Eagles Wake-Up Call: D-Line Doing Work


Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Chip Kelly was asked earlier this week about how he defines a selfless player.

“I think always putting the goal of the team win ahead of anything. That’s really the most important thing about being a selfless player,” he said, before referencing a Brent Celek anecdote.

But then Kelly went on to use another example.

“Are you the type of guy that’s just a great two‑gap run stopper and does an unbelievable job?” he asked. “You don’t get the statistics that may show up sometimes and everybody says ‘Well, geez, he didn’t have a good game because he didn’t have a sack.’ But he literally controlled the line of scrimmage and did an unbelievable job. Sometimes being a great two‑gapper allows the linebacker to make the tackle. But you don’t get credit for that. Are you in it to get individual credit or are you in it to win the game? The more people you have like that, the better off you’ll be as a team overall.”

Those two-gappers Kelly mentioned have quietly been the foundation of a defense that ranks 11th overall and ninth against the run by Football Outsiders.

Fletcher CoxBennie Logan and Cedric Thornton have combined for zero sacks, yet they’ve been three of the more consisent players on the Eagles’ defense – specifically against the run.

Part of their job is to two-gap and allow the Eagles’ inside linebackers to fly to the football. But defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro and others on the staff emphasize that they want the defensive linemen to shed blocks and make tackles. Through six games, they are doing just that.

Logan is seventh among defensive linemen and second among nose tackles with 24 tackles. Cox is 13th among defensive linemen with 22 tackles and has been the Eagles’ most disruptive player on that side of the ball. Even though he has yet to notch a sack, his pass-rush has improved, and Cox has forced opposing QBs off their spot on several occasions.

Thornton, meanwhile, has 22 tackles as well (T-13th among defensive linemen), continuing the mark of consistency he set in 2013.

The only other team with three defensive linemen in the top-15 in tackles is the New York Jets.

Logan and Thornton have played 54.3 percent and 60.4 percent of the snaps, respectively. Logan generally comes off the field for Brandon Boykin in sub packages. And Thornton is often replaced by Vinny Curry, who has four sacks on the season.

Courtesy of Football Outsiders:

defsnaps

Backup two-gappers Beau Allen and Brandon Bair have played better the last couple of weeks as well.

Guys like Connor Barwin and Malcolm Jenkins have received plenty of much-deserved pub in the first six games, but the Eagles’ defensive linemen have quietly set the tone on what’s been an improved front seven.

WHAT YOU MISSED

We take an All-22 look at a new wrinkle that sparked the Eagles’ run game.

In T-Mac’s Twitter Mailbag, he addresses Nick Foles‘ play and whether the QB is holding the Eagles back from being a legitimate contender.

McManus weighs in on Barwin and the sack surge.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz discusses how the defense is using Curry this season:

Vinny Curry had 4 sacks last year. He’s already got 4 this year. The coaches know how to use him this year and Curry is making plays.

The funny thing is that a couple of those sacks are gifts. One time he was unblocked. Another time the QB ran out of bounds and Curry was the closest defender. Curry has nothing to apologize for, though. He is incredibly disruptive on a regular basis. Sometimes he draws penalty flags. Other times he gets held, but there are no calls. Sometimes Curry forces the QB to move or rush a throw. Curry shows up on tape.

It will be interesting to see if he wants to leave in free agency so he can play in a 4-3 or if he’s now happy as a backup / specialist in the Eagles 3-4 scheme.

Paul Domowitch of the Daily News explains why Zach Ertz has played fewer snaps the past two weeks:

He wants to catch 80 passes a year. He wants to go to Pro Bowls. He wants to be mentioned in the same breath with the best tight ends in the game.

He believes he has that kind of talent. His coaches believe he has that kind of talent.

If you saw his incredible, diving touchdown catch in the first quarter Sunday night against Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, you know he has that kind of talent.

What is holding Ertz back right now is the same thing that holds back a lot of young tight ends: his blocking ability.

In the Eagles’ first four games, Ertz played 64.5 percent of the offensive snaps. In the last two against the Rams and Giants, only 40.9 percent.

COMING UP

We’ll roll out a progress report for where the Eagles are at the bye week.