It doesn’t really matter how you get to the quarterback at the end of the day – so long as you get to him.
Ideally, you can generate that type of pressure with your defensive front – a blueprint the Cowboys are following to perfection through three weeks.
There’s more than one way to skin a cat, however, as the saying goes. The NFC East ranks fourth of eight divisions in the NFL with 33 combined sacks between its four members. Dallas leads the group with its 13 sacks – 10 of those coming from defensive linemen.
The Eagles and Redskins are holding their own, however, with nine and eight sacks, respectively. And with both teams operating out of a 3-4 defense, they’re getting their production from some interesting spots.
It was said all offseason that the return of Ryan Kerrigan as a pass rusher would bolster Washington’s defense. Kerrigan is holding up his end of the bargain, with three sacks in three games from the outside linebacker position. His partner in pass rushing, Brian Orakpo, has managed one.
Otherwise, the other half of Washington’s sack production is coming from less conventional places. Cornerback Josh Wilson and safety Bacarri Rambo have each notched a sack, as have inside linebackers Perry Riley and London Fletcher.
None of the Redskins’ down defensive linemen have shown up on the stat sheet as of yet. The Washington secondary is not good, as its No. 31 ranking in pass defense can attest. A better pass rush might be the best hope for improvement this year.
The story looks the same in Philadelphia. The Eagles boast nine team sacks, and yet they have just one – one – multi-sack player in 2012 first round defensive end Fletcher Cox. Linebacker Trent Cole has been the team’s top sack artist for several years, as he posted 55 sacks between 2007 and 2011. That average took a big his last season when Cole managed just three, and he sits at a lonely one to this point.
Philadelphia will definitely be hoping Cole can improve on that. In his place they’ve produced sacks from two defensive backs and three inside linebackers. Sacks are good regardless of who records them, but those numbers seem unlikely to hold up. Like their rivals in D.C., the Eagles simply need a pass rusher to step up.
Meanwhile, rushing the quarterback is one of a slew of things the Giants just aren’t doing. New York is tied with Pittsburgh for last in the league with three sacks through three full games. Jason Pierre-Paul, as you’d expect, has one of the three. Having missed the majority of training camp with a back injury, it seems like a safe bet the Pro Bowler will return to his normal form – but only if he can get some help.
Justin Tuck, a veteran of a once-terrifying pass rush, has record half of a sack through three games, which puts him on pace for roughly three on the year. Just part of a laundry list of things the Giants need to improve if they’re going to compete in 2013.
A look at some of the more eye-catching stats around the NFC East:
- Washington linebacker Perry Riley is picking up where he left off as one of the upcoming stars in this division. Riley is the leading tackler in the NFC East and the No. 4 tackler in the NFL with 29 total stops in three games – just shy of 10 tackles per game. Last season he averaged eight tackles per game on the way to 129 total takedowns. He’s got one sack and a fumble recovery, as well. Learning alongside a potential Hall of Famer in London Fletcher has to be doing wonders for the guy.
DeMarco Murray’s big day against the Rams did wonders for the division rushing totals. Through three weeks the NFC East boasts three of the league’s top six rushers. LeSean McCoy holds a commanding 98 yard lead in the stat rankings with 395 yards on the season. His 6.4 yard-per-carry average is nearly a yard better than any of the other league leaders. Murray finds himself in fourth with 286 total yards and one touchdown. Alfred Morris’ 225 yards on 40 carries has him tied for six with Chicago’s Matt Forte.
- David Wilson, the Giants’ leading rusher, has 75 yards on 25 carries this season. The Giants have 133 total rushing yards as a team, which, you might have guessed, is dead last in the league.
Tony Romo’s 2013 season is a bit quiet by the standards of a top shelf quarterback, but it’s nothing if not efficient. Romo’s yardage total of 771 is only 16th among starting quarterbacks, but he is completing 72.2 percent, which trails only Peyton Manning. Romo is also one of just six starting quarterbacks to throw one or fewer picks.
- Robert Griffin III and Eli Manning are bombing away as the No. 5 and No. 6 passers in the league, in terms of yardage. It has yet to get either of them a win, as the pair have combined for 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Manning and Eagles quarterback Michael Vick have each been sacked 11 times this season.