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.
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.