Philadelphia Eagles' defensive line review through Week 5

Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

John Breitenbach takes a look at the Eagles defensive line through the first 5 games of the season.

Philadelphia's defensive line is undoubtedly the team's top unit but, at least on the face of it, they've been much less productive than in 2011. With the sack numbers way down there's been a lot of talk about whether performance has dropped or if team's are simply paying more attention to the defensive line. Both Trent Cole and Jason Babin have argued tams are leaving extra players in to block but still neither has recreated the excellent form they had at the beginning of the previous season. The Giants especially focused on stopping the two defensive ends but otherwise they haven't really seen more attention than normal. Let's take an in-depth look.

Defensive Ends

Trent Cole

Cole has been one of the league's most underrated players for the past few years. Whether it was as a pass rusher or against the run Cole was dominant and didn't get the attention he deserved. He never put up the sack numbers, and as such was often overlooked, but he made a case for being the top 4-3 DE every year from 2009 to 2011. This season hasn't been as kind to him.

Year

Snaps

Sacks (no halves)

Hits

Hurries

Snaps/pressure

2012

147

2

4

7

11.3

2011

375

11

12

44

5.6

All statistics courtesy of PFF

As you can clearly see Cole has been getting to the QB nearly twice as infrequently as the year before. He also hasn't had the toughest of early tests with the only standout he's faced so far being Browns' left tackle Joe Thomas.

The story also somewhat holds true in the run game too where Cole simply hasn't been as productive. He has just three tackles around the line of scrimmage in five games. In contrast, in the same number of games last year, he had six. Again he was nearly twice as productive.

Jason Babin

Babin also hasn't quite lived up to the lofty expectations he's set himself. He got to face three rookies in the first three weeks and although he played well, wasn't as dominant as one might expect.

Year

Snaps

Sacks

Hits

Hurries

Snaps/pressure

2012

149

3

5

7

9.3

2011

427

18

12

37

6.4

Just as with Cole, Babin hasn't really got it going. He's made some plays and knocked the QB down eight times but hasn't been consistent as in the past.

To some extent Babin's lack of productivity as a pass rusher may have something to do with his improved ability against the run. Although he has the same number of tackles around the line of scrimmage (5) as 2011 he's shown a much better ability to set the edge.

Darryl Tapp

Following the theme of the previous two players, Tapp is another guy who simply hasn't stepped up as a pass rusher. While the other two have simply been above average rather than poor, the same cannot be said for the former Seahawk who has proven easy to block.

Year

Snaps

Sacks

Hits

Hurries

Snaps/pressure

2012

59

1

0

2

19.6

2011

172

3

6

13

8.6

Tapp has continued to have success against the run however and is a reliable player in that regard. Although he has only two tackles around the line of scrimmage he's also been in on just 56 snaps and has done a good job clogging running lanes.

Brandon Graham and Philip Hunt

I grouped these two together because neither had a significant role until this season. While many, including myself, predicted Hunt would dominate this season it's been Graham who's really been the revelation. His consistent pressure rushing the QB has been a sight to behold as he's stood out on almost every play. In contrast Hunt simply looks a different player to the one who was so good in 2011 and this preseason but it is still early

Hunt

Year

Snaps

Sacks

Hits

Hurries

Snaps/pressure

2012

28

0

0

1

28

2011

105

2

1

15

5.8

Graham

Year

Snaps

Sacks

Hits

Hurries

Snaps/pressure

2012

31

1

4

4

3.4

2011

28

0

0

5

5.6

There are even more impressive numbers for Graham in the run game where he already has three tackles for loss. He didn't have any in virtually the same number of snaps the year before. Meanwhile Hunt, who had two last season, has none thus far on the year.

Defensive Tackles

Cullen Jenkins

My main concern with Jenkins when the Eagles' signed him was ability to stay healthy. He's done that and rewarded the organisation on the field, especially with his ability to rush the passer. Jenkins has been a little quiet so far this year but he is coming off a season where he was one of the best interior pass rushers in the league which makes his numbers in 2011 look worse than they are.

Year

Snaps

Sacks

Hits

Hurries

Snaps/pressure

2012

136

0

0

7

19.4

2011

400

6

8

25

10.2

The drop off in getting to the quarterback has been offset by his play against the run as he's been a complete player through Week 5. He has four tackles around the line of scrimmage and has forced a further two holding penalties.

Derek Landri

Landri was undoubtedly the biggest surprise of any Eagle after he was resigned by the team. He didn't just come in and play well, he flat out dominated. I was interested therefore to see if he could sustain it and unfortunately the answer thus far has been no. It may well be that Landri isn't suited to being a starter as he's always been at his best in a rotation. Despite that, he's still been probably the best pass rusher on the team through five games.

Year

Snaps

Sacks

Hits

Hurries

Snaps/pressure

2012

72

0

3

4

10.3

2011

190

2

5

13

10

It's against the run that Landri has seen his biggest drop off. Despite his explosion off the ball, interior lineman have found it easier to use his momentum against him, and take him out of plays. He made 15 plays around the line of scrimmage in 165 snaps in 2011 but has just five in 72 during the current season.

Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton

Much like with the defensive ends I'm grouping these two together because neither was on the team during the "dream team" season. If one thing's for certain it's that you can tell Fletcher Cox's talent every time he steps onto a football field. That ability may not always translate to him making a play but the raw potential is off the charts. As for Thornton he had a tough start but came on strong recently. It will be interesting to see what happens with the rotation if/when Mike Patterson returns.

Player

Snaps

Sacks

Hits

Hurries

Snaps/pressure

Cox

129

1

2

3

21.5

Thornton

54

0

0

3

18

It's surprising the Eagles' have used Cox predominantly as a pass rusher and vice-versa with Landri as the former has been very impressive in that facet. He already has six tackles around the line of scrimmage in his young career. Thornton also has six and has added two holding penalties, an impressive collection of plays to add to his resume.

I think it would be fair to say that the defensive line have had a disappointing start to the year especially as pass rushers. Neither Babin nor Cole have reached heights they have previously in their careers while Tapp has been very quiet. It's probably time to start getting even more of a rotation going and possibly trying Hunt or Graham on the right side to provide more flexibility. On the inside they have a good group of players but they really need one guy (it was Jenkins last year) to step up as the interior rusher who gets consistent pressure. The potential for this unit is still there as all four starters have reached elite status at some point in their careers while their backups certainly have the credentials to make that jump.

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