Pass rush of Eagles still looking for lift
The Sports Xchange
NFL Team Report - Philadelphia Eagles - INSIDE SLANT
Improving that pass rush was one of their top offseason priorities. But with the start of the season just three weeks away, it remains a major concern.
The Eagles have just three sacks in the first two regular-season games, none against a starting quarterback. The lack of a pass rush is a big reason their two opponents - the Chicago Bears and New England Patriots - converted 20 of 32 third-down opportunities.
They spent their first-round pick on a pass-rusher, Louisville linebacker Marcus Smith. But Smith is a project who doesn't look like he's going to help the Eagles much, at least not right away.
He played 73 snaps in Friday's loss to the Patriots, but got close to the quarterback just once.
"He got a real extended look," coach Chip Kelly said. "He's got a burst. He's got some speed coming off the edge. But if you're going to play that many plays, we're going to need more production out of you. He's still working at it. He still has a lot of things to improve at."
Linebacker Trent Cole led the team in sacks last season with eight. But he will be 32 in October. Their other starting outside linebacker, Connor Barwin, may be their best hope to give the pass rush a boost.
Barwin had 11.5 sacks for the Houston Texans three years ago. He had five for the Eagles last season despite the fact that he spent a lot more time in coverage than Cole. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis has hinted that he will give Barwin more pass-rushing opportunities this season.
"That's what I hope happens," Barwin said. "I hope we can be really good and get teams into second-and-long, third-and-long. Get the event (four-man) front going. But if not, I'll drop into coverage and help where I can and pick my spots rushing. But that's all going to be week to week. Let's see how we play. Right now, it's too early to tell."
NFL Team Report - Philadelphia Eagles - NOTES, QUOTES
--The officials have been throwing flags at a record pace in the preseason and the Eagles haven't been immune. In their first two games, they've been flagged 19 times for 175 yards.
"Those are the rules and we've got to play by them," coach Chip Kelly said of this season's emphasis on illegal contact, defensive holding and illegal hands to the face. "If you can't play within the rules, you can't play in this league. That's just the bottom line. You're just handing people first downs. We better figure it out."
--Eagles players still are talking about their work with Kevin Greene. Greene, whose 160 sacks are the third most in NFL history behind Reggie White and Bruce Smith, spent three days working with the Eagles' pass-rushers two weeks ago.
"Just to see him on film, he did the same thing over and over, but he mastered it," linebacker Brandon Graham said. "It was all about timing. He said timing is everything. It's not always going to work. He showed us plays that didn't work. But you have to come with a counter-move too. If the first move doesn't work, you've got to come with a counter-move as fast as you can. That's what he was trying to tell us. If you just get the technique down and get your counter-move ready, you'll be good to go. But don't stop going towards the quarterback."
--Quarterback Mark Sanchez, who will back up Nick Foles this season, is having an excellent preseason. Through two games, he has a 115.1 passer rating and an 81.8 completion percentage. Coach Chip Kelly was asked Sunday whether he would be willing to trade Sanchez.
"He's played well, but we haven't had anybody call or ask us anything," he said. "So that's not something we're talking about."