All-22: Why the Eagles’ Pass-Rush Is Struggling
Here’s an All-22 look at the issues plaguing the Eagles’ pass rush, with a focus on last week’s performance against the Falcons.
Play 1: The Eagles got the Falcons in a 3rd-and-8 on their first possession and sent a blitz. Both linebackers (DeMeco Ryans and Casey Matthews) went after Ryan. Nobody got close to the quarterback.
One-on-one blocks all around, and look at that pocket. Granted, Ryan got rid of the ball quickly, but I would bet the Eagles haven’t given Michael Vick a pocket like this against a six-man pressure all season.
Meanwhile, the Falcons set up with a bunch look to the left. The Eagles appeared to be in man coverage with two deep safeties, but there was one problem: No one accounted for Drew Davis, who was left wide open.
The result is a 15-yard completion and a Falcons first down. After the game, Todd Bowles took responsibility for making a bad call on the first drive. This could have been the play he was talking about.
Play 2: Another clean pocket in the first for Ryan. Here, he finds Tony Gonzalez for an 11-yard completion.
Now is a good time to address the “He got rid of the ball quickly” argument. Last year, J.J. Cooper of Football Outsiders tracked how many “quick sacks” various defensive linemen had. These were sacks that occurred in 2.5 seconds or less from when the ball was snapped. Jason Babin had eight of those, and Cole had five.
Pretty much any time I’ve interviewed a defensive lineman in the past two years, he’s talked about the need to get off the ball quickly to be effective in Jim Washburn’s system. In other words, the pass-rush is supposed to account for quarterbacks getting rid of the ball quickly. That doesn’t always translate into sacks, but it should mean making life difficult for the opposing offense. That’s not happening nearly enough right now.
On the play above, Ryan got rid of the ball in under three seconds, but the Eagles made it pretty easy for him.
Play 3: On the first touchdown, the key was Julio Jones (red circle). Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Kurt Coleman reacted to a possible WR screen as Davis ran right past them.
Again, it didn’t help that Ryan again had a clean pocket. The Falcons kept in seven to block. Babin got a one-on-one, although that was probably because he rushed off the edge. As you can see, he and the Eagles’ other linemen got nowhere near Ryan.
Play 4: Tim already did a good job of breaking down the Jones 63-yard touchdown against Nnamdi Asomugha, but again, look at the pocket for Ryan.
He once again got rid of the ball in under three seconds, so it would have been difficult to sack him, but Eagles defensive linemen are nowhere near him. Brandon Graham got chipped. Derek Landri initially faced a double-team, and then the guard moved to Darryl Tapp. To be fair, it didn’t help that Ryan often had his first read open. On all levels, this was just too easy for the quarterback.
Play 5: Here, it’s another 11-yard completion to Gonzalez. Ryan again gets rid of the ball in under three seconds. But the pocket is clean.
Play 6: So, if the quarterback’s getting rid of the ball quickly and you’re not getting pressure with the front four, what do you do? One option is to blitz. Overall, the Eagles blitzed seven times – not really an increase from what we saw in the first six games. I showed one of them earlier. Here’s another.
The Eagles send six (Mychal Kendricks and Ryans), but no one gets a hand on Ryan. The blitz goes up the middle, setting up one-on-ones for both ends, but Ryan hits Roddy White on the drag route for 14 yards.
Play 7: It probably goes without saying, but the back end plays a critical role in pressure. Take a look at this play near the end of the first half. Asomugha has single coverage on Jones, and the Falcons try a double-move. Asomugha doesn’t bite, the Eagles pressure Ryan, and they drop him after a 1-yard scramble.
Here, you see that the coverage was good, leading to pressure on the quarterback. Rather than blitzing, this is probably the Eagles’ best option for fixing the pass-rush. Cover better, make the quarterback hold the ball, and give the defensive line more time to get home.
Play 8: Another example here of how this is supposed to work. Graham bull-rushes the right tackle and makes things difficult for Ryan.
Ryan has a receiver open, but the defensive line makes it hard to get rid of the football, so he has to scramble.
And it’s not as if Ryan held onto the ball here. The first image was captured about 1.9 seconds after the ball was snapped. Graham just got to him quickly.
Play 9: In the third quarter, Cole shows he’s capable of doing the same, beating Baker one-on-one and forcing Ryan out of the pocket.
The pressure got there in about 2.1 seconds. It sounds simple, and it is. One way to fix the pass-rush: Get there faster! Again, they did so in 2011. They’re not doing so enough this year.
Play 10: In the red zone in the third, Cedric Thornton breaks the sack drought with a pressure up the middle.
Did Ryan hold on to the ball too long? Nope. This sack took place in about 2.2 seconds. You can see the right guard is pushed back into Ryan’s face. He wanted to go White, but Asomugha had good coverage.
Once again, evidence that the front end and the back end have to work together for this defense to be successful.