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Much of the concern during the offseason centered on whether the veteran Trent Cole would be able to transition from a career 4-3 end to a 3-4 outside linebacker. Cole has been an extremely pleasant surprise, as he’s made the transition with ease.
Cole hasn’t officially recorded a sack yet, but he’s picked up eight quarterback hurries, five hits, two forced fumbles, and a safety. He’s been playing largely as a 4-3 end, which hasn’t forced him into pass coverage on too many downs, and that’s a good move given that he probably wouldn’t be able to keep up with tight ends.
Like last year, Mychal Kendricks had a great start to the season but then really struggled. Against the Washington Redskins, Kendricks was flying all over the field, picking up a quarterback hit, a hurry, seven tackles and three stops, plus a fumble recovery.
Since then, he’s been the target of all the crossing patterns receivers have been running against the Philadelphia Eagles. Per PFF, Kendricks has been targeted 28 times on pass attempts, and a ridiculous 24 (85.7 percent) have been completed.
He’s also leading his position with eight missed tackles. That makes him the worst overall inside linebacker in the league, according to the Pro Football Focus numbers.
DeMeco Ryans is really regressing, and he’s likely in his last season with the team given his contract. Ryans is a liability in pass coverage because he’s not quick enough to keep up with slot receivers or most running backs.
He’s nonexistent as a pass-rusher, and he leads the NFL in snaps played from his position (313) without a quarterback hurry. Ryans has also missed a tackle per game.
The entirety of the Eagles’ 3-4 defense seems to be centered around Connor Barwin. There’s no stellar nose tackle clogging the middle of the line, and the 3-4 has forced both Cole and Brandon Graham out of position. With Barwin’s six-year, $40 million deal, the Eagles really need him to be a pass-rushing force.
So far, Barwin has been adequate. Two sacks in four games is a decent total, but he only has four total hurries and two penalties committed thus far. And the Eagles rank second-to-last in the league in pass-rushing efficiency, per Pro Football Focus.
It was expected that Graham would start pushing for snaps early in the season, given his natural pass-rushing skills. Graham is seeing action in only about a third of his team’s snaps, but he’s played well when he has been in the game.
Graham has a sack and five hurries in 73 snaps, numbers that suggest he should be seeing more action.