Eagles Notes: Trent Cole, Zach Ertz Emerging for Birds
It was moments like this one that the Eagles envisioned when they drafted Brandon Graham in the first round and paired him with veteran Trent Cole.
The duo combined for four sacks, three tackles for losses and three quarterback hits in Sunday's 24-21 win over Arizona, the tandem's ability to cause pressure helped to kick-start the Eagles' win.
(Listen to ESPN NFL insider KC Joyner and Sheil Kapadia from PhillyMag.com join Mike Gill discuss Nick Foles play)
"I do think Trent has played at a high level the whole year," Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis said. "The sack numbers, to me, the sack numbers, we put way too much on that. If our guys are rushing, sometimes the best rusher, the best pass rush doesn't get the sack. It gets the quarterback moved off the spot and then a guy that might have had a horrible pass rush gets the sack. So who gets the sack isn't always the indicator."
On the Cardinals first possession of the game, Cole set the tone early with his strip sack, which was picked up by Benny Logan. As for Graham, he picked up three pressures in six pass rushes.
Cole now leads the team with five sacks, showing the pass-rushing chops that made him one of the NFL's best pass-rushers over the past few years. He changed positions this off-season from defensive end to outside linebacker and it seemed that he could be on his way out-of-town, sooner-before-later. Now, Cole looks like he could be a huge factor for the Eagles in the final four games of the season
"He's going to be invaluable down the stretch," former Eagles linebacker Gary Cobb told me on the Sports Bash Tuesday. "The pass-rush is ultimately the decider in games, you want to stop people, you need to get pressure on the quarterback. Trent Cole is coming into his own now and I think we'll continue to see that from him."
Eagles Tight Ends getting involved
The Eagles figured Arizona would send plenty of blitzes their way, a hallmark of their defense so far this season. They also knew all that extra pressure would create opportunities for big plays, especially for the tights ends vs a Cardinals defense that struggles to cover.
"I don't know if exploit, but we thought they have got some really good corners, starting with Peterson," said Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. "So trying to get matched up on some safeties and some linebackers. Felt like, you know, Brent and Ertz, and then obviously the big play by Casey there. Just thought we had some plays in there to the tight ends, get them in base personnel and then try to take advantage of that and those guys did."
Zach Ertz finally showed why the Eagles drafted him with the 35th overall pick, in the first quarter he beat Tyrann Mathieu in the corner of the end zone for the Eagles’ first touchdown and then later he burned Rashad Johnson on a beautifully run route for a touchdown early in the third quarter.
“I think Zach's getting better and better each week," explained Kelly. "He came off a break, obviously if you're a rookie, this season's a lot different than the college season. You have four preseason games which you don't have and we've played 12 games, so he's got 16 games underneath his belt. But I thought he came back after the break with real fresh legs, rejuvenated, had a good week at prepping and was excited to see it show up on the field today and I thought he had some big catches for us today.”
Five catches on six targets for 68 yards and two touchdowns, looks like Ertz has finally found his groove.
• Safety Earl Wolff is the only Eagles starter to miss practice on Wednesday, Najee Goode and Jeff Mahel also missed today's session.
"I think Maehl is going to run around today," Kelly said. "I think he's got to go to the independent and they'll tell us if he's cleared. Those things are a day‑to‑day thing. We don't have anything to say with that. I'm hoping that Jeff is back. I don't know about Earl, to be honest with you. Then Najee, we'll see what he can do."
• Foles now has six regular-season victories, which makes him 6-6 in 12 career starts in the NFL. Foles has four remaining regular-season games which would give him a full 16 games in two NFL seasons.
• During the Eagles current four-game winning streak, Foles is 72 of 106 (69.2%) for 1,169 yards with 13 touchdowns and no interceptions. His 144.2 passer rating over that span is the sixth highest by an NFL quarterback during a four-game stretch since 1960
Follow Mike Gill on Twitter @MikeGill973