The Eagles blitzed only seven times on passing downs. That is only 17.5 percent of the time. And if it continues, it will be a radical change of this team's defensive culture.
We knew it would be different when Sean McDermott was fired as defensive coordinator and replaced by Juan Castillo. We knew that the direct line back to the late Jim Johnson and his philosophy of blitzing incessantly to bring pressure was broken with McDermott's departure, but was it? Castillo, after all, had been on the staff with Johnson forever as offensive-line coach, and he often tells stories about dropping into Johnson's office and spending hours discussing the game's fundamental issue in the 21st century, the blitz vs. the protection scheme.
Then again, veteran defensive-line coach Jim Washburn was brought onto the staff, and it was acknowledged by everyone that things were going to be tailored around Washburn's ideas about rushing the passer, starting with that wide alignment along the defensive front. But how that all would play out on Sundays was only a guess - and the exhibition games really don't tell you anything.
Well, now we have the one game. And so far, the Eagles are blitzing less than half as often as they did last year. And, well, it is going to take some getting used to.
I'm going to give you three names: Buddy Ryan, Jim Johnson, Jim Washburn. They all share two things: a first name (Buddy is James David Ryan) and a belief that the only good quarterback is a flattened quarterback. Over the last quarter-century, Ryan and Johnson were the dominant defensive personalities for this franchise, and they were all about pulverizing passers.
They were both innovators. Ryan had his "46" scheme, and it produced mayhem for a while. Then again, with Reggie White and Jerome Brown, they could have played with 10 guys and produced mayhem. As for Johnson, his thing was a weekly cornucopia of blitzes - some old but many new. Preparing for him must have been murder.
With Johnson, and then McDermott, his disciple, the Eagles blitzed incessantly for the last dozen years. They just launched out of the backfield from every conceivable angle, every week, every year, the blitzing missiles of October (and September, November, December and January).
Now comes Washburn. The intent is the same - he likes the quarterback flat, too - but he does it not by blitzing but by spreading his defensive ends wide, sometimes hilariously so, and requesting that they make haste to the spot where the quarterback is going to be. Not where he is on his initial dropback, but where he is going to be after he steps up to throw.
Through a summer of vanilla exhibition games, and now one real game, the resulting pressure has been persistent and the sacks have come in bunches. So have the rushing yards. The problem is not that the philosophy is unsound, because there are people assigned to all of the gaps. It is just linebackers getting handled by guards, and not winning often enough, and sometimes not filling the gaps quickly enough.
This push-pull will be there all year, and the run defense is going to have its anxious moments. But the key is the pass rush. In a league where a single-week record was just set with 7,482 combined passing yards, there can be little doubt of that.
Last year in Tennessee, Washburn's last stop, the Titans used a four-man pass rush more than almost any team in the NFL. This year, with scant evidence, the Eagles seem to be heading the same way.
It is different. It is jarring, in some ways. And those gaps along the defensive line sometimes look so odd. But now we are beginning to see it - Jason Babin and Trent Cole, and the ongoing rotation with Juqua Parker and Darryl Tapp, and the pressure coming in waves.
One week, then.
But some good early clues.
Send email to
or read his blog, The Idle Rich, at
For recent columns go to