The “max protect” excuse is not a valid one this time around for the Eagles’ defensive line

Last week against the Giants, the Eagles defensive linemen saw a lot of extra attention from the Giants offensive line.  I felt that they dominated simply by showing up, as the Giants kept just 5 players in to block on only 6 of 49 dropbacks.  With so much extra attention being given to the Eagles’ front four, Juan Castillo was able to drop 7 players into coverage against 3 and 4 receiver routes, winning the numbers game on the back end.  Therefore, the lack of sacks didn’t really matter.

Yesterday, the Eagles were held without a sack for the second consecutive game, which is surprising for a team that led the league with 50 sacks last season.  Jason Babin was asked about the lack of sacks, and he continued on with the mantra that opposing teams are keeping more players in to block than normal.

“When the offensive team decides to make the conscious decision not to drop back, (and go max protection), look at what the opposing scores have been when we haven’t gotten sacks. They’ve been low numbers.  They’re picking their poison.  They’re thinking that they can just score enough points to win and not try and open it up.”

Babin then challenged the reporters in the general vicinity to watch the tape:

“If you want to do a little homework with some of the free time you have, time the throws… or see if (they are) going to do max protections.”

I didn’t time the throws, but there were plenty of occasions where the Steelers dropped back and took shots down the field.  However, I did chart the amount of attention that Babin received in that game.  The Steelers gave far less extra attention to the Eagles DL than the Giants did the week before.  In fact, Babin was single-blocked almost the entire day.  Here’s what I saw on the 29 plays where Babin rushed the passer:

On the day, I thought Babin had one excellent rush.  That happened to be on the crucial 3rd and 12 play on the Steelers’ final drive.  Look at this bend at full speed by Babin as he gets the corner on Steelers RT Marcus Gilbert.  This is stellar:

However, Ben Roethlisberger was able to step up, shake Babin off, and make a good throw down the field to Antonio Brown.

Otherwise, Babin wasn’t much of a factor at all rushing the passer.  The “other guy” gets paid too, and Marcus Gilbert shut Babin down.  “Max protection” is no excuse this time around.

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  1. […] Babin – Quiet game with no sacks and one hurry. Jimmy Kempski over at Blogging the Beast took a detailed look at how the Steelers blocked Babin. He was chipped or double-teamed just five […]

  2. Bob says:

    Kudos for doing the work and calling bs on Babin.

  3. Krayzbone227 says:

    Remind me what the Eagles’ opposing QB’s average rating is? 67.6.

    1. Fair point, and if you’ll notice, the first paragraph of the article touches on that. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that the DL didn’t get much pressure on Roethlisberger all day, despite plenty of opportunities.

  4. sparki1980 says:

    Thoughts on why no delay blitz from the LB? It seemed like there was room and time for a linebacker to get through that line a moment or 2 after the snap. Big Ben kept stepping up, It would be nice if Juan had Ryans there to greet him.

    1. Benj says:

      Couldn’t agree more. It was so frustrating to watch him slip off Cole’s and Babin’s fingers everytime they beat the tackles and step straight up into the pocket because our tackles couldn’t push the center of the pocket. Ryans or Kendricks getting push right up the center there busts those plays right up.

  5. Is it just me, or was the D-line rotation not as prevalent in the steeler’s game? Felt like every time I looked at the screen it was Cole-Cox-Babin in there… The guys started looking pretty gassed in the 2nd half.

  6. TylerD says:

    Did not see the game but Philly’s D is still pretty solid they are not giving up a lot of points per game, it’s the turnovers same as last year that are killing them.

  7. On the flip side, he had a really impressive play in the run game, chasing down a run-play from the backside about 20 yards downfield. I realize the potential irony of calling a tackle at the end of a 20-yard run “impressive”, but if Babin’s not hustling I think that play could have gone all the way to the house.

    1. Yeah, I liked his hustle on that play a lot.

  8. Jim Z. says:

    Question: is it possible that Babin and/or Cole are both in decline at this point in their careers?
    Both are over the magical 30-year-old marker when NFL players begin to decline in athleticism.

    You look at the list of pass-rushers that remained productive into their mid-30s and the list is typically restricted to the big, tall, physical freak of nature types such as Michael Strahan, Reggie White, and now Julius Peppers. It seems that the smaller “speed” guys wear down at about the 30-year-old marker, while the only DEs that truly remain “elite” past that age are the ones with freakish size and ability.

    Both Babin and Cole are effort-based pass rushers that generated the majority of their pressure with speed and relentlessness. When speed begins to evaporate with age, and the player can no longer simply compensate with raw power and freakish length (a la Strahan, Reggie, Peppers), that pass rusher becomes mediocre very fast.

    If I were a GM, I’d never draft DEs shorter than 6’4″, and I’d give a strong preference to power-based, lanky/tall DEs in the Pierre-Paul, Peppers, Strahan mold. Hey, what do you know, that’s what the New York Giants have been doing for the entire history of their franchise!

    Size matters in the NFL, especially for the defensive linemen.

  9. Jim Z. says:

    I felt that Brandon Graham had a much better game than any of the other DEs, and has been playing better for a few weeks now.

    If he received the bulk of the snaps, I think Graham would be leading the team in pressures and sacks right now and the defensive line would be better overall.

    1. Jimmy Kempski says:

      He definitely needs more snaps.

    2. He had one dominating bull-rush that I really remember standing out. 19 snaps this week is a good improvement but hardly even with the 40+ Babin and Cole got. Definitely needs more snaps.

    3. SteveH says:

      I’ve been stumping for BG all year, my man needs some playing time! It’s especially frustrating because he’s battling the perception that he’s a bust, but hows he supposed to change that if they keep limiting his snaps? Hopefully he has a breakthrough game where he gets 2 sacks or something and the coaches get him on the field after that.

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