The Philadelphia Eagles defense ranked 32nd in pass defense in 2013. We are all aware of the issues in the secondary that attributed to that porous performance. With the addition of former New Orleans Saints free safety Malcolm Jenkins hopefully an improved back end will lead to less busted coverages and fewer big plays in the passing game. That being said, an upgrade to a middling pass rush could go a long way in aiding the secondary to that end.
The Superbowl champion Seattle Seahawks proved that pressuring the quarterback is vital in this pass-happy league. Even with a great secondary, they flourished by sending wave after wave of pass rushers at opposing signal-callers. The Eagles don’t have a great secondary, so it is more imperative that they get after the quarterback at a higher clip than last season.
Philadelphia ranked 20th in sacks last year, and in the 3-4 defensive scheme they run, typically a majority of the pressure comes from the outside linebacker position. The Eagles starting OLB’s Trent Cole and Conner Barwin finished with 8 and 5 sacks respectively. Of Cole’s 8 sacks, 7 came in 3 games, and he had only one sack in Philadelphia’s 7 losses. There were 11 games where he didn’t have a sack. Now to be fair, it was the first year that Cole was transitioned to that linebacker spot from his traditional defensive end position, and by all accounts he did pretty well. However, if the Eagles defense is to take the next step towards dominance, they must produce at least low double digit sacks from that position.
Since Barwin is expected to continue his role as the drop LB, there needs to be an addition to help Cole out. Unless something unforeseen happens through the remaining free agency period, then the Eagles need to address this deficiency at some point during the draft. Obviously with the sudden need for a wide receiver, and continued needs at both safety and cornerback, there are many directions that can be taken with the early picks. But if a guy like Auburn’s Dee Ford is available when the Eagles pick in the 1st round, it would be tempting to get an explosive edge rusher that could speed up the clock on opposing passers.
Either way, in order for the Eagles to re-capture the division crown, and soar deeper in the playoffs, they must get more pressure off the edge.