Top-10 pass-rushers in NFC East after JPP trade
When Jason Pierre-Paul was traded out of the NFC East on Thursday, the division lost one of its best pass-rushers.
But there are still plenty left. And plenty of them play for the Eagles.
No, maybe the NFC East isn’t in its heyday anymore, but the division still boasts plenty of players who can get after the quarterback. Here are the top 10.
(All pictures from USA Today Images and AP Images.)
1. Ryan Kerrigan
Another year, another incredible season for Kerrigan in Washington. He had 13 sacks in 2017 and has never gone below 7½ since he entered the league in 2011. Kerrigan has 71½ sacks since 2011 and just three players have more: Von Miller, J.J. Watt and Cameron Wake. That’s some pretty good company. Kerrigan isn’t just great, he’s been consistently great for seven seasons.
2. Brandon Graham
Looking at sack numbers alone, Lawrence would be above Graham. But Graham still had 9½ sacks in 15 games and was incredibly disruptive again in 2017. He’s been the Eagles’ most disruptive edge player for the last two seasons. He also had 45 hurries during the regular season. And, oh yeah, he made the Super Bowl-winning strip-sack on Tom Brady.
3. Demarcus Lawrence
The Cowboys were forced to slap a franchise tag on Lawrence this offseason after his crazy good 2017 season. Lawrence had 14½ sacks to go along with 52 quarterback hurries and 12 QB hits. Those numbers are really great. But we haven’t seen him do this year in and year out yet; that will be his next test.
4. Fletcher Cox
The incredible thing about Cox is that while most of the guys on this list rush off the edge, Cox is going up the middle, often beating double teams. It would be foolish to look at his 5½ sacks in 2017 and think he wasn’t a wrecking ball. He’s probably the best overall player on this list, but just as a pass-rusher, No. 4 isn’t bad for a 4-3 defensive tackle.
5. Michael Bennett
Maybe at 32, Bennett is over the hill. That’s exactly what the rest of the NFC East has to be hoping because if not, the rich got richer. The Eagles are getting a guy coming off his third consecutive Pro Bowl after an 8-sack season for the Seahawks in 2017. He also had 16 QB hits and 44 QB hurries.
6. Olivier Vernon
I know, I know, No. 6 is too low on the list for Vernon, who is just a really good and probably underrated player. But he didn’t have his best season in 2017 and it was hard to expect him to playing for such a bad Giants team. Even with a down year, Vernon still had 6½ sacks, to go along with 24 QB hurries. He’s also excellent against the run, but we’re judging guys as pass-rushers.
7. Preston Smith
Because Kerrigan is so good on the other side, Smith probably gets overlooked too much. But in his first three seasons in the NFL, he has two years with 8.0 sacks. He had an 8-sack season in 2017 to go along with an impressive 14 quarterback hits.
8. Chris Long
It seems like Long is leaning toward returning for the 2018 season, which is really good news for the Eagles, who could really use him again. The most incredible stat from Long’s 2017 season was that he had five sacks and four of them were strip-sacks. That’s incredible. He never really lived up to being the No. 2 pick in the 2008 draft, but he’s a good, wily veteran.
9. Derek Barnett
If we were basing this list on potential, Barnett would be way up there. The Eagles’ first-round pick had five sacks as a rookie and then added a huge — and underrated — play against the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game. Barnett is being brought along slowly by the Eagles because they have so many good edge rushers, but he’s good and could become great if he keeps working on his craft. Even before his sacks started coming last year, he was showing promise.
10. Tyrone Crawford
Crawford edged out his Cowboys teammate David Irving to make this list, mostly because Irving was able to play just eight games in 2017. Crawford is a decent player, but he’s never had more than 5.0 sacks in a season. In 2017, he had 4.0. But Crawford was solid in 2017, picking up 26 QB hurries and 7 QB hits. Someone had to take the 10th spot.