The NFL passing boom of the past two decades has allowed star quarterbacks to influence their teams in a disproportionate manner. They are the most pivotal player in terms of game play, front office directive, and public image.
As the rules have limited what defenders can do to receivers on the outside and all but abolished the fear of going over the middle, there has been one path to disrupting the plan of the offense: Get to the quarterback. Hit him early and hit him often has long been the refrain. Joe Gibbs was thwarted by both Lawrence Taylor and the 46 defense, Tom Brady’s Super Bowl losses all came against fronts that could penetrate up the middle, and even the stupendous Patrick Mahomes has struggled against 4-man rushes that can contain him within the pocket.
This year’s Eagles team is familiar with taking down an all-time great quarterback. Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham may not be what they were when they defeated Tom Brady in Super Bowl LII, but they both still play a major role. With Chris Long retired and Derek Barnett on IR, Josh Sweat and Javon Hargrave more than pick up the slack.
One player that helps take this team from underdog to the betting favorite is second team All-Pro Haason Reddick. While his 16 sacks are tied for the second most in the league, his overall value as a pass rusher stands out:
- Total Points is a metric that approximates a player’s overall value contributed on each play in terms of points on the scoreboard. Reddick led the NFL in Pass Rush Total Points, as well as Total Points per pass rush.
- Points above Replacement (PAR) calculates a player’s value relative to what would be expected by a backup-level player at his position. Reddick’s 26 Pass Rush PAR is the most in the NFL and almost 7 points higher than Nick Bosa, who is second.
With Andy Reid’s designs and Mahomes’ ability to capitalize on the slimmest of opportunities, the Eagles must maintain consistent pressure. Thankfully, they have one of the deepest pools of rushers in the league. In 2022 the Eagles were one of only 3 teams (Jaguars & Titans) to have 5 players with at least 26 pressures.
Eagles Top Pass Rushers, 2022 Season Ranks
|Total Pressures||Sacks||Points Saved|
While pressuring Mahomes is a must, it cannot be done by blitzing. In 2022, Mahomes’ Independent Quarterback Rating (IQR) rose from 108.5 when facing 4 rushers, to 126.1 when facing 5 or more. When looking back at Kansas City’s loss to Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl, Mahomes had an IQR of 53.9 when facing 4 rushers, as opposed to 95.8 when facing more.
In that Super Bowl, Tampa Bay was able to give Mahomes more pressure than he had seen in the playoffs that year. The Buccaneers as a team produced a 45% pressure rate, much higher than the 30% and 32% Mahomes faced in the two games prior and they did it with 4 pass rushers having big days.
Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Vita Vea, and current Eagle Ndamukong Suh, all had at least 5 pressures in that game. When looking at the Eagles numbers when only rushing 4 players, they show an improvement from where they rank on all pass rush plays. Any number that is highlighted green indicates a ranking that is equal to or higher than the previous table.
Eagles Top Pass Rushers when Rushing Four, 2022 Season Ranks
|Total Pressures||Sacks||Points Saved|
The Eagles defense has remained true to one phrase all year: “Earn the right to rush the passer.” That will need to ring true for the entire team this Sunday. They must control the game in all phases and force the Chiefs into clear passing situations. With multiple high power rushers and the positional flexibility that many of these rushers have, Philadelphia is in place to replicate the 2020 Buccaneers method of bringing pressure from multiple places without sacrificing anything on the back end.
The Eagles have been methodically winning the numbers all year long, and keeping 7 defenders in coverage is a key number for defeating Patrick Mahomes, which, even with a high ankle sprain, is a near-impossible task.