For most of the year, we kept track of how productive Eagles defensive players were when rushing the passer.
With all 16 regular-season games and the playoff loss to the Saints in the rear-view mirror, it’s time for one final tally.
Sacks, hurries and batted passes are tracked by the Eagles’ coaches. The Penalties column tracks instances when the defender forces an offensive holding or an intentional grounding call. Chances are tracked by Pro Football Focus. And I calculated the final column as the percentage of times a defender did something (sack, hurry, batted ball, forced penalty) to affect the passer, given the opportunities.
Vinny Curry tops the list with a pressure percentage of 8.9 percent. But he was quiet at the end of the season. In the Eagles’ final seven games (playoffs included), Curry had no sacks and three hurries. It will be interesting to see if the Eagles try to grow him into the scheme this offseason or consider moving him.
Brandon Graham never got much of an opportunity, but he finished second. He ended the season on a high note, notching a sack, four hurries and a forced fumble in the final three games. Graham wants to start, and it seems highly unlikely that he gets that chance in Philadelphia. The former first-round pick is entering the final year of his rookie deal.
Trent Cole was easily the Eagles’ best pass-rusher in the second half of the season with eight sacks and eight hurries in the team’s final seven games. His future will likely be determined by what the Eagles do at the outside linebacker position in free agency and the draft. Cole will turn 32 next season.
Connor Barwin’s calling card was batting down passes. Because he played so many snaps, Barwin still got plenty of pass-rush chances. His true value though is his versatility.
The defensive linemen certainly have room to improve in terms of pass-rush, although they held up well against the run for most of the season. Fletcher Cox led the team in hurries, but his production dipped down the stretch. In the final five games, Cox had no sacks and one hurry. Cedric Thornton has said he wants to improve his pass-rush. He was outstanding against the run.
Bennie Logan had some good moments, but his pass-rush needs to get better going into 2014 too. Clifton Geathers is a free agent, and Damion Square will be battling for a roster spot next summer.
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