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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Eagles Snap Counts: Babin Still Ahead Of Graham

Here’s a look at snap counts for the Eagles during their Week 9 loss against the Saints. We’ll go position-by-position.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
LeSean McCoy6481%
Stanley Havili1823%
Bryce Brown1114%

LeSean McCoy had one of his best games of the year with 19 carries for 119 yards. For the first time all season, the Eagles kept all four running backs – McCoy, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk and Dion Lewis – active. Lewis did not play at all. Brown played just 11 snaps, but made the most of them with four carries for 49 yards. Polk played special teams only and came up with the forced fumble in the third quarter on kickoff coverage. Stanley Havili played slightly less than normal.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
Jeremy Maclin7797%
DeSean Jackson7797%
Jason Avant4456%
Riley Cooper68%
Brent Celek7392%
Clay Harbor2532%

Nothing really noteworthy at wide receiver. Riley Cooper played just six snaps as the team’s fourth wide receiver. Damaris Johnson was active, but did not play offensively.

Celek was involved in both Eagles turnovers. He was probably held on the first one – a Michael Vick interception that bounced off his hand. And Celek fumbled in the fourth quarter with the team trying to stage a late-game comeback. He finished with five catches for 47 yards. Harbor saw his most action since Week 2. He had three catches for 20 yards.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
Trent Cole3766%
Jason Babin3359%
Cullen Jenkins3257%
Fletcher Cox2545%
Cedric Thornton2239%
Derek Landri2138%
Brandon Graham2138%
Phillip Hunt1832%
Mike Patterson1527%

Last week, the Jason Babin/Brandon Graham split was 33/31. This week, it was 33/21, as Babin saw significantly more playing time. Each player had a sack/forced fumble. Other than the two sacks, the Eagles were credited with just one hit on Drew Brees.

Mike Patterson saw his first action of the season, playing 15 snaps. Phillip Hunt didn’t play any defensive snaps last week, but filled in for Darryl Tapp (whose wife was giving birth) at right defensive end behind Trent Cole this week.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
DeMeco Ryans56100%
Mychal Kendricks56100%
Akeem Jordan3562%
Casey Matthews12%

The only thing notable here is that the Eagles were in their base defense with Akeem Jordan on the field for 62 percent of the snaps. Fourteen of Brees’ 21 completions went to tight ends and running backs. The Saints ran 25 times for 140 yards (5.6 YPC).

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
Nnamdi Asomugha56100%
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie5496%
Brandon Boykin2138%
Curtis Marsh12%
Kurt Coleman56100%
David Sims56100%

David Sims filled in for Nate Allen. He missed a tackle on the Chris Ivory touchdown and got matched up with Jimmy Graham on several occasions. Sims led the Eagles with eight tackles, although many of those were after completed passes.

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Injury Updates: Allen, Jenkins And Patterson

Nate Allen did not practice again on Saturday because of a hamstring strain and is officially listed as questionable for Monday night’s matchup against the New Orleans Saints. Andy Reid said Allen will travel with the team and be a game-time decision.

If he can’t go, David Sims will get the start. The Eagles acquired Sims from the Browns before the season. He’s never played a defensive snap in the NFL and could be faced with trying to deal with Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense in his first action.

Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins is listed as questionable with a knee injury, but he practiced, and Reid didn’t seem concerned about him possibly being held out.

Mike Patterson, meanwhile, very well could see his first action of the season. Patterson has been practicing with the team all week, and the Eagles have until Sunday at 4 p.m. to make a roster move, although Reid said they would likely make that decision today. If Patterson plays, he’ll likely be eased back in to the defensive line rotation.

Mardy Gilyard and Danny Watkins have both already been ruled out. Damaris Johnson is expected to resume punt-returning duties, and rookie Dennis Kelly will make his second straight start at right guard. Aside from a couple issues, Kelly held his own last week against the Falcons.

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How Patterson’s Return Could Affect the DT Rotation

Andy Reid said Thursday he’s going to work Mike Patterson back into the defensive line rotation at practice for the first time all season.

Does that mean the veteran could be on the field Monday night against the Saints?

“There is a chance there. Absolutely, there’s that chance,” Reid said.

Patterson returned to practice in a limited role on Oct. 22. The Eagles get a three-week window from that date to either activate him to the 53-man roster or place him on injured reserve, ending his season. At this point, barring a setback, it looks like Patterson is in line to play.

“I hope so. I don’t know,” he said. “If he’s going to give me some rotations, then I assume that he would [play me vs. the Saints], but you never know how the game goes and stuff. So I’m hoping, I’m planning on it.”

Patterson, a first-round pick of the Eagles back in 2005, suffered a seizure during training camp back in 2011. He was diagnosed with arteriovenous malformation, a tangle of blood vessels in the brain, but played the entire season (and played well). He had offseason brain surgery, but was cleared to resume football activities a couple weeks ago.

To Patterson’s credit, he’s been around the team constantly since the start of training camp – even when he didn’t have to be.

The Eagles’ current starting defensive tackles are Cullen Jenkins (60.6 percent of snaps, per Pro Football Focus) and Fletcher Cox (56.2 percent). Derek Landri (48.2 percent) and Cedric Thornton (38.8 percent) ran with the second group last week.

In general, the Eagles have been going with nine active defensive linemen on gamedays – five defensive ends and four defensive tackles. If Patterson’s activated, they could do the reverse. Phillip Hunt did not play any defensive snaps last week and could be inactive, giving the team five defensive tackles. If Patterson’s mixed in gradually for a couple series, this might be the most likely option. The other would be to go with 10 active defensive linemen, but that’s a high number.

Of course, to activate Patterson, the Eagles would have to make a cut. If they’re confident he’s going to be able to contribute the rest of the way, that move could come along the defensive line – perhaps someone like Landri or Hunt. The other option would be to stash 11 defensive linemen for a week or two. In that case, they could part with any number of players, including someone like running back Dion Lewis, who’s been inactive for six of seven games.

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Patterson Returns, Thinks He Can Have Impact

Eagles veteran defensive tackle Mike Patterson returned to practice today for the first time since having offseason brain surgery.

As Tim noted earlier, Dr. Robert Spetzler, the Arizona surgeon who performed the surgery, is the person who gave him the OK.

“They just wanted to give it time for the bone to heal,” Patterson said. “They just wanted to give it some time, and they gave it time. They just felt more comfortable for me to play now than earlier.

“I’ve been sending him [Spetzler] X-Rays every few months here and he’s been looking at them, keeping track of them, and he just told me and the Eagles I was ready to play and got cleared.”

Asked if he can return and make an impact this season, Patterson said, “Most definitely.”

But the truth is, it won’t be his call. The Eagles have a three-week period to decide whether he’ll be placed on injured-reserve (ending his season) or the 53-man roster. Today was an important step, but just one of many.

Patterson, who was a first-round pick of the Eagles back in 2005, suffered a seizure during training camp back in 2011. He was diagnosed with arteriovenous malformation, a tangle of blood vessels in the brain, but played the entire season (and played well).

“I’m still here,” Patterson said. “I went through surgery. I still come out everyday and work out, still try to be a part of this team any way I can, so I’m just real excited. I’m still here. After eight years, I’m still here. They’ve given me time to heal and given me time to get back out onto the field. I’m really thankful about that and appreciative.

“Big man [Andy Reid], he’s not in a rush to get me back in the field… just wanting to make sure that I’m healthy and taken care of. He’s not going to put me in jeopardy or anything like that, so I feel really appreciative that he’s taking care of me.”

Patterson said he’s been hitting the weight room but needs to get back in football shape. The plan right now is to take it slow and see if he can get back on the field at some point this season.

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Source: Mike Patterson Cleared For Return

Mike Patterson has received medical clearance to resume play and is expected to return to practice as early as Monday, according to a league source.

Dr. Robert Spetzler, the surgeon out of Arizona who performed Patterson’s brain surgery, has cleared the defensive tackle. That does not mean Patterson will be playing on Sundays just yet. It will take some time to get back in football shape.

Players on the non-football injury list must miss the first six weeks of the season. They then have a three-week window to return to practice. Once they resume practicing, they must be activated within three weeks or else are ineligible to return to the 53-man roster for the rest of the year.

Patterson was diagnosed with a brain malformation last August and underwent surgery this offseason to correct the issue. It appeared Patterson was on track for a return right around the start of training camp, but it was determined that the bone graft on his cranium  still needed some time to heal.

CSN Philly was the first to report that Patterson was potentially  nearing a return.

 

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Could Patterson Return?

The Eagles could activate defensive tackle Mike Patterson on Monday, a league source tells CSN’s Derrick Gunn.

However, the source added that Patterson is a “ways off from game ready.”

Patterson suffered a seizure at training camp in 2011 and was diagnosed with arteriovenous malformation, a tangle of blood vessels in the brain. He played the entire season (and played well) before having offseason brain surgery. Patterson was placed on the non-football illness list back in August, and Andy Reid said he could miss the entire season.

“I think that’s going to be an extended time here,” Reid said. “We’ve just got to see how that goes, if he’s able to go at all this year. We just have to see how that works out. We’ll take checkups in increments here, but right now, it’s going to be awhile.”

The Eagles reportedly cut Patterson’s salary in half.

Patterson was required to miss the first six weeks of the season, but now is allowed to return to practice. The Eagles have a three-week window in which they can either add him to the 53-man roster or place him on injured reserve and end his season.

The Eagles could certainly use a boost at defensive tackle. As I pointed out in Friday’s post, that group is not giving the defense much in terms of a pass-rush, and the Steelers and Lions both had success running the football against the Birds. Among Eagles defensive linemen, only Jason Babin played more snaps than Patterson in 2011.

The Eagles’ current four-man rotation at DT is Fletcher Cox, Cullen Jenkins, Derek Landri and Cedric Thornton. Jenkins has played 59.4 percent of the snaps; Cox 55.9; Landri 49.1; and Thornton 37.0.

Obviously, given the nature of the injury, you’d think the wise thing to do for Patterson would be to play it safe. The team returns to Novacare on Monday. We’ll try to get more details on the likelihood of his potential return then.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Linebacker DeMeco Ryans has exceeded expectations through the first six games.

Special teams have killed the Eagles so far this season.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson had a touchdown called back last week against the Eagles because of pass interference. He doesn’t think Nnamdi Asomugha should have gotten the call. Per Chris McCosky of The Detroit News:

“There was hardly any contact,” Johnson said. “I was just feeling where I was at. I went back and watched it on film and I was like, ‘Come on, ref.’ The crazy thing was, he was looking at me and didn’t throw the flag until after the dude (Asomugha) said something.”

Johnson was asked what would happen if the NFL had a rule against flopping like the NBA has.

“He would have been fined; that would have been a fine,” he said. “I am glad the NBA is starting that rule. That used to tick me off about the NBA, too.”

Greg Cosell of NFL Films offered his take on Michael Vick in Ashley Fox’s column on ESPN.com:

“If you’re just analyzing Vick, I think he’s not put in a lot of really good positions,” said Greg Cosell, executive producer of ESPN’s “NFL Matchup” show. “I think they run a lot of vertical routes, which requires the offensive line to block and for him to do what he’s not best at, which is be patient in the pocket. Even at his best, I would not describe Michael Vick as a commanding pocket quarterback. Now, oddly enough, in the last three games versus blitz, Vick has been outstanding — he’s 28-of-42, which is almost 67 percent, for 398 yards and four touchdowns.

“Now, the other issues you face with Vick is when you throw an awful lot, your quarterback has to be very, very efficient in the subtle details of the position. You are going to get pressure no matter how good your offensive line is. You are going to have to make adjustments at the line of scrimmage before the snap, and demonstrate pocket movement. You’re going to have to be able to execute the subtle details of the position. My guess is even people who love Michael Vick would say he’s not that kind of quarterback.”

COMING UP

No Eagles game, but it’s Week 7 around the NFL. We’re guessing there will be a few things worth discussing today.

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Eagles Cut Mike Patterson’s Salary

The Eagles recently renegotiated the contract of defensive tackle Mike Patterson, Adam Caplan reported today.

Per Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com, Patterson will now earn a base salary of $1.05M in 2012. That number was originally $2.1M.

Patterson may miss the entire season after having undergone offseason brain surgery. He suffered a seizure at training camp in 2011 and was diagnosed with arteriovenous malformation, a tangle of blood vessels in the brain. But Patterson played the entire season (and played well) before having brain surgery. Andy Reid said last month that Patterson could be out the entire season.

“I think that’s going to be an extended time here,” Reid said. “We’ve just got to see how that goes, if he’s able to go at all this year. We just have to see how that works out. We’ll take checkups in increments here, but right now, it’s going to be awhile.”

Even though he couldn’t participate in practice at training camp, Patterson still chose to be around the team and help some of the younger players.

“He doesn’t have to come to these rookie meetings at night, in the afternoon,” defensive line coach Jim Washburn said back in July. “He doesn’t have to be there. I said ‘Mike, you don’t have to be there.’ He said ‘Well I like to be there.’ He likes football. He’s a good one, god dangit. We miss him now.”

Originally a first-round pick in 2005, Patterson started 99 games in seven seasons with the Eagles.

Eagles Snapshot: Defensive Line Preview

Throughout the course of the week, we’ll be providing position-by-position previews of the entire Eagles roster. We start with the defensive line. Click here for all of the previews.

The roster: Jason Babin, Trent Cole, Cullen Jenkins, Derek Landri, Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton, Phillip Hunt, Brandon Graham, Darryl Tapp, Vinny Curry.

The Eagles decided to keep 10 defensive linemen, parting only with tackle Antonio Dixon when they trimmed the roster to 53. Assuming everyone’s healthy, Babin and Cole will start at defensive end, and Jenkins and Landri will likely be the tackles with the first group. There’s some uncertainty with the second foursome, however. Expect Cox and Thornton to be the tackles. But the Eagles could keep nine linemen active on gamedays and rotate Hunt, Tapp and Graham in at the end spots.

Look for Curry, a rookie second-round pick, to be inactive to start the season.

Player in the spotlight: Brandon Graham

Graham has been playing with something to prove all offseason. As a rookie, he finished with three sacks and 13 quarterback hurries (second on the team). But he tore his ACL late in the season, had microfracture surgery and fell into a funk during his sophomore campaign, battling weight issues and appearing in just three games.

Graham has vowed to get back on track this offseason, turning heads in the weight room back in the spring and making good on his promise to coaches to not miss a single practice at Lehigh. During the preseason, Graham lined up primarily at left defensive end and consistently got to the quarterback, finishing with 3.5 sacks.

The Jason Pierre-Paul comparisons aren’t going away anytime soon. The Giants snagged JPP two spots after the Eagles selected Graham in the first round of the 2010 draft, and he turned in a 16.5-sack season in 2011. But now that he’s healthy, Graham is hoping to prove that the Birds didn’t waste their pick on him.

You should also know that…

* Babin missed almost all of training camp and the entire preseason with a calf strain. He says he’ll be ready to go Sunday against the Browns. Of course, Reid will ultimately be the one to decide that. If Babin can’t play right away, or has to play limited snaps, the Eagles will have to figure out how to replace him. In the preseason, they moved Jenkins to left defensive end to help against the run, but that was when they were playing with extra tackles. Now, they only have four DTs on the roster, so moving Jenkins outside would leave them thin on the interior. The Eagles could go with some combination of Hunt/Graham/Tapp at left defensive end instead.

* Hunt might have been the Eagles’ most impressive player in the preseason, with 3.5 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles. Look for him to be given ample opportunities to rush the passer.

* The Eagles’ second group could feature two defensive tackles who have never played an NFL snap. Thornton spent most of last season on the practice squad, but had a very strong camp and preseason, earning the nod over Dixon. Cox, a first-round pick in April, showed flashes, but will likely need some time to get comfortable with Jim Washburn’s style. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if Cox replaced Landri with the first team, and Landri teamed with Thornton on the second team.

* While it’s true that the Eagles play eight or nine defensive linemen, it does matter who is on the first team. For example, the first-team tackles last year were Mike Patterson and Jenkins. They played 66.3 and 61.6 percent of the snaps, respectively, per Pro Football Focus. The backups (Landri and Trevor Laws) played 44.2 and 38.2 percent. In other words, everyone will play, but the most productive players will play more.

* The Eagles tied for the league-lead with 50 sacks last season, and 46 of those came from the defensive line. According to the Football Outsiders Almanac, the Birds used just four pass-rushers 81.8 percent of the time last season. That was the second-highest percentage in the league. In other words, they didn’t need to blitz to get pressure. For the most part, that should be the case again this season.

* Patterson continues to recover from offseason brain surgery and could miss the entire season.

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