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QB hits have rarely translated into sacks for Eagles

The SportsXchange

Before the season started, Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Trent Cole was asked if his unit, which notched a league-best 50 sacks last year, was capable of getting 60 this season.

"We can get as many as we want," the two-time Pro Bowler said confidently.

Maybe that ultimately will be the case, but through the first five games, sacks have been hard to come by for the Eagles (3-2). They've got just seven heading into Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions (1-3).

They're getting plenty of pressure on opposing quarterbacks -- their 88 hurries are 31 more than they had last year after five games. But sacks have been a different story. They haven't had any in the past two games. It's the first time the Eagles have gone back-to-back games without a sack since 2008.

It has been 94 consecutive pass plays -- a game-time span of 138:50 -- since the Eagles were able to drag down a quarterback.

Quarterbacks have been taking shorter drops and getting the ball out quicker against them. Teams are using maximum protection and sending fewer receivers out on routes.

"I think we're doing a decent job with the pressure part of it," coach Andy Reid said. "I know we are measured on sacks, but what you're seeing teams do right now is utilize their three-step-drop with a five-man protection, or you're seeing six- or seven-man protections.

"We saw a lot of six- and seven-man (protections) Sunday against the Steelers."

Defensive end Jason Babin, who had 18 sacks last season, has just 2 1/2 so far this year. Cole, who had 55 sacks in the previous five years, has just 1 1/2.

"That's how we measure ourselves, by sacks and tackles," Babin said. "It's obviously frustrating. But when a team decides to make that conscious decision -- not to drop back and to use max (protection) -- look at what the scores have been."

The Eagles are 10th in the league in points allowed, giving up an average of just 19.8 per game. They've held three of their first five opponents to 17 points or fewer. Those numbers are even more impressive when you consider that the Philadelphia offense has turned the ball over 14 times. Forty of the 99 points the Eagles have allowed have come off turnovers.

Eagles defensive line coach Jim Washburn regularly rotates nine players up front to keep his front four fresh. None of the nine have played more than 70 percent of the defensive snaps in the first five games.

"It's been frustrating, especially late in the game," said defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, who had 5 1/2 sacks last year but has none so far this year. "They start going to max protection and throwing the ball fast. Against the Steelers, we were rushing our tails off, getting some pressure, getting some hits, but we weren't fast enough."
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