Wake-Up Call: Barwin And the Sack Surge


NFL: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles

Following the 27-0 demolition of the Giants Sunday night — in which Eli Manning was pressured on nearly half of his dropbacks —Brandon Boykin offered the following analysis:

“I felt like at one point [Manning] was more concerned with the pass rush than he was looking at his receivers,” said Boykin.

Consider that statement for a moment. Heading into the season, the pass rush was one of the biggest concerns surrounding this team. The early portion of the schedule did little to alleviate those worries, as the Eagles were blanked in the sack department in two of their first three games. Since then, an out-and-out explosion. The Eagles have generated 16 sacks in their last three games, including eight  during their shutout win over the Giants on Sunday night. Suddenly, they rank second in the NFL with 19 takedowns.

Leading the charge is Connor Barwin, who is celebrating his 28th birthday today. The five-year pro has a team-leading six sacks — all of which have come over the last three games.

“Obviously something is [different with me]. I mean, I guess you just regain confidence, start to play with confidence,” said Barwin, who had 11.5 sacks in 2011 but just eight over the past two seasons coming in. “I think Bill McGovern and Tra Thomas have been doing a great job of kinda coaching us up, getting us ready and getting us focused on what kind of pass rush moves will work against what guys, so I think those guys deserve credit. But once you start playing well, you get the confidence up and everybody plays better when they play confident.”

It’s not that Barwin is getting a ton of additional chances to get after the quarterback this season. He rushed the QB 36 percent of the time in 2013, per Pro Football Focus. This season? Also 36 percent. The numbers have gone up over the past two weeks, however, as Barwin has rushed the passer 44 percent of the time in each of the the last two outings. He responded with five sacks over that span.

“I think he’s smart,” said Chip Kelly. “He has an understanding of who he’s going against and he spends a lot of time in his preparation in terms of what he’s trying to get accomplished against certain individual players and those individual matchups.  He’s also a very good athlete, so he can have more than one maneuver.  Some guys are limited because of their athletic ability that they only can kind of have one go‑to move.  If it stops, they can’t counter off of it.  I think he’s developed his repertoire and he’s really worked at it, and he’s relentless.”

One of the most encouraging things about the recent surge is that it is coming about naturally. Twelve of the team’s 16 sacks over the last three games occurred with the Eagles rushing four players or less.

“I think Billy [Davis] is getting more confident in us four, just rushing four, and that’s what he called [Sunday night],” said Barwin.

Vinny Curry is second on  the team with four sacks, followed by Trent Cole (3.5) and Brandon Graham (2). Eight players in all have contributed in taking down the quarterback this season.

Of all the story lines from over the first six weeks, the emergence of a pass rush is among the most significant.

“I just think they’re working. It’s not a scheme deal. It’s our guys continue to work at their trade and they get better,” said Kelly. “People maybe didn’t believe us, but we saw those guys getting better every day.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

The Eagles re-signed Julian Vandervelde Tuesday. Sheil looks at how he fits into the offensive line picture. 

Mr. Kapadia broke down the play of both the offense and defense against the Giants.

A look at where the Eagles stand heading into the bye.

“I was so impressed w/the reaction of Philadelphia players & crowd when Victor Cruz went down.” A roundup of the media’s take on the Eagles. 

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

The Eagles are fourth in ESPN’s power rankings. 

Now that’s how you enter a bye week. Philly shut out the Giants for the first time since 1996, with LeSean McCoy rushing for a season-high 149 yards.

Meanwhile, they have moved Dallas up three spots to No. 3.

DeMarco Murray is the second player in NFL history to begin a season with six straight games of at least 100 rushing yards. His offensive line has been awesome this season.

Tommy Lawlor on the play of Nick Foles. 

I can live with a lot of things, but not the QB being dumb, especially when he’s a smart guy. Foles knows better. He’s got to start playing smart. The Eagles won’t always be able to pitch a shutout (still sounds so beautiful, huh?).

And don’t turn this into “Foles sucks, we need to bench hm” or “Why is everyone so hard on Foles”. He is a good young QB that is working through some issues. I have no problem with being patient. All QBs need time to develop. Theses brain lapses should be easy to fix, in theory. Footwork and mechanical issues often have to wait for the offseason.

COMING UP

A Twitter Mailbag and more coming your way.