It should come as no surprise that the Eagles are tied for first in the NFL this preseason with 14 sacks. The Eagles were tied for the league lead in sacks last season with 50.
What is a surprise is that none of the sacks have come from one of their Pro Bowl pass rushers.
Defensive end Jason Babin has missed the entire preseason with a calf injury that he suffered in late July. With less than two weeks before the season opener in Cleveland, Babin said he's "ready to go to battle anytime" and is waiting for head coach Andy Reid and head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder to take the "restraints off."
"I think the most important thing in the decision-making process is to not reinjure it," Babin said.
Reid is also optimistic that the two-time Pro Bowl selection will be ready for Week 1 as he said Monday that Babin "has a good chance of being back."
One of the marquee free agent signings in 2011, Babin was well worth the investment as he registered 18.0 sacks. That was the third-highest single-season sack accumulation in team history and it tied for the 18th-best in league history.
With Babin sidelined, Phillip Hunt has emerged as the standout pass rusher this preseason for the Eagles. He is tied for first in the entire NFL this preseason in both sacks (3.5) and forced fumbles (2).
"Really, with Phillip, he made a decision along with (defensive tackle) Cedric Thornton, and said, 'I'm going to improve.' They knew last year that they were given time to improve, and they showed what they can do, which is exactly what we need them to do to be part of this team and be productive members of this team," Babin said. "Everybody is excited for them, and I know they're excited, too."
Babin's injury has showcased the depth of the Eagles' defensive line. There are eight defensive linemen who have recorded a sack this preseason. When the Eagles reduce the roster to the 53-man limit on Friday, Babin admitted "it hurts" to think that not all of his linemates will make the team.
"It hurts because they are part of the family. In my career, I don't think I've ever been a part of a defensive line group that had this much ability," Babin said. "I think everybody could start on another team, but we have to cut some people."
Before he was a two-time Pro Bowl selection, Babin was a player who saw action in the final preseason games fighting for a roster spot. His advice to the players who will suit up on Thursday is simply to hustle.
"I preach to the young guys, it's do or die. You hustle. You make plays. You don't have to do everything perfect, but if coach sees that intrinsic motivation that you have where you play and you're passionate, he's going to keep you on the team. They're going to find a way to keep you around and give you time to develop," Babin said. "That can make or break you having a career or not having a career. I think you can tell which young guys get it."
Make sure to follow us on Twitter @EaglesInsider