Josh Sweat hasn’t sacked a quarterback in six games. He has just one sack in his last eight games. And he has just 6 1/2 sacks all season.
But he’s not worried about it.
“It’s like the holy grail number,” Sweat said about sacks. “If you want to question it, you can just turn on the film and see how close I am.
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“We’ve been battling with pass defense all year, whether that’s D-line, whether that’s secondary, whatever. The ball’s been out fast as s—. I’m winning. I got more pressures this year than I had probably combined in my career, more hits and I’m winning (rushes).
“It’s just not showing up how I want it to. I’m affecting the quarterback. That’s all I can say. I am affecting the quarterback more than I ever have in my career, at a higher level than I ever have in my career, won more rushes. The sacks just haven’t been hitting but I’ve been rushing better than I have in my career. I’m even way better than I was last year with my rushes in terms of how much I’m around the quarterback, how much I’m hitting and how much I’m pressuring. That’s what keeps me going. Whether it (the sacks) comes or not, I’m going to keep affecting the quarterback.”
Sweat in 2022 had a career season. He finished the year with 11 sacks (among other things) and was one of four Eagles to hit double digits for a defense that had an astounding 70 sacks on the season.
In 2023, the Eagles have just 40 sacks through 15 games and Sweat is second on the team with 6 1/2.
But to his point, Sweat has been getting pressure. There are other metrics to judge pass rushers — the Eagles have “too many,” Sweat joked — and those other numbers show that Sweat is right. He has been affecting the quarterback this season.
Here are some of those metrics from ProFootballFocus:
2023: 63 total pressures, 15 hits, 41 hurries
2022: 51 total pressures, 9 hits, 27 hurries
“I think in the end you're always trying to look at what affects the play,” de facto defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said this week. “What is the result of the play? And that's the biggest thing for us.”
In general, it’s probably fair to say the Eagles’ pass rush has been a tad disappointing this season, but Sweat thinks he’s having his best year — by far — as a pass rusher.
Sweat admits it bothers him a little bit that sack totals seem to be the only thing some folks look at when it comes to pass rushers. He understands it but he also thinks there are many factors that go into sacks that are beyond his control.
“They don’t talk about the hits or the pressures or the wins or how you affect the quarterback,” Sweat said. “Only pass-rushers and coaches, I believe, really understand.
“I’m not taking shots at fans or anything. Because it is the holy grail number so I understand where it’s coming from. But I’m affecting the quarterback, this is my best rush year I’ve ever had. I improve every year. I would like for my sacks to show up.”
Of course, it is fair to point out that Sweat’s production in those other metrics is down during his streak without a sack. Over the last six games, Sweat has 17 pressures, averaging 2.83 per game. In the first 9 games of the season, Sweat had 46 pressures, averaging 5.11 per game.
A theory that has been floated is that Sweat is a bit gassed.
“I think the way it’s played out this year, games have been close,” Sweat said. “We’ve been needing us to play a lot more. It is what it is. They need me to play more, I’m cool with it. I want to be out there whenever I can to help them. And I do like showing that I’m not just a rotational guy. I’ve been plagued with that my whole career. I don’t like hearing people say, ‘Hey, we’ll use him for depth and s— like that.’ I’m like, f— that, I can be a full-time, all-the-time player.”
This season, Sweat has already played 771 defensive snaps, which comes out to 76% of plays the defense is on the field. That’s already a career-high in snaps for Sweat with two games left on the schedule.
Sweat’s previous career high in snaps came in 2021, when he played 655 in 16 games. With two games left in the regular season, he’s on pace to play over 870.
The Eagles will finish up their regular season with games against the Cardinals and Giants and will be heavily favored in each. Maybe they can finally put a team away and let some of their premier players get some rest going into a playoff run.
And maybe if Sweat just keeps doing what he’s doing, those sack numbers will follow.
“I hope,” he said. “You never know. It’s been a little bit. All I can do is win. There’s just so many factors in to making a sack. Everyone has to be on their s—. I’ve gotta be on my s—. I can’t miss an opportunity to win. Everybody gotta be on their s—.”