Competition fuels Eagles dominant pass rush vs. Bears


CHICAGO — As Darius Slay walked through the Eagles’ locker room and noticed the horde of reporters surrounding Josh Sweat, he couldn’t help himself.

“Sacks on sacks on f—ing sacks,” Slay yelled, among plenty of other things.

The Eagles’ resident Pro Bowl cornerback and hype man had to let Sweat hear it after the defensive line sacked Justin Fields six times in Sunday’s 25-20 win over the Bears. Two of those sacks came from Sweat.

“I ain’t even got 10,” Sweat shouted back.

“Where you at?” Slay asked.

Sweat replied back through a sheepish grin: “Nine and a half.”

Those 9 1/2 sacks this season from Sweat are a new career high but he’s just third on the team. That’s because Haason Reddick and Javon Hargrave each had 2 sacks apiece too on Sunday to remain ahead of him.

And a lot of the time this season, there’s a race to the quarterback.

“That’s the thing,” Sweat said. “We’re just out there fighting because we know if we ain’t on time, one of the other dude’s gonna get it. So we out there fighting. But at the same time, keeping our responsibilities, because we take care of each other at the end of the day.”

As the Eagles come down the homestretch of the regular season, their vaunted pass rush has really come alive. The Eagles have now recorded 6+ sacks in three straight games for the first time in franchise history.

The Eagles have 19 sacks in their last three games.

“Today they really dominated the game, controlled the game,” Slay said. “Definitely every time they got in drop back situations, those guys got to hunting. That’s why we got one of the best D-lines in the league. Guys out there are really eating. And they eat good. So they’ll never leave the game starving.”

Reddick, Hargrave and Sweat because the first Eagles trio with 2+ sacks each since 2007 when Broderick Bunkley, Trent Cole and Jaqua Parker managed the feat.

While the Eagles’ defensive line works together — we saw plenty of stunts work to perfection on Sunday — that internal competition is a driving force too.

“Yeah, we’re always competing with each other,” Hargrave said. “So when we see one person get it, everybody wants a piece of it. It’s good competition.”

Here’s a look at their top five in sacks after 14 games:

Haason Reddick: 12
Javon Hargrave: 10
Josh Sweat: 9 1/2
Brandon Graham: 8 1/2
Fletcher Cox: 6

No NFL team has ever had four players with 10+ sacks but the Eagles are getting close. Sweat needs half a sack and Graham needs 1 1/2 over the final three games of the regular season.

“The competition is there and it’s pushing me to be my best self,” said Reddick, who is nearing his career high of 12 1/2. “And not only that, but I want to be my best self. I want to be the best and that’s what drives me. And as long as I’m going to continue to play football, I’m going to try to hit that goal.”

Through 14 games, the Eagles have four players with at least 8 1/2 sacks and five with at least 6. After they had just 29 sacks last season, the Eagles lead the NFL with 55 in 2022.

The Eagles are getting close to the franchise record of 62 set in 1989.

Based on the way this season is going, they’re probably going to break it. And they’ll be racing to make it happen.

“Everybody is always trying to crack the first one,” Graham said. “Because we know if one crack one, shoot, everybody hungry for the next one. That’s what it is, it’s great competition. It’s not like we want it to separate us or anything but it’s about us having bets, fun little bets on who’s going to get there first.”

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