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Eagles pass rush improved in 2014 despite blitzing less

How often did the Eagles blitz? And how well did they do?

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The Eagles' pass rush was really good in 2014. Philadelphia finished tied for the second most sacks of any team in the entire NFL (49).

It was a little surprising to see just how good the Eagles were at rushing the passer. In 2013, the team finished 20th in sacks with a final total of 37. The Eagles didn't really add any pass rushers last offseason so the unit's growth all came from internal improvement. Connor Barwin led the way with 14.5. Vinny Curry (9), Trent Cole (6.5), Brandon Graham (5.5) were the other main contributors. Fletcher Cox "only" had four sacks but he generated a lot more pressure than that number would indicate.

Another surprising part about Philadelphia's pass rush is how effective it was without blitzing. According to Pro Football Focus (hat tip to Birds 24/7), the Eagles had the third best pass rush productivity without blitzing. In 2013, the Eagles ranked 18th in this category.

The Eagles did blitz slightly less in 2014 (31.6% - 14th) than they did in 2013 (35.5% - 7th). The effectiveness of their blitzing went way up, however. In 2013, the Eagles' blitz ranked 27th in terms of pass rush productivity. In 2014, the Eagles were 10th in pass rush productivity while blitzing.

Having a strong pass rush without needing to blitz is obviously ideal. Instead of sending extra rushers, a team can keep those players in coverage.

It remains to be seen how effective Philadelphia's pass rush will be in 2015. The team released Cole in the offseason due to salary reasons. Though he was declining, he was still a solid starter. Now it's up to Brandon Graham to replace him. Graham has excelled as a pass rusher off the bench. He's seemingly lost some weight this offseason to prepare for his bigger role. It'll also be interesting to see how Barwin follows up his big 2014 season. It's hard to expect him to match that total again but he's still a very good player. Behind Barwin and Graham, the depth is questionable. Former first round pick Marcus Smith needs to step up and earn a role as a rotational player.

Outside linebackers obviously aren't the only players who provide pass rush. As previously noted, Cox is a beast and should continue to dominate as he reaches his prime. He's still only 24. Curry was great off the bench last season and will look to reprise that role.

Last year, the Eagles had a strong pass rush but their pass coverage was severely lacking. Philadelphia revamped their secondary this offseason with the addition of Byron Maxwell, Walter Thurmond, Eric Rowe, JaCorey Shepherd, and Randall Evans so they're hoping they can combine their rush with improved coverage to result in an improved overall defense.

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