When the Eagles' defense took the field Sunday, it featured five starters who were not on the team a year ago.
Quite a bit has changed on that side of the ball since the team lost to the Packers in the wild-card round of the playoffs. A new defensive coordinator in Juan Castillo. Two new cornerbacks in Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. A pair of new pass-rushers in Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins.
And of course, a new defensive line coach in Jim Washburn.
Really, all the changes can be traced back to Washburn. I'm not sure Castillo even gets the job had Andy Reid not been able to secure the defensive line coach first. Watching practices at Lehigh, it was clear Castillo didn't need to say a word to his linemen. Washburn was in control.
So on a weekly basis this season, I'll take a look at the Eagles' pass rush and the new wide-nine technique employed by Washburn.
How does he handle the rotation? Who are the most effective pass rushers? How often do the Eagles blitz? Are they successful when doing so? I'll try to answer those questions and more.
Let's start with the basics. Who played? Going into Week 1, we knew Washburn would rotate his defensive linemen, usually in groups of four, and usually every four snaps or so.
Here are the snap count numbers. Note that these are for the official plays and do not include plays that were wiped out because of penalties. Also note that these are my numbers so there is a margin of error.
What stands out here? The first thing is Cole's snaps. We knew he would see a decrease this season, and Week 1 gave us a clue on how much he'll be on the field. Cole played about 69.7 percent of the snaps. In 2010, he played about 89.4 percent of the Eagles' defensive snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.
Jenkins and Patterson were used more than Dixon and Laws at the tackle positions. As I mentioned earlier this week, it wouldn't surprise me to see Dixon on the field more if opponents are running all over the Eagles. He's a difference-maker against the run.
Tapp played the least, but remember that he suffered an injury in the second half.
Sacks are an official stat. You can find QB Hits in many box scores too. And the Eagles keep track of Hurries. So those are the three numbers we'll use here.
That's good production. The four defensive ends combined for four sacks, nine hurries and one touchdown.
But, as with everything else, it's good to base these numbers on opportunities. Below is a table with sacks and hurries, pass rushing opportunities and a simple percentage that shows how often each pass-rusher got to the quarterback.
Note: My percentages were off for Cole, Jenkins and Tapp in my original post. They have now been corrected.
Hard to believe, but Tapp did all of his damage on only eight pass-rushing opportunities.
Babin also had a high percentage, picking up a pair of sacks and hitting the QB four times on 18 opportunities.
Obviously, the numbers are going to be lower for defensive tackles, but Jenkins got off to a good start too.
WHAT ABOUT THE BLITZ?
The Daily News' Rich Hofmann wrote a good column today on the Eagles' decision not to blitz.
Sam Bradford and A.J. Feeley dropped back to pass 40 times, and the Eagles sent more than four rushers on just seven of those occasions.
The Eagles blitzed Nnamdi Asomugha, Kurt Coleman and Jarrad Page once each. Casey Matthews was the most frequent blitzer. He went after the quarterback five times. Jamar Chaney blitzed three times, and Moise Fokou just once. Brian Rolle, who played in the nickel, and was on the field for 14 snaps, blitzed twice.
Four of the Eagles' five sacks came when they only rushed four. The fifth came when they sent Rolle and rushed five.
The Eagles only zone-blitzed once. It was Parker dropping back into coverage.
When the Eagles blitzed, Rams quarterbacks went 2-for-6 for 49 yards (63.9 QB rating). When the Eagles rushed four, they were 16-for-29 for 160 yards (71.0 QB rating).
Of course, I wouldn't read too much into those numbers, considering how many balls the Rams dropped.
It was only one game, but the Eagles rotated eight defensive linemen and didn't blitz as much as they have in the past. And they were successful.
Next up are Matt Ryan and the Falcons. Against the blitz last season, Ryan completed 63.7 percent of his passes, averaged 7.63 yards per attempt and threw 13 touchdowns, compared to four interceptions. That translated to a QB rating of 100.2.
In other words, don't be surprised to see the Eagles hold back on sending extra defenders again in Week 2.