Going into Arizona on Sunday, the gameplan for the Eagles defensive line was clear- get to Kevin Kolb early, rattle him, and let the secondary enjoy the turnovers that were sure to follow.
However, like many aspects of the Eagles gameplan against the Cardinals, things did not go as planned- the Eagles brought down Kolb only 3 times, and allowed him to sit back there and execute the Cardinals offensive game plan to perfection.
There is no doubt that the Eagles defense this season is improved. Coming into the season, some thought a defensive line that is much deeper then last year could top 60 sacks for the season. Andy Reid and Howie Roseman even decided to keep 10 defensive lineman because of the immense amount of talent this team had along the line. But through 3 games, not only is the defensive line not on pace for 60 sacks, it is way behind where it was last year at this time.
In the first 3 weeks of last season, the Eagles racked up 12 sacks. Jason Babin (4 sacks) and Trent Cole (3 sacks) both got off to hot starts, as did Cullen Jenkins (4 sacks). All 3 stayed hot through out the season, and the team finished with 50 sacks, which tied them for 1st in the league with the Minnesota Vikings.
This year has been a different story through 3 games. As a team, the Eagles only have 7 sacks in 3 games. Babin, Cole and Jenkins have combined for only 4 sacks. As Jason pointed out earlier, the lack of production is not necessarily because of a drop off in play. Bu despite having what some feel is one of the best- if not the best- defensive lines in the league, the Eagles find themselves either behind or tied with 15 other teams in total sacks.
If Jim Washburn's unit continues at this pace, they will finish the season with 37 sacks- well below the 50 they totaled last year, and just a little over half of the 62 the line talked about aiming for this season.
What could be the reasoning behind the slow start? It could be that the Eagles strategy of subbing the lineman in and out to keep them fresh is preventing them from getting in a good rhythm. Trent Cole and Jason Babin have played a combined 244 snaps- way less than the 284 snaps they played through 3 games last year- and only 10 more than New Orleans Saints Cameron Jordan's league leading 234 snaps (among defensive ends).
It could also be a new focus on stopping the run. Time and time again last year the line got burned for big gains on the ground because of their focus on bringing down the quarterback. Maybe the defensive linemen are paying more attention to the run this year- Babin already has 10 tackles in 3 games after tallying 40 for the entire season last year.
The goods news is that despite the lack of production in terms of sacks, the Eagles defense is still playing considerably better at nearly every other position. If the defense can continue to play at this level, the drop off in sacks will be well worth it.
But after an offseason and preseason filled with hype, it is as least worth mentioning and wondering why this defense line is not yet the dominating force many thought it would be.
Follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks