• June 25, 2022

The Eagles Best Pass Rushing Linebackers Will Be On The Field

Although there have been a great number of conversations about Trent Cole’s and Brandon Graham’s ability or inability to drop at the snap of the ball and cover the pass in Billy Davis’ defense, the guy who will be the starter is going to be the guy who can get to the quarterback.  Davis isn’t going to overdo having Cole or Graham drop into coverage, they’re on the team because they can put pressure on the quarterback, so for the most part that is what they’re going to be asked to do.

It’s been taken for granted by some that Cole will be the starter at the right outside linebacker position, but that’s not written in stone.  I thought Graham was a much more effective  pass rusher a year ago than the veteran Cole.  Trent played nearly the entire season, but was able to come down with only three sacks.  Those are horrible statistics.

Graham played on and off, and started near the end of the season, but he was able to come down with 5.5 sacks in that time.  He might have played about %50 of the snaps that Cole played, yet he almost doubled him in sack production.  That is a huge difference in performance.

We heard every type of excuse in the book regarding why Cole wasn’t getting to the quarterback.  That worked a year ago, but it won’t work this time around.   The Eagles must get pass rush pressure from their right side outside linebacker.

The newly acquired Connor Barwin, who will be playing the left side on first downs, is going to be asked to cover the tight end or at least jam him and delay his release off the line.  The left outside linebacker will be in pass coverage more often than the right side outside linebacker, because most teams are right handed and they line their tight ends up on their right side on first down.

After first down Barwin will be lining up in different spots and given a chance to get after the passer.  The former Houston Texan will begin the season in this role, but he’ll need to demonstrate he can get to the passer or before too long you will see another linebacker or two on the field.

The outside linebackers are supposed to provide the most pass rush pressure in this defense.  The defensive ends will have a tougher job of getting to the passer because they’ll be lined up inside and they don’t have the freedom to just run up field in their pass rush.

Most of the time that ROLB is coming off the ball as a pass rusher with his “hair on fire”.  These guys will be dropping into coverage only one out of every ten times the ball is snapped.  They are pass rushers and the best of the two will be on the field trying to make a difference.

The Birds aren’t going to decide to put the guy out there who covers the pass routes the best.  It’s going to be the guy who can beat the opponent’s offensive tackles and get to the quarterback.

I wouldn’t be surprised if over time, Graham wins the job because he’s younger with fresher legs.  Cole is a warrior, but at some point in the career of every player, his legs abandon him and he loses his effectiveness.  We’ll see if last year was a mistake or did it tell us the truth.


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  • “….but at some point in the career of every player, his legs abandon him and he loses his effectiveness.”

    Hmmm….like when they turn about 33. Sorry had to.

    There are 2 things that concern me with this D.

    1 – time. Its going to take about half a season before the players really get a good grasp of the system. I expect them to be looking pourous for those first games. That might be trouble.

    2 – TOP. Time of posession. Its one of my biggest worries about the high-tempo O. I think the Eagles are going to be on the wrong side of 30 minutes jest about every game. (Often at Oregon his teams were around 22 mins). This is fine if they’re dropping 50, but that isn’t going to happen in the NFL.

    I am very worried that no matter how productive these guys are on D, they’re going to break down weeks 14 on.

    • Wow….that was very insightful….time and time of possession..wow!

      Football is football. These guys are professionals and have been playing the games since they were knee high. This isn’t high school sports. The defense can be effective if the DC handles it correctly…keeps it simple…don’t ask players to do things they can’t do.

      It doesn’t matter if they are on the wrong end of TOP if they are scoring TD’s. The concern should still be with the DB’s covering receivers…Getting to the QB. LB’s covering TE’s, RB’s…and most importantly, coaching on the defensive side of the ball.

  • Vinnie wrong again .

    • Insightful as always.

  • I don’t know if Brandon Graham will become a good OLB, but if he doesn’t – and if some of the new defensive backs don’t pan out – this could be one of the worse defenses in the league.

    It’s a fine line between “Good” and “Record setting Bad”… Pass rush and pass coverage will make or break this defense.

    You will be surprised how much Chip Kelly’s offense will resemble Andy Reid’s offense if the Eagles are always playing catch-up.

  • I expect this defense to struggle this year. Vinnie’s point about time of possession is a very good point.
    My biggest reason for fear is the defensive coordinator who has shown little to no ability to coach defense in this league. I think he was a terrible hire and will be replaced at the end of the year.

  • I choose not to share my insights with you . why would I want to educate you

  • A Positive about the Eagles Defense is that they will Play about 20 Players in and out and should be fresh with lots of Opportunities for many Players to make some plays and the fact they open the Regular Season against the Redskins (who may not have RGIII) and the Chargers & Chiefs (who both have New Coaches and Schemes) could help them get off to a decent Start as this Defense will be a work in porgress for 2013..
    I still see the LB Corp ending up as Barwin and Kendricks playing on the Outside with Graham and Ryans in the Inside in their Base 3-4 Package and Trent Cole relegated as strictly a Pass-Rushing DE in obvious Passing Downs..
    Then on Passing Downs, Ryans comes off Field, with Kendricks sliding in the Middle for Pass Coverage and Graham sliding to the Outside as a Pass-Rusher…

    • lol sounds good but you just can’t line Graham up inside like this is Madden on PS3. the fact that you had Avant and Harbor taking snaps on D shows all the thinking that has gone into the personnel on that side of the ball, not one report had Brandon playing inside LB lol You may can get away with it in a 4/3 over situational play but if they play a good QB and they see BG at ILB please believe they will expose that quicker than having Levan Kirkland cover a crossing route and have us all screaming at the TV “WHY IS GRAHAM COVERING HIM” lol

      • Graham would line up on the Inside on the Base Package which would be
        1st Downs to help Run SUpport.. Kendricks is not big/strong enough at the point of attack to take NFL Guards on.. Graham is 15lbs bigger than Kendricks and playing alongside Ryans, Graham’s repsonsibility would be from Guard to Guard versus the Run, shoot the gaps, penetrate the line of scrimmage to stuff the Running Game..
        Now Once Passing Downs/Situations come, then Graham is strictly a Pass-Rushers moved all around the formation and at the line-of-scrimmage and not involved in Pass Coverage, which Kendricks would be responsible for sliding back to the Inside to replace Ryans who is dificient in Pass-coverage himself..

        • not questioning your4 logic I know why you are saying it. just saying that is not in the Eagles plans. however weight is not the only requirement for mlb, footwork play recognition from a whole different area of the field. keep in mind also in the nfl every down can be a passing down. the birds would need to have been working on this like yesterday.

          • I hear you NuGreembol, but I think your missing my point that Graham would not be a “MLB”, He would play Inside in a Base 3-4 alongside Ryan’s and would only be responsible from the Center-to Tackle area and not a Traditional MLB in a 4-3 which is a Huge Difference where you would need better fotwork, natural instincts, playing the angles, calling Defense’s, etc,etc… I am suggesting Graham as an ILB in the base 3-4 Package (early rushing downs) and would be surrounded by Barwin/Ryans on either side so I don’t believe that it would be a very difficult adjustment on his end and he has the size/strength over Kendricks to plug the 1 & 3 Gaps better and take on Blocking FB’s to help stop the run while Kendricks would be better utilized as a OLB to use his Athleticism in my Base 3-4 Package.. Again this is my Base Package.. On obvious Passing Downs, Graham would strictly be a Pass-Rusher from multple formations.. I don’t believe Graham (or Trent Cole) can be a very effective “Base 3-4 OLB” in the NFL where they can get exposed.. but Graham as one of the ILB can be shielded and helped by those LB around him, at OLB, your kind of on a island and have lots of field nad repsonsibililtes where I think the Eagles Best options would be C Barwin on the Strong Side and Kendricks on the Weak Side… I believe Graham and Cole would have little chance to be successful playing a OLB for they lack the lateral quickness and overall athleticism that is needed to play Outside

            • Paulman, you make some good points and I agree about Graham and Coles use in 3-4…but your forgetting that the Eagles will really be in a 4-3 set at times, one of the OLB’s (Cole/Graham) will be rushing…Its not going to be a conventional 3-4 defense.

              • You are correct RT777, Passing Downs will look a lot like the Steelers/Ravens/Browns Defense’s where they are Rushing 4 or even 5 Defenders….
                …3 DL & 2 LB’s or even 4 DL & 1 LB.. so it’s where some of the LB’s line up is going to be irrelevant in passing situations..
                I jus believe you can limit dificiencies of a LB playing on the Inside more than playing on the Outside and for 2013, the Eagles will have to limit Graham/Cole as much as possible and basically have them as pass-rushers but I do believe Graham can be effective versus the run playing an ILB spot in a 3-4

            • I hear you. In theory its a better fit as you describe, I just don’t think they are looking at that at all. I felt last year kendricks didn’t rush the edge enough. My only hesitation on graham would be attacking his zones or when he is in there teams knowing he is rushing no matter what. from the edge you can be predictable its not a good idea to do that right in front of the qb’s face. I think it can work just not against the better qb’s who recognize and expose players with significant weaknesses. What kendricks lacks in size in the middle he makes up for with speed instincts, and his coverage ability in space is pretty good he even has some hop to go up in the air. I’m looking forward to seeing what they march out there this fall.

  • Yo, G: I know this is an Eagles site, but the Patriots have been making some big news in the last couple of weeks: First, they sign Tim Tebow (good news), and now, Aaron Hernandez is being pointed to as the suspect in a murder!

    Anyway, LB is a position that requires an athleticism & smarts, meaning the LB must be able to pursue, tackle, cover and just generally cause some chaos, and prevent his own ‘D’ from falling into chaos.

    Let’s have the most athletic LBs out there.

    • and Frank, that does not describe our Linebackers at all. They are trying to save face with the crap we’ve had to justify not drafting pure Linebackers with Pass rushing skills.

      I think both Cole, and Graham will disappoint, and the Eagles have to bite the bullet, and draft Linebackers relatively high that have talent, and can play for once.

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