As the Eagles' season progresses, I'm becoming more convinced the pass rush is the real problem with their defense rather than the much-maligned (myself included) secondary. Quarterbacks simply aren't getting touched, and a big reason is the lack of pressure coming from the Eagles' outside linebackers. And while I am not questioning the effort put forth by Trent Cole (zero sacks), Connor Barwin (three), and Brandon Graham (one), they simply aren't getting the pressure needed for a 3-4 alignment to work.
On Saturday there will be several interesting pass-rushing prospects Eagles fans should tune in to watch:
Clemson vs. Maryland (3:30 p.m., ESPN)
Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Clemson, No. 3
Beasley, a redshirt junior, plays a hybrid DE/LB position for the Tigers, rushing the passer standing upright and with his hands in the dirt. He shows a very good inside move but lacks the strength to bull-rush offensive linemen. He's making a lot of plays this season, and if he can put on a bit more mass (he's 6-foot-2, 235 pounds) and strength during the offseason, he's a sure-fire early second-round pick.
Watch: Beasley vs. Wake Forest 2013
UCLA vs. Oregon (7 p.m., ESPN)
Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA, No. 11
Barr, a converted H-Back, is in his second season as a defensive player and continuing to show top-10 skills as an outside pass rusher. Blessed with great size (6-4, 245) and speed, Barr recorded 13 sacks in 2012, and has four through last week. His explosive first step rivals that of South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney, and his bend around the corner for a man his size is exceptional. Barr is also pretty good in coverage, often lining up wide over slot receivers. Chances are the Eagles aren't going to be picking in the top five of the 2014 draft, but if they find themselves back at the top of the draft, Barr might be a wise way to go.
Watch: Barr vs. Nebraska 2013
South Carolina vs. Missouri (7 p.m., ESPN2)
Michael Sam, DE, Missouri, No. 52
Sam plays DE for the Tigers and might be the fastest off the snap of the three players described here. He leads the FBS in tackles for loss (13) and is tied for most sacks (nine). He'll probably have to transition to the outside in the pros but might have the size (6-3, 255) to stick as a pass rusher in a 4-3 front. Sam relies on his burst off the ball to get pressure and doesn't show the flexibility of the two players above. He is also streaky, notching his nine sacks in three games (Arkansas State, Vanderbilt and Florida). The redshirt senior is coming on strong after three mostly mediocre seasons and has played himself into early second-round, possibly late first-round, consideration.
Watch: Sam vs. Vanderbilt 2013