gain in the red zone in the first. He went around right around right tackle Andre Smith for his first sack. Graham and Jenkins forced Dalton to escape the pocket and throw incomplete on third down in the first. He and DeMeco Ryans brought Green-Ellis down after a 4-yard gain in the second. Great bull-rush vs. Smith, causing Dalton to throw high on a second-quarter incompletion. Graham used his speed and hands to get around Smith in the second, sacking and stripping Dalton. He drew a holding penalty on a run play in the second. And another one that negated a 9-yard Dalton run in the second. Great hustle to bring Dalton down after a 2-yard gain on a scramble to the other side of the field. Graham just overpowered Smith on the sack he split with Cox in the third. He bull-rushed Dennis Roland and drew a holding penalty in the third. Another excellent bull-rush against Smith in the third, forcing Dalton to scramble. In the fourth, he forced Dalton to scramble again and throw the ball away. Graham and Cox brought Green-Ellis down after a 1-yard run in the fourth. A career game for the former first-round pick.

Trent Cole – He had seven solo tackles, a season-high. To put that into perspective, Cole had seven solo tackles in the previous five games combined. In the second, he looped inside and sacked Dalton. It helped that the left guard slipped on the play. Excellent job of shedding the tight end and tackling Green-Ellis after a 2-yard run in the third. Cole pressured Dalton and forced him to scramble in the third. He fought through a trap block and tackled Green-Ellis after a 3-yard run in the third. Nice job setting the edge and then making the tackle on Green-Ellis after a 1-yard run in the third. Cole tackled Green-Ellis after a 4-yard gain in the third. And he hit Dalton as he threw the ball away in the fourth. If you’re wondering about Cole’s future, given the way his contract’s set up, he’s definitely coming back in 2013. He turned 30 in October. While Cole’s best days may be behind him, he provided reason to believe he can still be a productive player with his performance on Thursday.

Fletcher Cox – The future is bright for the first-round pick. Actually, the current is pretty bright already. Cox had 1.5 sacks, two hurries and six tackles. On the season, he leads all Eagles defensive linemen with 62 tackles and 44 solo tackles. The next closest is Cole, who has 52 and 30. Good interior pressure, forcing Dalton to take off in the second. Cox abused the left guard and sacked Dalton in the third. He got the better of him on the next play too, splitting a sack with Graham. Cox and Graham combined to bring Green-Ellis down after a 1-yard run in the fourth. Another good game.

Cullen Jenkins – One sack, no hurries and three tackles. Jenkins and Graham forced Dalton to leave the pocket and throw incomplete in the first. Good pressure, forcing Dalton to take off in the second. He lined up at LDT and looped all the way around Cole at RDE to sack Dalton and force a fumble in the second. Nice play against the run, drawing a holding penalty in the third. He and Mychal Kendricks dropped Green-Ellis for a loss in the fourth.

Vinny Curry – He played 15 snaps. Most were running plays though. Curry had one tackle, stopping Green-Ellis for no gain in the fourth. He did a nice job getting into the backfield on a Green-Ellis run that lost 2 yards in the fourth.

Darryl Tapp – No sacks, no hurries, no tackles. Tapp played 13 snaps.

Phillip Hunt – No sacks, no hurries, one tackle – on Green-Ellis after a 3-yard run in the fourth. Hunt played 14 snaps.

Derek Landri – One tackle, no sacks. Landri took on a double-team and forced Green-Ellis to cut back on a 1-yard run in the first.

Cedric Thornton – Active game for Thornton with six tackles and a hurry. He split a double-team and tackled Green-Ellis for a 2-yard loss in the second. Thornton chased Dalton to the sideline and got a hit on him in the third. The moment most will remember though was him fumbling the short kickoff away. Thornton took full responsibility for the turnover after the game.

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Eagles DL Production: Success Without Washburn?

Sunday’s game against the Bucs was the Eagles’ first in two years without defensive line coach Jim Washburn and the wide-nine.

Tommy Brasher was hired on Monday and had three days of practice to switch up the Birds’ scheme up front. The Eagles struggled to get to Josh Freeman for much of the day, although the defense as a whole played better. Below is the player-by-player breakdown of sacks, hurries (tracked by the team’s coaches), opportunities (Pro Football Focus) and pressure percentage (frequency with with which each player notched a sack or hurry).

In the next couple of days, we’ll try to take a look at how the linemen were aligned up front with the All-22.

 
Pass-Rushing Opportunities
Sacks
Hurries
Pressure Percentage
Trent Cole31000%
Cullen Jenkins31116.5%
Fletcher Cox30116.7%
Brandon Graham29000%
Derek Landri10000%
Cedric Thornton100110.0%
Vinny Curry6000%
Darryl Tapp5000%
Phillip Hunt5000%

As you can see, a lot of zeroes on the board. The Eagles’ five defensive ends were shut out completely. Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Darryl Tapp and Phillip Hunt combined for zero sacks and zero hurries.

The defensive tackles had some success. Both Fletcher Cox and Cullen Jenkins notched sacks. No defensive lineman had more than one hurry.

Having said that, the defense shut out the Bucs in the first half and got what turned out to be a big stop at the end of the game. Coming in, the Eagles had allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 76.3 percent of their passes in the previous six games. But Freeman (who is generally not a high-percentage passer) completed just 41.2 percent of his attempts.

Below is the player-by-player breakdown after having re-watched the game.

Trent Cole – He finished with just one tackle, no sacks and no hurries. But I think the coaches were a little harsh in their grading. Cole wasn’t as bad as the numbers indicate. He and Derek Landri brought Doug Martin down after a 1-yard run in the first. Cole later pressured Freeman, hitting his arm and causing the ball to pop in the air for a near-interception. Cox got credit for the sack in the second, but Cole got good pressure inside on the stunt. He pressured Freeman and helped force an incompletion in the red zone in the fourth. Martin’s fourth-quarter touchdown run went right between Cole and Cox. Great hustle by Cole to bring down Martin after a 2-yard run on the final drive.

Brandon Graham – Relatively quiet game for Graham, although he had a few good moments. Two tackles, no sacks and no hurries. He hustled to bring Martin down after a 4-yard gain on a screen. And Graham drew a holding penalty on a screen in the second. Good pressure on Freeman in the second, leading to a Jenkins sack.

Cullen Jenkins – Two tackles, a sack and a hurry. Jenkins hit Freeman on a deep ball in the first quarter that was intended for Vincent Jackson. He picked up a sack on Freeman late in the first half and dropped Martin after a 3-yard run in the fourth.

Fletcher Cox – Ups and downs, but Cox was active. Great read and great job finishing the play, dropping Martin for a 6-yard loss on a screen in the second. Cox ran a stunt with Cole, looped outside and sacked Freeman. Martin ran right through the hole between Cox and Cole for his touchdown in the fourth. He stuffed Martin for no gain on 3rd-and-8 on the final drive, forcing the Bucs to punt.

Vinny Curry – Only had six opportunities to rush the passer and had no sacks or hurries. Ups and downs against the run. Great hustle from the backside, dropping Martin for a 1-yard loss on 3rd-and-1 in the second. But he got caught inside on a toss to Martin that picked up 11 yard in the second half.

Darryl Tapp – No tackles, no sacks, no hurries. I know I sound like a broken record, but not sure why Tapp’s taking snaps away from Curry at this point in the season.

Phillip Hunt – No tackles, no sacks, no hurries. Hunt got pressure off the edge and forced Freeman to step up and take a hit by Cedric Thornton.

Derek Landri – One tackle, no sacks and no hurries. Landri made some nice plays against the run. He and Cole brought Martin down after a 1-yard run in the first. Landri clogged the initial hole on Martin’s 3-yard run in the first. And did so again in the third when Martin bounced it outside for a 9-yard gain.

Cedric Thornton – Two tackles, no sacks and a hurry. Thornton got a hit on Freeman in the third as he was nearly picked off by Mychal Kendricks. He violently brought Martin down after a 5-yard run in the red zone in the fourth.

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DL Production: Graham Getting It Done?

Philadelphia Eagles DE Brandon Graham.The Eagles’ pass-rush had some good moments early against the Cowboys, but was non-existent in the second half when Tony Romo completed all 10 of his pass attempts.

After the game, Andy Reid announced that the team was parting ways with Jim Washburn, although he admitted that the game’s results had little to do with his decision.

Meanwhile, Brandon Graham got the start for Jason Babin, and Vinny Curry was active for the second time this season, as the Eagles went with a 10-man rotation.

Here’s the weekly look at production. Hurries (and tackles) come directly from the Eagles’ coaching staff. Pass-rushing opportunities are tracked by Pro Football Focus. And the last column is from me – a measure of how often each defensive lineman notched either a sack or a hurry.

 
Pass-Rushing Opportunities
Sacks
Hurries
Pressure Percentage
Trent Cole220.519.1%
Brandon Graham201.5430.0%
Mike Patterson18015.6%
Cullen Jenkins17000%
Cedric Thornton12000%
Fletcher Cox10000%
Derek Landri10000%
Vinny Curry9000%
Darryl Tapp6000%
Phillip Hunt4000%

Too many zeroes in that chart. Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, Phillip Hunt, Cullen Jenkins, Derek Landri, Darryl Tapp and Cedric Thornton combined for no sacks and no quarterback hurries. That’s hard to believe.

To be fair, some of them didn’t have a lot of opportunities, but that’s a brutal lack of production. I don’t see why Tapp should get any snaps ahead of Curry the rest of the way. Also, it should be noted that Cox was playing with a bruised tailbone.

Cole had half-a-sack, a hurry and three tackles, but for the most part, Tyron Smith handled him once again.

The bright spot, of course, was Graham, who had 1.5 sacks, four hurries and eight tackles, which is the most by any Eagles defensive end all season.

Graham got around Doug Free and sacked Tony Romo in the first. He went around Free and hit Romo on an incompletion in the second. Graham hustled to bring down Kevin Ogletree upfield after a couple other defenders missed tackles. And he hustled to bring DeMarco Murray down on the other side of the field for no gain (All-22 of that play here). Active game for Graham, who should see increased opportunities the rest of the way.

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DL Production: Cole Gets Shut Out

Here’s our weekly look at the Eagles’ defensive line production.

The Eagles had quite a few “close but no sack” moments against Robert Griffin III. In fairness to Jim Washburn’s unit, Griffin makes defensive linemen look silly on a weekly basis.

Here are the numbers. Sacks, hurries (a stat kept by the coaches) and pressure percentage (frequency with with each player notches a sack or hurry, given the opportunities).

 
Pass-Rushing Opportunities
Sacks
Hurries
Pressure Percentage
Trent Cole16000%
Jason Babin151113.3%
Fletcher Cox13107.7%
Cullen Jenkins12000%
Mike Patterson120216.7%
Brandon Graham80112.5%
Derek Landri70228.6%
Darryl Tapp70114.3%
Cedric Thornton2000%

We know the Eagles are not looking forward to facing Griffin for years to come. I’m guessing they’re not going to enjoy going up against left tackle Trent Williams either. Williams held Trent Cole to no sacks and no hurries. Cole has a total of seven hurries in the last four games. He doesn’t have a sack since Week 3 against the Cardinals.

Jason Babin was actually very active. He had one sack and was really responsible for the other one. Babin’s pressure forced Griffin to step up, and Fletcher Cox was the first person to touch him. Babin also had four tackles.

My upcoming All-22 post is going to focus a lot on Cox. He is coming on strong. The rookie had 10 tackles. He’s had two double-digit tackle games in the last month. No other Eagles defensive lineman has one all season. Cox was all over the place against the Redskins, even though it might not show up in the numbers here.

Brandon Graham only had eight opportunities, but he hasn’t done much in the last two games (one tackle, two hurries). This was the most active Mike Patterson’s been since returning (two hurries, three tackles). Derek Landri had two hurries in his previous five games, but notched a couple in this one. Darryl Tapp had five tackles.

Going forward, it looks like Vinny Curry is going to get a shot against the Panthers, per a CSNPhilly.com report by Geoff Mosher. So who does he bump? The Eagles could go with five defensive ends and sit Cedric Thornton, who’s being phased out anyway. Or they could have Curry take Tapp’s place behind Cole.

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Eagles DL Production: Cox Provides a Bright Spot

Here’s the weekly breakdown of how the Eagles’ defensive line performed against the Cowboys.

You should know the deal by now, but just in case, “hurries” are tracked by the coaches. Pass-rushing opportunities are charted by Pro Football Focus. And pressure percentage measures how often a player notches a sack or hurry.

 
Pass-Rushing Opportunities
Sacks
Hurries
Pressure Percentage
Trent Cole22029.1%
Fletcher Cox221631.8%
Jason Babin21014.8%
Cullen Jenkins19105.3%
Cedric Thornton8000%
Brandon Graham70114.3%
Derek Landri70114.3%
Darryl Tapp7000%
Mike Patterson4000%

It was just last week in this space that we wrote about Fletcher Cox being in a pass-rushing rut. The rookie went through a four-game stretch in which he managed no sacks and just two hurries. Cox has been the Eagles’ best defensive tackle against the run all season. But, as we wrote, the key to the second half of the season was to hone his pass-rushing skills.

Well, he’s off to a good start.

Cox had a sack and six hurries against Dallas. Statistically speaking, it was the most productive game any Eagles defensive tackle has had as a pass-rusher all season. Details on that below, but Cox’s development is one of the few positive storylines to follow with this team the rest of the way.

Jason Babin and Trent Cole combined for just three hurries all game. Eagles defensive ends as a group combined for just four hurries (and no sacks).

Jenkins had a sack. But once again, the Eagles got nothing from their backup defensive tackles. It’s probably well past time to tighten the rotation and give Cox a significant increase in snaps.

Here’s the player-by-player breakdown:

Jason Babin – Babin was not effective against inconsistent right tackle Doug Free. He had no sacks, one hurry and zero tackles. In his last three games, Babin has one sack, four tackles and four hurries. The Eagles simply have not gotten the production from him they were counting on this year. Against Dallas, Babin and Cole pressured Tony Romo in the second, forcing him to step up on an incompletion. Both he and Jenkins had a shot at Romo on the 25-yard completion to Miles Austin in the third. As I detailed with the All-22, that was a huge, game-changing play.

Trent Cole – No sacks, but Cole was OK in this one. He pressured Romo, but the QB scrambled to his left and found the fullback for a 17-yard pickup in the second. It looked like Cole hit Romo on the 49-yard completion to Dez Bryant. And he got a hit on Romo on 3rd-and-1 in the second. The Cowboys picked up 15 yards with a draw right at Cole in the second. Those seem to work about 95 percent of the time against the Eagles. Overall, Cole had two hurries and four tackles.

Cullen Jenkins – He probably should have gotten the sack on Romo in the second. The Eagles got pressure from all directions, and Romo just went down. It looked like Jenkins and Cole touched him first, but Cox got credit for the sack. Jenkins got a sack later on a well-executed twist with Cox. He failed to bring Romo down on the 25-yard completion to Austin. Jenkins got knocked to the ground on a Lance Dunbar 5-yard run at the end of the first quarter. Overall, one sack and three tackles.

Fletcher Cox – I mentioned him at the top. Cox got credit for a sack in the first, although it could have just as easily gone to Jenkins or Cole. He got a hit on Romo, who was forced to step up in the second. Nice twist with Jenkins, pressuring Romo into a sack in the third. Great hustle, instincts and athleticism in the third, rushing Romo, recognizing he was going to scramble and finishing with a hit as the quarterback threw the ball away (pictures of the play in the All-22 breakdown). As well as Cox played, he somehow let Romo out of his grasp on the 25-yard completion to Austin in the third. He twisted outside and pressured Romo on the touchdown to Bryant. Overall, the numbers are starting to show up for Cox. A couple weeks ago against the Falcons, he had 11 tackles – the most of any Eagles defensive lineman this year. Overall, he leads all Eagles linemen with 40 tackles. And he’s tops among the team’s tackles with 20 hurries (to go along with a pair of sacks). Keep your eye on No. 91 the rest of the way.

Brandon Graham – Strange snap breakdown for Graham. Overall, he was on the field for 24 plays, just four fewer than Babin. But 17 of those 24 were running plays. He only got seven chances to rush the passer. Graham got blocked by Jason Witten on the toss to the right that picked up 5 yards in the first. Good hustle, but missed the tackle on Felix Jones’ touchdown. He was pretty much unblocked, but still got to Romo quickly, helping lead to the Mychal Kendricks sack in the second. If the Eagles are going to start looking ahead to 2013 at some point, Graham should be playing more than Babin.

Darryl Tapp – Zero sacks, zero hurries and four tackles. Tapp also missed a tackle on the Jones touchdown. Later, he hustled to bring Jones down after a 4-yard run in the third. Tough to justify playing Tapp over second-round pick Vinny Curry at this point.

Derek Landri – No sacks, one hurry and five tackles. It sure seems like teams have had a lot of success running in Landri’s direction this season. The veteran got handled on Jones’ 13-yard run in the first. Later, he deflected a Romo pass up in the air.

Cedric Thornton – Nothing as a pass-rusher, but finished with five tackles.

Mike Patterson - No sacks, no hurries and one tackle. Of course, probably not realistic to expect Patterson to make an immediate impact, given how much time he’s missed.

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DL Review: Cox In a Pass-Rush Rut

Here’s the weekly breakdown of how the Eagles’ defensive line performed against the Saints.

You should know the deal by now, but just in case, “hurries” are tracked by the coaches. Pass-rushing opportunities are charted by Pro Football Focus. And pressure percentage measures how often a player notches a sack or hurry.

 
Pass-Rushing Opportunities
Sacks
Hurries
Pressure Percentage
Trent Cole200315.0%
Cullen Jenkins19015.3%
Jason Babin181216.7%
Fletcher Cox13000%
Cedric Thornton12018.3%
Brandon Graham12108.3%
Derek Landri120N/AN/A
Phillip Hunt10000%
Mike Patterson8000%

Brandon Graham and Jason Babin both had sacks and forced fumbles. Other than that play, though, Graham was quiet as a pass-rusher with no hurries. Babin had a couple hurries, and Trent Cole had three.

The Eagles got nothing from the interior pass-rush. Rookie Fletcher Cox is in a pass-rushing rut. He had zero hurries and has just two (no sacks) in his last four games. Cox has one sack and 14 hurries on the season. He’s been outstanding against the run; Cox’s 38 tackles are tops on the team among defensive linemen. But the Eagles could really use more production from him against the pass.

No defensive tackle had more than one hurry. That’s a problem.

Mike Patterson saw his first action of the season. Phillip Hunt filled in for Darryl Tapp, who was with his wife, waiting on the birth of their first child.

Below is the player-by-player breakdown.

Jason Babin – He played hard and came away with a sack and three hurries. Babin beat the right tackle one-on-one and forced a Drew Brees fumble in the fourth. He got good pressure on Brees and hit him on a third down near the end of the first half. He did a good job reading screen and tackling Chris Ivory after a 2-yard pickup in the third. Against the run, the Eagles were hurt by counters to the defense’s left side all game long. Babin got caught inside on an 8-yard Ivory run in the second, but to his credit, he hustled to the ball and eventually made the tackle. He also got caught inside on a 7-yard counter by Mark Ingram in the third.

Trent Cole – Cole was active throughout, but as I pointed out with the All-22, he missed opportunities for a monster game. He had a season-high seven tackles to go along with three hurries. Cole dropped Ingram for a 3-yard loss in the first. He had a good bull-rush and hit Brees, helping to force an incompletion late in the first half. Cole tackled Ingram after a 3-yard gain in the third. And he stopped Pierre Thomas after a 2-yard run in the red zone in the third.

Brandon Graham – Tough to evaluate him in this one. Graham had the huge sack/forced fumble, but wasn’t a factor the rest of the time. He failed to recognize a 9-yard screen to Jimmy Graham in the second and got caught inside on Ivory’s 22-yard touchdown run. Later, Graham had a chance to bring Ingram down near the line of scrimmage, but couldn’t make the play on a 7-yard run. He drew a holding penalty in the second. On the sack, he got to Brees in about 2.2 seconds.

Phillip Hunt – After playing zero snaps against the Falcons, Hunt filled in for Tapp. He made a decent inside move to force Brees to his left on an incompletion in the first. Good hustle to bring Thomas down after a 7-yard run on the next play. And Hunt stopped Ivory for no gain in the third.

Cullen Jenkins – One hurry and four tackles. Jenkins got good penetration and helped cause a 3-yard loss on the first defensive play. He got past the guard and knocked Brees down on the next play. Jenkins also played some defensive end. Overall, a pretty quiet game.

Fletcher Cox – A quiet game for Cox too. He had four tackles – dropping Ivory for a 1-yard loss in the fourth and tackling Ingram after a 2-yard run in the fourth.

Mike Patterson – Patterson looked understandably rusty with zero tackles and zero hurries. He got blocked on Thomas’ 9-yard run in the red zone in the second.

Derek Landri – Not much of a factor. He assisted Cole in bringing Thomas down after a 2-yard run in the third. Other than that, didn’t notice him doing much.

Cedric Thornton – Three tackles, but didn’t give the Eagles anything as a pass-rusher with just one hurry.

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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.

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