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Factoid

Top pass rushes

Can Eagles keep it going?

Last year's Eagles defense, led by Haason Reddick (pictured), had one of the best seasons for sacks since the stat has been recorded -- 70. Only two teams have had more: the 1984 Chicago Bears, and the 1989 Minnesota Vikings. But a repeat of anything close to that total is very unlikely.

A sign of how much more quarterback-friendly the game has become (and the increased focus by offenses on keeping those players safe, with short passing and the like) is how seldom those kind of sack totals show up these days compared to in the past. It happened a lot more often in the 1980s than today.

Since the league went to a 16-game season, back in 1978 (45 years ago), there have been 25 seasons where a team recorded at least 60 sacks. But the vast majority of those seasons (18) came in the 80s. There have been only 7 since 1990, and just 2 since 2006. Pretty rare these days, and the move to a 17-game schedule probably won't result in a sizable increase.

Of those previous 24 defenses to record 60-plus sacks, only five came back to record 60 again one year later. The last to do it was in 1987, the legendary Bears defense that set the record of 72 sacks in 1984, and recorded 60-plus four years in a row.

Since then, every 60-sack defense has declined by double digits a year later, an average of 21 fewer sacks the next season. That's the history the 2023 Eagles are up against. In the table, defenses that recorded 60 sacks again one year later are tagged with black dots. The Howie Long Raiders are the other team notable for achieving this feat, doing it twice.

60-SACK DEFENSES, ONE YEAR LATER
SeasonDefenseSackNextDecline
2022Philadelphia70????
2013Carolina6040-20
2006San Diego6142-19
2006Baltimore6032-28
2000New Orleans6653-13
1996Carolina6036-24
1990Kansas City6039-21
1989Minnesota7147-24
1989Philadelphia6246-16
1987Chicago7043-27
1986Raiders6344-19
1986• Chicago6270+8
1986San Diego6245-17
1985N.Y. Giants6859-9
1985• Raiders6563-2
1985• Chicago6462-2
1985Dallas6253-9
1985Seattle6147-14
1985San Francisco6051-9
1984• Chicago7264-8
1984Washington6652-14
1984• Raiders6465+1
1984Philadelphia6053-7
1981N.Y. Jets6636 (proj.)-30
1980San Diego6047-13

Due to a player's strike the NFL played only 9 games in 1982, which is why the Jets' total for that year is "projected."

With the Eagles, though I won't have them projected to record 60-plus sacks, they still look like one of the top defenses. They lost their defensive coordinator to Arizona, plus two of their top playmakers, Javon Hargrave (11 sacks) and C.J. Gardner-Johnson (6 interceptions).

But they also added a pair of first-round talents in the draft, Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith. And they've still got four players (Reddick, Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat and Fletcher Cox) who combined for 45 of last year's sacks on their own. They still look like one of the top groups, fantasy or otherwise.

--Andy Richardson

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