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Babin Move A Transition To Youth

Posted Nov 27, 2012

He was sensational in 2011 with 18 quarterback sacks and a Pro Bowl spot, but Jason Babin wasn't the same player this time around. On Tuesday, he became an Eagles casualty as the team looks ahead ...

Good luck to Jason Babin, who resurrected his career under defensive line coach Jim Washburn and the Wide 9 scheme to earn spots in the Pro Bowl as a member of Tennessee in 2010 and the Eagles last season.

In 2012, Babin was just part of an under-productive defensive line group and with five games remaining in the regular season, the team has taken the turn toward youth. It's time  to see the young kids, all of them, and that means more Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham and Phillip Hunt.

The move to release Babin on Tuesday came down to this: Do you keep Babin, who just doesn't fit in for the future and who would have a tough time digesting a demotion, or do you give him a chance to find a job elsewhere?

It came down to the latter for head coach Andy Reid, who completely understands where he stands with his job and still is doing what is best for the football organization.

The Eagles need to learn more about Curry, who made his debut on Monday night and was around the football, quick off the snap, very active. They need to give Hunt more snaps, as he has been buried this regular season after an outstanding preseason. And they need to know, once and for all, if Graham can be counted on as a full-time, productive left defensive end.

Babin's numbers fell off the cliff this season, as did just about everyone's numbers along the defensive line. How this defensive line led the charge to an NFL-best 50 sacks last year and is now limping along with a total of 18 is one of the biggest mysteries a defense has ever seen.

Right end Trent Cole came alive some on Monday night against the Panthers, but he's got just 1 1/2 sacks in 11 games. The falloff has been dramatic and impactful for a defense that has a grand total of 10 takeaways, in large part because the pressure up front has just not been there.

Babin had 18 sacks last season and has just 5 1/2 in 2012. That he leads the team in that department is not the issue. That he played 40 snaps on Monday night, and didn't register much production at all, coupled with Curry's hustling-to-the-ball 21 snaps made the decision an easy one for the Eagles.

It's time to play the kids, although the truth is that the kids have been playing all along. The Eagles are getting all kinds of mileage from this draft class, in large because injuries have forced the issue and also because the rookie class showed right from the jump that it could be something special.

Fletcher Cox has been the team's best defensive tackle, with Mike Patterson coming on strong now that he's rounding into game shape. Mychal Kendricks has been a starter all year at linebacker. Brandon Boykin has been the slot cornerback and kickoff return man. Bryce Brown, obviously on the front burner for a larger role, has been the No. 2 running back when LeSean McCoy has been healthy.

Nick Foles is on tap to start his third straight game at quarterback. Dennis Kelly is improving very solidly at right tackle as he gains some level of comfort. Damaris Johnson has seen bits and pieces of action and is now firmly in the rotation with DeSean Jackson on Injured Reserve.

The Eagles need to know about every player on their roster by season's end. If that means that offensive linemen like Nate Menkin and Matt Tennant need to be force fed some snaps, so be it. It's important that the players have enough game film to study in what is clearly going to be a fascinating offseason for this franchise.

The Babin story was a grand one in 2011. He was a former first-round pick who never found his niche in the NFL until he landed in Tennessee in 2010 with Washburn. Using Babin's speed off the edge, Washburn was able to unlock his production, and Babin responded with 12 1/2 quarterback sacks.

When Washburn signed on with the Eagles prior to the work stoppage of 2011, the natural move was to go out and get Babin to help add to the pass rush. It worked for a season. Babin's 18 sacks and Cole's 11 gave the Eagles their best 1-2 pass-rush punch since the days of Reggie White and Clyde Simmons.

So what happened to Babin this year? Did the league just catch on with his off-the-edge speed and carry him up and out of harm's way away from the quarterback? Did his game slip? Babin certainly didn't make friends with Eagles fans when he criticized them for the way they responded to the team during the blowout loss to Atlanta.

And he didn't make himself more valuable to the coaching staff with his occasional sacks this year, especially when he made few other plays.

Now, officially, it's time to see all of these young players show what they can do on the field. Look for Graham to start at left end, and expect Curry to get a lot of snaps. The Eagles still have a lot of talent at the end spots and the odd man out appears to be Darryl Tapp, who played all of one snap against Carolina.

This isn't a case of waving the white flag, because, well, the Eagles are 3-8 and playing a bunch of youngsters already. This is a matter of saying goodbye to a veteran who didn't fit the profile for a team going nowhere this season now eyeing the future, and providing more of a proving ground for some raw, talented players who have a chance to step up and show they belong. 

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