NFL Wire News

Eagles hope to maintain pass rush vs. Redskins


PHILADELPHIA — The pass-rushing numbers line up for the Philadelphia Eagles in their must-win game against the Washington Redskins on Saturday. They are second in the league with 47 sacks. The Redskins are 31st in sacks allowed, at 53, including seven in last week’s loss to the New York Giants.

That’s the good news. The bad news is the Eagles (9-5) will be without one of their best pass rushers: Three-time Pro Bowl linebacker Trent Cole will miss the game after having surgery to repair a fractured left hand this week.

Cole has 6 1/2 sacks. The Eagles’ other outside linebacker, Connor Barwin, leads the team with 14 1/2.

Cole’s spot in the starting lineup will be taken by Brandon Graham. The Eagles’ 2010 first-round pick has 5 1/2 sacks and a team-high 33 quarterback hurries despite playing 361 fewer snaps (423) than Cole (784).

Graham has rotated in at both of the outside linebacker spots.

“BG has really picked up what we’re trying to do,” coach Chip Kelly said. “There are a lot of nuances to it. Brandon can set an edge (against the run). He can rush the quarterback. And he’s doing a better job in pass coverage. We’ve been really happy with him. He’s really dedicated himself.”

The Eagles took Graham ahead of Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, something his many critics mention every chance they get.

Saturday will be only Graham’s 13th career start. He has 17 career sacks.

After the Eagles selected an edge rusher — Marcus Smith — with their first-round pick last May, many, including Graham, didn’t expect him to even be on the team this season.

But Smith turned out to be a bigger project than the Eagles thought and the light finally went on for Graham, who has been a big asset for Bill Davis’ defense this season.

He will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. Given the fact that the 32-year-old Cole’s cap number is scheduled to soar from $6.6 million to $11 million, and given the fact that Smith has hardly been on the field this season, the Eagles really can’t afford not to re-sign Graham.

NOTES: QB Nick Foles will miss his seventh straight game with a broken collarbone. He was examined on Monday, but the bone still had not fully healed. It’s unknown whether he might be able to return next week for the final regular-season game against the Giants…. K Cody Parkey said his groin injury is feeling a lot better. He has missed just 2 of 31 field goal attempts this season, but he has just eight touchbacks in his last 32 kickoffs. … CB Bradley Fletcher will start Saturday despite giving up three touchdown passes to Dez Bryant in the Eagles’ loss to the Cowboys.

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