Pass Rush Has Been Sore Spot on D

The Eagles pass rush has been pretty lame of late. Averaging just one sack per game over the last five weeks, the Eagles will have to get more pressure on the quarterback - whether it's Mark Brunell or Patrick Ramsey - if they're going to win Sunday in the season finale.

Jevon Kearse could well be out of Sunday's matchup against Washington after spraining his right knee in the second quarter of Saturday's loss to Arizona. That would potentially give the Eagles' already sickly pass rush could have even more problems, although Kearse hasn't exactly been a sack machine.

The bad news is that Kearse and his 7.5 sacks leads the Eagles defense this season. The really sad part of it is that 6.5 of those sacks came in the first ten games and Kearse went a stretch of four full games without getting a sack before dumping Josh McCown in the first quarter of the game this past weekend. For now, Kearse is listed as questionable for the New Year's Day game against the Redskins. "We'll see how he does in the next couple days," said Andy Reid at his weekly press conference.

Kearse suffered the injury when linemate Mike Patterson fell on Kearse's leg early in the second quarter. Even though he's hurting and the Eagles have nothing but pride to play for, Kearse sounds determined to play. "If I can go (against the Redskins), I will," Kearse said.

Since signing as a free agent in March of 2004, Kearse would have to be listed as somewhat of a disappointment, especially for the money he's being piad. His deal is pretty hefty and included $20 million in bonuses, many of which Kearse won't reach, but the Eagles have gotten just 15 sacks in two seasons of work from Kearse.

Kearse has been just part of the problem though. With just 28 sacks this season, including two against the Cardinals, the birds have just five in their last five games. The season total is the lowest for an Eagles team since 1976, when they recorded just 19 sacks. The '78 Eagles had 29. While Kearse had plenty of help last season, he hasn't gotten much support from his linemates this season, since the Eagles' defensive tackles have a total of just six sacks in 15 games.

Rookie Trent Cole is second on the team with five sacks and his play has been one small bright spot of the season. Cole, who the Eagles drafted in the fifth round out of Cincinnati, has been seeing more time since starting his first game of the season November 20th against the Giants. Earlier in the season, Cole was limited to basically playing on special teams and was actually opening eyes in that role.

Mike Patterson has notched 3.5 sacks and Darwin Walker has 2.5, but no other lineman has more than two sacks on the season.

The non-existent pass rush has hampered the Eagles secondary as well. All season long, the Eagles have encountered problems defending the pass and they were picked apart by Josh McCown and the Cardinals receivers on Saturday. McCown completed 27 of 38 passes for 294 yards and two touchdowns against the Eagles, whose inept pass rush was seldom able to put much pressure on the quarterback, giving McCown and receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald time to work their magic.

The good news is that the Redskins offense ranks just 20th in passing in the NFL and are a far cry from the number one ranked Cardinals attack that beat the Eagles. Plus, the Redskins may be without Mark Brunell who left in the third quarter of the Redskins' win over the Giants on Sunday. Of course, Patrick Ramsey came on and picked apart the Giants defense to lead the Redskins to a revenge win over New York.

With Kearse possibly out on Sunday, N.D. Kalu will likely step in and see significant time. Kalu has two sacks on the year. Kalu recorded 13.5 sacks over two seasons in 2002 and 2003, but suffered a torn ACL and hasn't been able to find his way back into regular playing time since the injury.

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