PHILADELPHIA – Not since their front four boasted the likes of Reggie White, Clyde Simmons, Jerome Brown and Mike Pitts has the Philadelphia Eagles been as good on the pass rush as this season.
Going into Sunday's game against Seattle, the Eagles are second in the league in sacks with 42, on pace for 56. That would be the most the team has had since 1989, when Simmons, White, Brown and Pitts combined for 44 of the franchise-high 62 sacks.
And like that '89 team the Eagles are getting the pass rush from all over the field.
Outside linebacker Connor Barwin leads the NFC with 12 1/2. Vinny Curry (seven), Trent Cole (6 1/2), and Brandon Graham (5 1/2) are all in the mix as well.
"I think it's a lot tougher," Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis said this week. "The one-on-one matchups and way we move them around so we can go ahead and manipulate some of one on ones. It's a tribute to those guys and the coaching they're getting. They're doing a great job teaching the stunts, the games, the straight rushes.
"We've put a lot of emphasis on it this year. Last year it was more about dropping into coverage. This year we say, 'OK, now we have that down, let's refocus on getting our pass rush going.' And I think the guys have responded. We've got a lot of guys who can rush the passer."
While Barwin is second in the NFL in sacks, Curry is ninth among all defensive linemen even though he plays about one-third of the defensive snaps, coming off the sideline when Davis switches to his four-man front.
Cole is fifth among NFC linebackers and Graham, who also plays a little over one-third of the snaps, is sixth.
"You can't pinpoint one guy and say 'stop him' because we have so many guys," Graham said. "We all want to get there and get the sack, but as long as somebody does, that's what counts."
Barwin is having the big year sack-wise, but he also knows the balance is what's made the pass rush so effective.
"It's great," he said. "It makes you better because of the guys you play with and I think there is a general understanding that we all kind of need each other to be our best. We all help each other."
"Rather than people worrying about who's the one getting them, we look at it as how many do we get as a group. It's a special, talented group of guys in that front seven."
Cole has been among the league's sacks leaders in the past. As a right end in the Eagles' old 4-3 alignment, he was in double figures four out of five years from 2007-2011. Now, as an outside linebacker in the 3-4, he needs 3 1/2 over the final four games to get there again.
"I still have a little bit left in me," Cole said with a grin. "I'd have to say this is probably the best overall group we've had in terms of how many guys can get there. Connor is having a great season. The young guys, Vinny and Brandon, they're getting there. And other guys are, too."
Through 12 games, 10 Eagles have been involved in a sack and six have at least three.
NOTES: Backup tight end Trey Burton (hamstring) is questionable for Sunday's game. Linebacker Emmanuel Acho (groin), defensive end Brandon Bair (elbow), kicker Cody Parkey (groin) and running back Chris Polk (ankle) are all probable. . Running back LeSean McCoy was excused from Friday's practice for personal reasons.
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