The Eagles recorded two sacks against the Redskins Sunday, and relatively speaking, it seemed like the floodgates had opened up.
The reality is that the Eagles are mired in one of the worst sack slumps in franchise history with no end in sight.
The Eagles have now gone seven straight games without more than two sacks, and not coincidentally they’re 1-6 in those seven games.
Since Week 7, the Eagles have eight sacks in seven games. Only the Texans, with six, have fewer. And they’re missing J.J. Watt.
Without pass pressure to worry about, opposing quarterbacks are lighting up the Eagles’ defense to the tune of a 102.2 passer rating during that seven-week span. That’s fourth-highest in the league over the past seven weeks.
The Eagles have allowed 15 TD passes these last seven games; only the Titans (16) have allowed more.
It all begins with pass pressure. And while sacks aren’t the only way to measure pass pressure, they are a very effective way.
Sacks became an offiial NFL stat in 1982, and the Eagles’ current streak of seven games in a row without more than two sacks is their longest in 23 years and second-longest ever.
They went 10 games in a row without a sack in 1993, a year after Reggie White bolted for Green Bay.
“It's hard to feel good about your production when we're not getting any sacks,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said Tuesday.
The confounding thing here is that the Eagles ranked second in the NFL after six weeks with 20 sacks, their most through six games since 2009. And they were 4-2 with the NFL's fifth-ranked defense.
But the pressure just stopped.
The last few years, all the extra snaps the defense was forced to play because of Chip Kelly’s hurry-up offense was a convenient excuse for the defense’s late-season drop-off.
There’s no such excuse this year.
After recording three sacks the first three weeks, Brandon Graham has two in the last 10 games. Vinny Curry has 1½ all year. Connor Barwin had three the first seven games, one the last six. Fletcher Cox had 1½ sacks Sunday against the Redskins, his first since Week 4.
These are all proven pass rushers with big contracts. And the production just hasn’t been there.
Overall, the Eagles have 28 sacks, which puts them on pace for 34 this year. They averaged 41 under Bill Davis, and 43 per year under Jim Johnson. Heck, they averaged 41 under Sean McDermott, Juan Castillo and Todd Bowles.
Schwartz spoke at length Tuesday about what he’s seen these last two months and why he thinks the sack numbers have dwindled.
“It depends on so many things,” he said. “Depends on the score, obviously. You're always going to rush better when you have an opponent that's trying to catch up in a game.
“Sometimes, third down, if you can force a quarterback to check the ball down, not be able to hold it long enough, you've done your job there also.
“I don't know. I mean, we obviously went through a long time where we were struggling to get sacks. In this game I thought our pressure was more effective. Was it good enough to win the game? No.
“There are times, like late in that game, the 3rd-and-1 play right before the fourth-down play that we gave up that kept that drive alive, we did get good pressure on that. Quarterback threw the ball away. Jordan Hicks was on a blitz. Connor was free on the outside. Forced that second time, they throw in a three-step. Didn't matter if you had a good rush or not, you weren't going to get there.
“You've got to be careful with judging it only on sacks, but sacks do affect the game. We saw on the other side of the ball. There's such a high incidence of turnover when you sack quarterbacks. That's why we put such an emphasis on it.
“Not only do you stop drives and get them for lost-yardage plays, but there is a high incidence of quarterbacks either getting tipped balls or throwing when they're getting hit and you’re getting interceptions or (he’s) fumbling.
“Those are the plays that we’ve been missing. We got to get back to those.”