Eagles Wake-Up Call: The Pass Rush

Vinny Curry has been quietly making a difference on the Eagles' defensive line.

Vinny Curry. (USA Today Sports)

Vinny Curry. (USA Today Sports)

Bill Davis just wanted people to relax. Through the first four games of the season, his defense recorded just one sack each week. Criticism of the Eagles’ pass rush picked up, and those questions reached him in his press conference after the Washington game.

“There is more pressure than there are sacks,” he said a few weeks ago. “So I don’t think it’s a pressure problem. The sack numbers aren’t where you like them. But we’ve got to get the pressure on the quarterback and get him down and affect the throws. That has to increase. But we actually aren’t horrible right there.”

In the two games after that, the Eagles sacked Drew Brees and Eli Manning a combined eight times. Against Carolina, the front seven brought Cam Newton down just once, but they disrupted several passes.

One such play was Malcolm Jenkins’ interception. He didn’t get credit in the box score, but Vinny Curry helped force the turnover. He quickly pressured Newton — in addition to Brandon Graham off the edge — and fought through a double team to flush the quarterback out of the pocket.

Curry didn’t allow Newton to step up into the pocket, and he did so even while being held (though it wasn’t called).

“I don’t personally judge anybody by their sack numbers,” Davis said. “I want to know how many times they’re taking a double team; how many times they’re moving a quarterback off the spot; what is the technique in the pass rush, is he doing what we’re trying to do, collectively, as a four-man pass rush. And Vinny is always right up there with us.”

In the third quarter, Curry did draw a hold when the Panthers had their tight end block him one-on-one. Graham again helped by getting pressure off the edge, and Newton was forced to throw the ball away on third down in plus territory.

“When it’s a passing situation, Vinny is disruptive every time,” Davis said. “He hasn’t had the sack numbers until [the Giants] game, but those sack numbers are coming for him. Anybody that has that kind of disruption in the passing game is someone who will continue to do that. I love seeing him out there and rushing that passer and disrupting the quarterback because he makes a difference.”

In the fourth quarter, Graham drew a holding penalty of his own, putting the Panthers in 1st-and-20.

“It’s about more than just sacks,” Curry said last Wednesday. “It’s about working together as the defensive line to make things easier on the back end. We work as a team to pressure the quarterback and get off the field.”

Of course, the objective is still to get sacks. The Eagles have improved in that area — Football Outsiders ranks them at No. 11 in the NFL in adjusted sack rate — and they recorded one against the Panthers.

Although he struggled some against the run, Mychal Kendricks quickly discarded a blocker in the first quarter to bring Newton down, forcing a 3rd-and-14 that Carolina didn’t convert.


All-22: On Mychal Kendricks, Marcus Smith and the Eagles’ run defense against the Panthers.

“If it’s ever going to happen for the Eagles, now is the time.” What they’re saying about the Eagles.

T-Mac examines the contract situation of DeMarco Murray, who still occupies the RB1 slot on the Birds’ depth chart.


Eliot Shorr-Parks says Sam Bradford and Chip Kelly need to do a better job of looking for Zach Ertz.

He has three dropped passes, including a big one on third down on the team’s final drive of the game against the Panthers this past Sunday. He also could have done a better job breaking up an interception thrown in his direction by Bradford against the New York Giants late in the Week 6 contest.

Still, in a season where the team’s wide receivers are dropping the ball left and right, Ertz has made plays on the ball when given a chance, both down the field and over the middle.

On a recent trip to Syracuse, Donovan McNabb had a few thoughts on Chip’s recent struggles, writes Syracuse.com’s Chris Carlson.

“Well, [Kelly] better win soon,” McNabb said. “You talk about the tenure I had, over a decade of winning successfully, making it to the playoffs. First round meant nothing to us. It was second round, NFC Championship or Super Bowl.

“We’ve had a top-five offense, but he hasn’t had any playoff wins to show for it. We can talk about how smart you are and the numbers you’re putting up, but Philadelphia is used to winning. If you’re not winning, it’s going to be next man up.”


T-Mac helps you get through the work day by answering your questions in his mailbag.