The two most prolific pass rush defensive tackles of the Andy Reid era have been Corey Simon (32.0 sacks in five seasons) and Darwin Walker (27.5 in seven seasons). Very soon, Cullen Jenkins may have to be inserted into the discussion.
It's been only two games in an Eagles uniform, but Jenkins has 3.0 sacks to go along with nine total tackles and three quarterback hurries.
"It's a mind game. It's more to it than just (being) strong and fast," Jenkins said of getting push up the middle. "If you can think a good game, it's just like coaches how they game plan. Players try to do the same thing. You want to keep the guys off-balance, hit them with different things. Kind of anticipate what they like to do and what they don't like to do and just come after them."
The Eagles stunned the rest of the league when they signed the pass rush force to a five-year deal just one day after landing All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha back in August. In his Eagles debut vs. the Rams, the former Packer 's takedown of former Eagle A.J. Feeley in the fourth quarter capped off an impressive five-sack night by the defensive line.
Last Sunday night, the Eagles found out just how valuable Jenkins already is to this defense. On the Falcons' first series, Jenkins suffered an undisclosed injury and had to briefly exit the game. He was back in time to sack quarterback Matt Ryan on third-and-5 to get the defense off the field. His second sack nearly produced a safety as he brought down Ryan at the Falcons' 2-yard line on a third-and-9 and helped the offense get outstanding field position.
Since the start of last season, Jenkins has 10.0 sacks. The only defensive tackle to have more sacks in the entire league than Jenkins is the Lions' Ndamukong Suh with 11.0. Even though he was one of the Eagles' big-ticket free agents this offseason, Jenkins maintains the mindset that he had when he entered the NFL as a rookie free agent in 2003 with the Packers.
"Just staying hungry. Trying to get better every week, every year," Jenkins said. "Never had anything handed to me in this league. I always keep that attitude."
And if bringing the heat up the middle isn't enough, the Eagles may ask Jenkins to do something he used to do in Green Bay - line up at end. Defensive ends Juqua Parker (ankle) and Darryl Tapp (pectoral) missed practice on Wednesday and if either of them is sidelined it will impact the end rotation. Jenkins, however, was a 4-3 end for two-plus seasons in Green Bay. He transitioned to a 3-4 end when the Packers changed up their scheme in 2009.
Thanks in large part to Jenkins, the Eagles are second in the league with 9.0 sacks. All of the sacks have come from the defensive line. Though the Eagles defense isn't a finished product, Jenkins knows from having won a Super Bowl last year what it takes for everything to come together.
"Not everything's going to be perfect. We're going to have rough times," Jenkins said. "We just have to stay together as a team and just keep getting better through those rough times. As time goes on, make sure those rough times are few and far between."
With Jenkins' ability to collapse the pocket, those lulls certainly should be at a minimum.
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