Jason Babin isn't the only Eagle who should go
Bob Ford, Inquirer Sports Columnist
Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2012, 6:43 PM
Andy Reid spoke to the fans for 18 minutes Tuesday during his weekly media briefing at the NovaCare Complex, and although he went into some thoughtful analysis of the Eagles and the NFL - "Anybody can win any Sunday" - he didn't find time to mention that one of the supposed leaders of his team was about to be booted onto Pattison Avenue.
There's no denying that defensive end Jason Babin was having a bad year, or that his sack fetish had overwhelmed the basic function of his position, but if you're going to roast a scapegoat, you ought to have the courage to do it in a forum that will incur real questions about the move.
The list of players having bad years, just like the list of coaches having bad years, is not a short one in the Eagles organization. If Reid released all the players who haven't done well this season, the team wouldn't be able to play six-on-six against the Cowboys on Sunday night.
"It's been a bit universal in the tackling category," Reid said Tuesday when asked specifically whether one or two of his shoddy tacklers deserve benching. "Most positions [have] had too many, in my eyes, missed tackles, and we've used everybody."
Babin was tied for 13th on the team in tackles, which isn't good for a defensive end who has gotten as much time on the field. Some of that can be forgiven in a season when he puts his head down and blows past running backs in trying to get to the quarterback . . . and gets there. Last year, Babin had a career-high 18 sacks. His 36 sacks since 2010 - even including his scant 5.5 total this year - are third in the NFL behind only DeMarcus Ware and Jared Allen.
Maybe he wasn't doing enough this year, but he still was merely doing what he was hired to do. Babin was brought in to anchor, along with Trent Cole, the pincer movement of Jim Washburn's wide-nine alignment along the defensive line. That philosophy obviously is being scrapped, with good reason, and Washburn seems very likely to be among those looking for another job after this year.
If offensive coordinators found a way to limit Babin's effectiveness by using an extra blocker to chip him, or by lending double-team help with a tight end, then there should have been a corresponding opportunity on the other side of the line. Way over there, Cole has 1.5 sacks this season, and still has a locker and a helmet.
As always with the Eagles, there's a lot of stuff we don't know yet. And, obviously, a public briefing is no place to find it.
Babin can be a grating personality, and it might be that he and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles clashed once too often. It could be that Babin refused to put into place adjustments he had been asked to make. It could be that Reid simply thought it was time to hang a villager to get the locker room's attention. It could be all of that.
But, please, don't give me the Vinny Curry explanation.
Curry, the team's second-round draft pick, didn't dress for the first 10 games. He was active on Monday night, however, played 21 of 67 defensive snaps, and had five tackles, one more than Babin.
It was a nice night for Curry (and only Curry), but it was well short of giving Reid enough reason to release a veteran to make way for the coming of Vinny Curry. Please.
This was a statement move by Reid, and it had nothing to do with rookie defensive ends. The statement may simply be that his patience with those great guys on the field, the ones who dedicated this season to him, finally is exhausted.
If so, don't make this the last stop on the train, Andy. Continue the purge by benching the entire defensive secondary, which can't execute what Bowles termed "high school coverages." Go right down the list. It would be better to watch Curtis Marsh miss a tackle than to watch either of the incumbent cornerbacks avoid making one. It would be better to find out whether David Sims can play safety than to be reminded again of the flaws of the current starters.
Anything different is worth a try. Even being up-front during a media briefing.
Contact Bob Ford at firstname.lastname@example.org, read his blog at www.philly.com/postpatterns, and follow @bobfordsports on Twitter.
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Posted 28 November 2012 - 09:17 AM