The Philadelphia Eagles have the incredibly difficult task of containing and controlling Tom Brady. It is a lofty expectation when the opposing quarterback is a five-time Super Bowl champion and future Hall of Famer.
If there was any defensive front that could be up to the lofty assignment, it just might be these Eagles defensive linemen.
What the Eagles bring
The Eagles front applies efficient and consistent pressure all game long. Two keys make them truly special and complete as a unit, separating them from the rest of the league’s pass rush.
(1) Unusual depth has helped this group stand out in a big way. This team has a superstar in Fletcher Cox at defensive tackle, along with veterans Chris Long and Brandon Graham. But they also have plenty of players that they can rely on to get pressure.
The Eagles rarely blitz and prefer to depend on the four-man front for their quarterback pressure. This puts plenty of bodies in the Philly secondary but it only works if the four-man rush can get home. Getting to the quarterback while only rushing four has been possible because of a league-leading seven players recording 20+ quarterback pressures this season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Cox, Graham and Long lead the group with 161 combined pressures; an impressive number alone. They are then able to pair that with the efforts of Vinny Curry, Derek Barnett, Timmy Jernigan and Beau Allen for 128 more pressures.
“Being able to rotate as many defensive linemen as we do without any dropoff, it means a lot,” said Cox on the Eagles depth. “We have guys in that room that could start anywhere in this league, we play anywhere from seven to eight guys in that rotation and when you have guys that can come in for your starters and you don’t see a dramatic drop off, that says a lot.”
(2) Cohesion along the entire front allows for them to run nearly the equivalent of hockey rotations on the defensive line with successful results. The consensus from all the players was how tightly knit the group is.
“It makes it easy to come in, all of the guys on the line have great chemistry so it makes it easy to come in,” said rookie Barnett. “The vets made it easy for the rookies to come in and make the transition to the NFL.”
The way the defensive line, along with the entire defense, has gelled is noticeable by everyone on the team.
“There are no egos in that locker room, and there are especially no egos on that defense,” said wide receiver Torrey Smith. “On the offense, we have team dinners and hang out but I have never seen anyone hang out as much as that defense.”
These two factors on what could be the best part of this team hold the key for Philadelphia. If they can continually give Brady problems while only rushing four, the Eagles will be walking in the footsteps of teams like the Denver Broncos or New York Giants.
The front that has produced 38 sacks and 16 forced fumbles has one final game to get up for and make a difference.
Photo: Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox wears a wrestling mask as he takes part in a media availability for the NFL Super Bowl 52 football game Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, in Minneapolis. Philadelphia is scheduled to face the New England Patriots Sunday. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)