Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Washburn effect: Should Eagles blitz more?

As I mentioned earlier this week, there were several reasons the Eagles failed to get pressure on Jay Cutler last Monday night.

Washburn effect: Should Eagles blitz more?

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler throws against Eagles´ Brandon Graham. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler throws against Eagles' Brandon Graham. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

As I mentioned earlier this week, there were several reasons the Eagles failed to get pressure on Jay Cutler last Monday night.

The Bears kept extra blockers in. They moved the pocket and rolled Cutler away from Trent Cole. Cutler showed great pocket awareness and was able to escape pressure and make plays. And Chicago's offensive linemen won one-on-one battles when they needed to.

Eagles cornerbacks were unable to stick with the Bears receivers when Cutler had time, and the result was a 30-24 loss.

Keeping that in mind, here's the breakdown of how Jim Washburn's defensive line is performing, as always, starting with snap counts from last week:

Player Pct. of Snaps
Trent Cole
Jason Babin
Cullen Jenkins 68.7%
Mike Patterson 67.2%
Trevor Laws 34.3%
Derek Landri 34.3%
Darryl Tapp 31.3%
Brandon Graham 31.3%
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For the second week in a row, Washburn was able to go with a pretty true rotation. Cole played the most snaps, followed by Babin, Jenkins and Patterson. The second group featured Graham for the first time. He played 21 snaps.

Juqua Parker did not play last week and was listed as a limited participant in practice Thursday. We'll see what Washburn's plan is when all five defensive ends (Babin, Cole, Tapp, Graham, Parker) are healthy.


Here's a look at sacks and hurries:

  Sacks Hurries
Cole 0 2
Babin 0 7
Jenkins 0 0
Patterson 0 2
Laws 0 0
Landri 0 0
Tapp 0 0
Graham 0 0

No one had a sack, but Babin was still pretty productive with seven hurries. He and Cole both saw a lot of extra attention. It seemed like when the Bears had a tight end or running back outside to help against Cole, he would try to rush inside, but wasn't very effective.

The Eagles got very little from their interior pass rushers. Patterson had a couple hurries, but the other three defensive tackles were completely shut out. Jenkins has gone without a sack in three straight games and four of the last five.

As always, it's good to look at opportunities. Below are percentages on how often each defensive lineman has notched a sack or hurry, based on number of chances to rush the quarterback (provided by Pro Football Focus).

  Sacks+Hurries Pass-Rushing Opportunities Pressure Pct.
Cole 21 172 12.2%
Babin 38 212 17.9%
Jenkins 14 208 6.7%
Patterson 14 190 7.4%
Laws 11 105 10.5%
Landri 2 44 4.5%
Tapp 12 81 14.8%
Parker 5 63 7.9%
Hunt 5 45 11.1%
Dixon 1 42 2.4%
Graham 0 11 0.0%

Babin has been the Eagles' most productive pass rusher. Cole has one sack and four hurries in two games since returning from injury. He hasn't looked like his usual self just yet.

Jenkins has five sacks, but if you look at pressure percentage, Patterson and Laws have actually been getting to the quarterback at a higher rate.

I was somewhat surprised to see the Eagles' coaching staff have Graham down for zero hurries. I thought there were a couple instances where he got pressure.


Against the Redskins and Cowboys, the Eagles didn't blitz a lot, but when they did, they were effective. Those two opponents were just 4-for-9 for 43 yards (4.78 YPA) when the Eagles blitzed.

But when Juan Castillo dialed up extra pressure against Chicago, Cutler burned them. The Eagles blitzed on seven of 32 Cutler dropbacks, or 21.9 percent of the time. On those plays, he went 5-for-6 for 78 yards (13.0 YPA). The Bears also drew a 17-yard pass interference penalty on Nnamdi Asomugha on one of the blitzes. Keep in mind that for our purposes, blitz is defined by more than four pass rushers. On two occasions, the Eagles lined up with five defensive linemen. Once, they ran a zone blitz, dropping Cole back into coverage.

On the season, the Eagles have blitzed on 42 of 274 dropbacks, or 15.3 percent of the time. Opponents are 20-for-38 for 334 yards (8.79 YPA) against the Eagles' blitz. In other words, the extra pressure has not been effective.

The Bears found success keeping extra blockers in and letting what has looked like a mediocre receiving group get open against the Eagles' secondary. We could very well see other teams follow a similar formula to neutralize the Birds' pass rush, which has been the strongest part of the defense through the first half of the season.

But clearly, extra pressure has not exactly confused opposing quarterbacks, so more blitzing is unlikely to solve the Eagles' issues.

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Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for philly.com. His earliest memories as a sports fan include several trips to Veterans Stadium with his Dad. He's not a beat writer or an Insider, but is here to discuss the NFL 365 days a year. E-mail him at skapadia@philly.com or by clicking here

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