When the time comes Monday night for new Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis to dial up his first blitz he might notice the hover of Brandon Graham’s shadow. “Oh yeah man because I’m trying to be in that down” Graham said this week. “I’m trying to be that guy.” Who is that guy for the Eagles this season the one Davis will summon regularly to put the opposing quarterback in the dirt and get his defense off the field? That’s kind of the big question facing this new Eagles defense going into Monday’s showdown against the Redskins or at least one of the several areas of concern for this new group. Graham who last year finally showed glimpses of his first-round potential put up a career-best 5.5 sacks. That number won’t keep opposing offensive coordinators awake at night but his playing time was severely stunted until the Eagles parted way with problem child Jason Babin and then Babin’s enabler D-line coach Jim Washburn. For now though Graham remains a backup. The team’s move from a 4-3 scheme to the 3-4 means pass rush now comes predominantly from linebackers but Trent Cole and Connor Barwin are ahead of Graham on the depth chart. Cole a two-time Pro Bowler who never had fewer than eight sacks for six straight seasons took a giant step back last season. He had just three sacks and suddenly seemed vulnerable to the double teams and chips and other slow-down tactics he used to beast through. Cole turns 31 in a few weeks and faces questions about aging and career decline. Barwin the former Texan tied for third in the AFC two years ago with 11.5 sacks. He managed just three last season. With first-round pick Whitney Mercilus waiting in the wings Houston deemed Barwin expendable and let him walk. The rest of the names are a who’s-who of promising young defensive linemen who’ve yet to showcase double-digit sack potential: Fletcher Cox last year’s first-round pick who shared the team lead in sacks with 5.5; Vinny Curry a second-round pick from last season who didn’t play until Week 10; and Mychal Kendricks an inside linebacker who only this preseason had his number called consistently on pressure schemes. Last year the Eagles managed just 30 total sacks good for a three-way tie for 25th in the league. This after sharing the league lead in 2011. At one point the Eagles went three consecutive games without one. “I think we'll find out [Monday night] but I think the guys that have the history of it: The Trent Coles the Connor [Barwins] Brandon Grahams” Davis said when asked who his best pass rushers are. “I think Mychal Kendricks has a skill set for rushing a little bit. Cox Vinny Curry. It’s kind of showed itself through their history and what the stats have shown over the last couple years. In the preseason we had a couple nice sack games.” Of those names Curry showed the most upside this preseason. He took up permanent residence in the backfields against all four opponents. But after bulking up this offseason he was never really considered for the open left defensive end spot opposite Cox. As of Friday Curry didn’t have a firm grip on Davis’ vision of the pass rush. “I definitely know what we can do. We definitely got some lethal guys that can get after the quarterback” he said. “As far as who they’re gonna put out there … you can’t sense that.” Given the state of their remade secondary it’s safe to assume the Eagles aren’t going to stop many offenses if they can’t generate pressure up front. The ’Skins finished with the NFL’s second-best offense last year behind No. 2 overall pick quarterback Robert Griffin III. Their left tackle Trent Williams made the Pro Bowl last year.
Dominant pass rusher for Eagles still a mystery
CSN Philly | Sep 8