The timing was weird.
On Saturday, the Eagles gave Josh Sweat a three-year contract extension worth $40 million.
And on Sunday, he played only 28 of 70 snaps in the Eagles’ loss to the 49ers.
Not a great look. Especially considering the Eagles didn’t record a sack in the game, they rarely pressured Jimmy Garoppolo and they lost Brandon Graham in the first quarter to a season-ending injury.
The 49ers took control of the game in the second half, and still Sweat played 17 fewer snaps than Derek Barnett and even four fewer than Ryan Kerrigan.
The obvious question is … why did you just pay Josh Sweat $40 million and then play him just 40 percent of the snaps in a game where you desperately need some defensive punch and pass pressure?
The Eagles don’t make defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon available after games, although he is scheduled to meet with the media on Wednesday.
On Monday, Nick Sirianni said Sweat’s limited playing time was the product of the 49ers playing a lot of 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends, two wide receivers) and 21 personnel (one tight end, two running backs, two wide receivers).
Those are generally formations the 49ers run out of, and Sweat’s strength is getting after the quarterback, although he isn't bad against the run.
The 49ers ran 38 times and threw 30 times in their 17-11 win over the Eagles.
Despite all that, Sirianni acknowledged that Sweat should have played more.
“Yeah, Josh, that was kind of with some of the packages that you play against, they were in more 21 personnel, 12 personnel, so that just forced a couple different packages for us to be in,” he said.
“He'll play more. Looking back on it, he should have played more there, too, but that was just a design of what packages we were playing against (vs.) the 49ers.”
Sweat played 40 of 73 snaps in the blowout win over the Falcons a week earlier.
Graham has been the Eagles’ best outside rusher for most of the last decade. He ranks fourth in Eagles history with 59.0 sacks, including 30 over the last four years.
With Graham out, Barnett, Sweat and Kerrigan become the primary defensive ends, although rookie 3rd-round pick Milton Williams has practiced both at defensive tackle and defensive end. He played 27 snaps Sunday, only one less than Sweat. Also in the mix is rookie 7th-round pick Tarron Jackson, who played 11 snaps Sunday.
Sweat has 10 career sacks, a career-high 6.0 last year. Barnett has 19 ½ since the Eagles drafted him 14th overall in 2017. Kerrigan has 95 ½ career sacks, including 5 ½ in each of the last two years.
None of them has a sack yet.
“Obviously, we're going to miss the heck out of B.G.,” Sirianni said. “He is the heart and soul of this team. Look forward for guys stepping up, different guys leading, just a continued role for Fletcher Cox to lead. I think he's a great leader, he's been sharing that with B.G., now he gets to take over that on the field to run that defense and help run that defense.
“So look forward to everybody that gets an opportunity to step up in the absence of Brandon Graham. But we'll definitely miss Brandon and he'll be missed throughout the entire building."
It will be interesting to see what the defensive end rotation looks like starting Monday in Dallas. And whether defensive line coach Tracy Rocker and Gannon will let Sweat start earning that big contract.
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