Eagles rely on depth, unselfish line to pressure QBs

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Blitzing is more of an option than a necessity for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has always preferred to let his front four generate pressure on quarterbacks, and he has a group of players who can do it. The Eagles have so much depth on their defensive line they rotate seven players and keep them fresh for the fourth quarter.

It takes unselfish guys willing to put the team ahead of personal goals in order to make that happen harmoniously.

Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox is one of the best in the NFL and he plays nearly the entire game. But ends Brandon Graham, Chris Long, Derek Barnett and Michael Bennett each played more than half the snaps in an 18-12 win against Atlanta in Week 1. The defense had four sacks and 26 pressures.

"Our front judges themselves on the entire group, not individual accomplishment," Schwartz said. "You see that on the field. Fletch makes a sack and they're all excited about it, because they all played a part in it. So I think you need to have unselfish players. It just needs to be stressed."

Schwartz doesn't have to sell the players on a rotation.

"It's good for not just one game, but over the course of the season," he said. "I think our players recognize that. I think it also goes to another theme of what we've been talking about: You have to trust a guy that he can go in and make those plays. If you want to rotate players, you need to have players that can be on the field. We have trust in those players. They work hard together. They realize it's about the group, it's not about them individually. That's where the production counts."

When the Falcons had four cracks from the Eagles 10 and another from the 5 in the final minute of the game, Schwartz didn't call one blitz. That's quite unusual in that spot, but the line pressured Matt Ryan without needing help.

"We have good players at three levels of the defense. We can rush without blitzing," Schwartz said. "We were getting such good pressure that we didn't need to blitz. When you can blitz on your own terms, you're at an advantage. It's frustrating if you're not getting pressure and you have to blitz. It can put you in a bad spot.

"But that really hasn't happened to us. I think probably the biggest thing is there was no panic in our players. They knew what to expect. They went out and did it."

Schwartz called a blitz earlier in the game inside the red zone and it resulted in Ryan throwing an interception to Rasul Douglas.

"Quarterback had to throw a little bit quicker than he wanted to," Schwartz said. "Rasul had good vision on the quarterback, was able to make that (play)."

The Eagles will have a tough challenge Sunday at Tampa against an offense that racked up 529 total yards in a 48-40 win at New Orleans. Backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was sensational, throwing for 417 yards and four touchdowns, including scores of 58, 50 and 36 yards.

"I'm excited to play a team like that," Long said. "You want to play a team that's playing well, because it's a challenge."

NOTES: RB/PR Darren Sproles will not play against the Buccaneers because of a hamstring injury sustained in practice Thursday. WR Alshon Jeffery (shoulder) and QB Carson Wentz (knee) also won't play. WR Shelton Gibson (knee) is questionable.


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