Does decent pass pressure offset Eagles' lack of sacks?


The Eagles are among the worst in the NFL getting sacks. How big a problem is that? That's up for debate.

The Eagles have 19 sacks, the fewest through 12 games since sacks became an official stat in 1983 and the fewest officially or unofficially since they had 17 through 12 games in 1976.

They rank 30th in the NFL in sacks per opposing pass play, and they’ve been held to one or no sack in eight of 12 games. They’re 2-6 in those games.

None of that is disputed.

What is disputed is how much of an issue this is, since the Eagles’ defensive front has generated decent pressure in some of the games it hasn’t recorded sacks.

Are hurries enough? Is pressure enough? Can the d-line be doing its job without actually recording sacks?

Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon shared his thoughts on the topic Tuesday, and while he acknowledges that he’d like to see more sacks, he also said they’re not the No. 1 way he measures pressure.

“You look at it in totality,” he said. “In passing situations, are you affecting the quarterback in a positive way for us? You do that a lot of different ways.

“There's no one that wants sacks more than the d-line and us because those are some splash game-changing plays. It's a way to get off the field on third down. It's a way on first and second down to put them behind the sticks, and you're always trying to get them to known pass situations.”


“But I don't think just measuring sacks is a good measure as far as how's your defensive line affecting the game. So I think they're doing a good job. Yeah, hopefully, we get some more production with sacking the quarterback at times and there's a lot of different ways to do that.”

The Eagles had six sacks vs. the Lions. They only have two in their last six other games. And one of them came in the final seconds Sunday at MetLife Stadium, when Daniel Jones essentially took a knee after running around to run the clock and Javon Hargrave was the first to touch him down.

Opposing quarterbacks have dropped back against the Eagles 431 times and fumbled once. Hargrave forced a Dak Prescott fumble back with a sack in Week 3.

Gannon said in his scheme, discipline is paramount. It’s not like the Eagles’ linemen can just pin their ears back and run randomly toward the quarterback. There’s a method in their madness, and if you don’t rush the right way and in the right gap, you make it easier for the opposing offense to hit a big play.

"Daniel (Jones) is a good one - he will gut you if you do not rush in a disciplined way,” he said. “When you're playing coverage, certain coverages, you don't have a lot of guys looking at him. If he creases you because somebody gets out of their rush lane or you don't balance the rush the right way, or even with pressure, it's how the pressure gets balanced, those end up being explosive plays.

“So there's definitely a blend of, ‘Hey, cut your ears back and go and beat your guy. Oh, but by the way, you can't end up on this side of the center,’ you know what I mean? Or for ends, turning the corner is great, but if it comes in and it's 13 yards, that's no good for anybody.

“There's always a blend of winning your 1-on-1 matchup in a disciplined way when we're four-man rushing. Four equals one (and) they have to be cognizant of their rush lanes.”

The Eagles have played better pass defense in recent weeks, although that could be a reflection of the quarterbacks they’ve faced more than anything.

They’re still allowing quarterbacks to complete an NFL-high 71.4 percent of their passes, with 20 TD passes, 7th-most in the league. Opposing passer rating is 98.8, 6th-highest in the NFL, and they’re 18th with eight interceptions.

So things have improved since they were allowing every QB to complete 80 percent of their passes, but the overall numbers – sacks included – are still disappointing.

And if you don’t think there’s a correlation between sacks and winning, consider this:

The 10 teams at the bottom of the NFL sack rankings are a combined 44-66-1 and the 10 teams at the top are 66-50-1.

Sacks matter.

“I think our d-line is doing a good job with that, affecting the quarterback in a positive way,” Gannon sad. “From my standpoint, it's always looking at, ‘How can we set it up a little bit better? What looks do we need to give? How can we change the picture on the quarterback, where you're forcing protection adjustments?’


“I think that all bleeds into our guys having success with sacks. So ultimately, it comes down to us and to myself.”

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