Jason Babin heard it. Heard it a lot.
Last year was a fluke. Or: Youll never get 12 sacks again. Or: The Eagles overpaid for a guy whos only had one good season.
He heard it, and he answered the only way he could. On the field.
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After recording just 19 12 sacks in his first six seasons -- about three per year -- Babin had a career-high 12 12 last year, earning himself a huge contract with the Eagles.
But could he do it again?
You know, some of those people that werent believers before or were on the fence, I think theyre on my side now, Babin said. Theres no reason to talk bad about them. They know who they are.
Babin increased his 2011 sack total to 15 Sunday with three of the Eagles nine sacks in their 26-10 win over the Dolphins at SunLife Field in Miami. Babins second three-sack game of the season and fifth multi-sack game this year moved him into a tie for second in the NFL, tied with DeMarcus Ware and three sacks behind Jared Allen.
Babin also became the first player in NFL history to record two 12-sack seasons in his 30s after having no 12-sack seasons in his 20s.
Its a real Rocky story, isnt it? Babin said.
It is. Babins story has been told many times. But after bouncing around from the Oilers to the Seahawks to the Chiefs to the Eagles briefly in 2009 to the Titans, he signed a five-year, 28.3 million contract with the Eagles on Day 1 of free agency.
And in a season where not much has gone right, Babin has done exactly whats been expected of him.
Get to the quarterback.
Last week, when I got home (from Seattle), my wife (Sara) made a little note that said, 12, baby, Im so proud of you, Babin said. She knows what Ive struggled through and what Ive had to go through. Nobodys more proud of me than she is. I just thank her for dealing with me during those years before this.
Babin is the ultimate late bloomer. He already has far more sacks in his 30s (27 12) than his 20s (17 12).
In Eagles history, only Reggie White (three times), Clyde Simmons (twice) and Greg Brown (once) have had more sacks in a season than Babin.
With one sack in the Eagles last three games, Babin will reach 16, which no Eagle has recorded in a season since Simmons in 1992.
The Babin-Trent Cole combo has been a productive one for the Eagles. Cole has nine sacks in 11 games and with one more, theyd be the first Eagles teammates with double-digit sacks in the same season since William Fuller and Andy Harmon in 1995 and the first defensive ends to reach double figures since Simmons and White in 1992.
Babin has at least one sack in four of the Eagles five wins, and he said the sacks dont mean much unless theyre contributing to a victory.
It lets me know that those plays probably helped those drives, because when youre sacked, its a drive killer, Babin said. If you look at the percentages, if that helps the Eagles win, Im happy to do it.
Babin has five sacks in his last two games, and although its a longshot, with six in the last three games he would tie White, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, for the franchise single-season record.
White had 21 sacks in 12 games during the strike-shortened 1987 season, and Babin said he cant even begin to compare himself with the greatest defensive end in NFL history.
There should be one set of records for him and another set for everybody else, he said.
But Babin is in rarefied territory here. Two more sacks gives him 17, which only 23 players in NFL history have reached.
All Im doing and all Ive ever done is work as hard as I can and go as hard as I can, Babin said. And whatever happens happens.
Only five players in NFL history have had more sacks at age 31 than Babin this year -- Michael Strahan (18 12 in 2003 at 31), Hall of Famer Fred Dean (17 12 in 1983 at 31), Joey Porter (17 12 in 2008 at 31), Trace Armstrong (16 12 in 2000 at 35) and White (16 in 1998 at 36).
Babins story is a unique one. No defensive end has ever been this productive this late in his career after doing virtually nothing early in his career.
Babin says it took Jim Washburn with the Titans last year -- his seventh season -- to finally use him the right way, simply letting him line up wide and go after the quarterback instead of playing linebacker, dropping back in coverage, or lining up as a 3-4 end.
The numbers speak powerfully: Babin averaged 3.3 sacks per year before Washburn and 13.8 per season with Washburn.
What if Babin had found this kind of situation early in his career? He could have piled up some huge sack totals by now.
I think about that sometimes, Babin said. But then I think about all the things I had to go through and how I used that in my offseason workouts and my practice, and that chip on my shoulder and that nastiness ... you know what? It kind of made me what I am today. So I wouldnt take anything back.
E-mail Reuben Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org