One of the biggest weaknesses in 2013 for the Philadelphia Eagles defense was their inability to get to the quarterback. Taking a quick glance at the nominal stats, it would appear that the Eagles’ defense was only slightly below average at pressuring the quarterback, considering that they were ranked 20th with 37 sacks.
However, when taking a closer look at the numbers, they also faced the highest amount of passing attempts in the NFL with 670. That comes out to one sack every 18.1 attempts. The only team in the NFL with a lower sack rate in 2013 was the Dallas Cowboys, who registered 34 sacks on 623 passing attempts (one sack every 18.3 attempts).
The Eagles did not address the pass rush in free agency. Instead, they opted to address it in the draft by selecting Marcus Smith with the 26th pick of the draft. Hopefully, Smith turns out to be a great linebacker, but it is a lot of pressure to put on a rookie to expect him to come in and be “the guy” who solves the Eagles’ pass rushing woes in 2014.
Outside linebackers Trent Cole and Connor Barwin are established veterans. With Cole and Barwin, I wouldn’t expect more than what we saw last year when it comes to rushing the passer, which was average production. Instead, I believe the biggest difference for the Eagles pass rush in 2014 rests in increasing the playing time of Vinny Curry.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) May 28, 2014
Vinny Curry was easily the most effective 3-4 defensive end for the Eagles in 2013 when it came to rushing the passer. He finished the season with five sacks on only 217 pass rushing attempts (one sack every 43.4 attempts). To put this into perspective, only two 3-4 defensive ends finished with a better sack rate, and they are New Orleans’ Cameron Jordan and Buffalo’s Kyle Williams. In addition to his five sacks, Curry also had 22 hurries.
While 13 3-4 defensive ends had more hurries than Curry, 11 of them had more than double the amount of pass rushing attempts that Curry had.
Curry saw limited action in 2013 mainly because he was undersized for a 3-4 defensive end and he was learning to play a new role in the 2‑gap 3-4 defense that Defensive Coordinator Billy Davis’ defense employs. Curry has added some weight to his frame this off-season to be more stout against the run, and he has worked on improving his technique to be a more well rounded linemen who can play in a 2-gap defense. However, in my opinion even if he isn’t exactly what Davis is looking for from the defensive end position, Davis has to find more ways to get Curry on the field because of how effective he is as a pass rusher.
After the jump we’ll take a look at some great examples of the kind of pressure Curry was able to create last year…