The Eagles sacked Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz nine times in Sunday’s 24-8 Eagles’ victory.
When they weren’t sacking him, the Eagles were rocking him, recording 17 hits on Wentz.
In this week’s coaches’ critique — where we look at the performance of the Eagles’ coaches, good and bad — we sing the praises of defensive line coach Tracy Rocker.
Rocker’s defensive line produced 6.5 of the nine sacks. Brandon Graham had 2.5 sacks and was named the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Week for his performance. In their first two games, the Eagles had only three sacks.
On a mere 27 snaps (35 percent of the team’s defensive snaps), Graham had five hits on Wentz, six tackles, one forced fumble (recovered by Javon Hargrave) and a pass break-up. Pretty impressive for the 34-year-old in his 13th season, all with the Eagles.
On Rocker’s defensive line, Josh Sweat and Fletcher Cox each had 1.5 sacks and Hargrave had a sack.
Edge linebacker Haason Reddick had 1.5 sacks. Inside linebacker T.J. Edwards had the other sack.
Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said he wasn’t surprised “how that game played out.”
They knew Wentz’ tendency to go for the big play meant he would hold onto the ball a count too long — giving the Eagles defenders time to conduct their business.
- “When the D-line is affecting the game the way they were, you can devote more into coverage,” Gannon said.
- “It makes it hard for the quarterback. Again, the players and coaches did a good job executing and winning at a high level.
- “Again, you guys saw the production stand out. I know everyone sees that stand out from the box score, but that’s why I wasn’t really sweating the production in the first couple games because I knew at some point, if they keep winning at a high level, doing what they’re coached to do, that will come.”
The Eagles lost defensive end Derek Barnett with a torn ACL in Week One. Rocker and Gannon, as they normally do, heavily rotate their eight defensive linemen. Only two had more than 50 percent of the snaps — Sweat (47 snaps, 61 percent) and Hargrave (41 snaps, 53 percent).
Here are the other defensive line snap counts:
- Milton Williams: 38 snaps (49 percent)
- Fletcher Cox: 36 snaps (47 percent)
- Marlon Tuipulotu: 34 snaps (44 percent)
- Jordan Davis: 24 snaps (31 percent)
- Tarron Jackson: 9 snaps (12 percent)
Even without Barnett, the Eagles had enough depth to keep everyone fresh and “hunting,” as coach Nick Sirianni described what the defense did to Wentz.
- “It’s hard to limit their snaps when you don’t feel comfortable with the guys behind them, right?” Sirianni said.
- “Knowing that’s still good for them, that their snaps are limited a little bit, but it’s hard when you don’t have faith in those guys, you know they’re not playing a good level.
- “We obviously have major faith in the guys that are backing up Fletch and B.G., that they’re going to do a nice job, come in and give great reps when they’re out.
- “It’s pretty unbelievable the depth that we have, the amount of good players that we have there.
- “So of course it keeps them fresh and it keeps the guys fresh. You’re able to pin your ears back and get after the quarterback in those pass situations when you are fresh.
- “Not just when they’re [Cox and Graham] on the field rushing the passer, but in the run game, whether it’s B.G. crushing the edge on a run game or it’s Fletch eating up a double-team and pushing the guard back into the running back … or also how they are in the locker room.”
MEET MR. ROCKER
You might remember Rocker from his playing days.
Rocker was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004 after a two-time All-America career at Auburn. He won the Lombardi Award (nation’s top college player) and Outland Trophy (nation’s top interior lineman).
Rocker has coached for 31 years — only five of them in the NFL. Rocker was the defensive line coach with the Tennessee Titans from 2011-13. He joined the Eagles’ staff when Sirianni became head coach in 2021.
After coaching two years at Auburn (Ala.) High, he landed a college job coaching the defensive line in 1994 at West Alabama.
In his first year with the Eagles, the defense allowed the ninth-fewest rushing yards per game (107.9) and 10th-fewest total yards per game (328.8). This season, the Eagles rank fifth in total defense, sixth against the pass and 17th against the rush.
Rocker’s son, Kumar, led Vanderbilt to the 2019 NCAA baseball championship. He was named Most Outstanding Player of College World Series and threw a 19-strikeout no-hitter in the Super Regionals. He is in the Texas Rangers’ organization.
So far, Tracy Rocker and his defensive line are throwing strikes — and making strikes — at their opponents.