Philadelphia is a sports city. If we compiled a list of the greatest Philadelphia athletes of all-time it would be quite the list. Decorated with greats like Dr. J and Steve Carlton, Steve Van Buren and Bobby Clarke. When composing our list of the city’s top 20 athletes right now we don’t take into account what they did years ago or what they might do in the future. We go by the impact they are making for their team in our city right now as we read this or what they just did in the most current season. #18 on our countdown, in his second stint in Philadelphia, is making good on his return. Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Jason Babin comes in at #18.
Andy Reid has always been notorious for putting a lot of steak (pun intended) in his “trenches” positions, building from the ground up. Investing money and draft picks on offensive and defensive lineman. The Eagles D this year was definitely not something to write home about. From week to week we weren’t sure which defense would show up. But one thing that remained constant was the play of the defensive line. There were signs and moments of them being downright dominant in 2011. That dominance was largely due to the leading play of Eagles defensive ends Trent Cole and Jason Babin.
In 2011 the average sacks per team was 37.1, the Eagles led the league with 50 sacks. With new defensive-line coach Jim Washburn bringing his wide-nine scheme to Philly the Eagles desperately needed another main force to play opposite of Trent Cole and anchor the d-line. Jason Babin was exactly that. Not since the glory days of Reggie White and Clyde Simmons have the Eagles seen such a dominating sack duo on the defensive line.
Jason Babin, a 2004 1st round pick of the Houston Texans, has tried hard to live up to first-round hype in his 8 year career. After an attempt to convert the 6’3 260 pound lineman into a linebacker failed the Texans cut Babin in 2006. Babin bounced around a few teams for the next 3 seasons including his 1st stint here in Philly in 2009 only recording 2.5 sacks in 12 games. Before his breakout year in 2010 with the Tennessee Titans, and then Titans defensive line coach Jim Washburn, Babin had a career 17.5 sacks in 6 seasons in the NFL. A half sack shy of his career year 18 sacks this season with the Birds.
The wide-nine, along with the entire Eagles team, saw its share of scrutiny in 2011. But there is no denying the great impact it had on the Eagles pass rush and how well Eagles DE Jason Babin plays within in the scheme. He was downright unstoppable en route to his 2nd straight Pro Bowl season. His 18 sacks in 2011 were good for 3rd best in a season in team history tied with the late great Reggie White, trailing behind Reggie’s 21 in 1987 and Clyde Simmons 19 in 1992. It was also 3rd best in the NFL in 2011.
The wide-nine name comes from the gaps along the offensive line where the defensive players line up. Zero being right over the center and nine being way outside the line where the Eagles ends line up. Crouched down into a Usain Bolt stance, Babin looks ready to explode and pounce on the QB as he blows past too slow to react offensive lineman.
When comparing the Eagles average height and weight, 6’2 and 265 pounds, of their defensive lineman to the average height and weight of offensive lineman, 6’5 320 pounds. It is clear to see why this scheme is a smart approach to getting to the QB. Instead of foolishly trying to go head to head with this disadvantage the smaller, quicker DE lines up further away, thus giving him a 2 or 3 step running start to build up speed and have that momentum to blow by offensive lineman. Giving the Eagles a better chance to get into the backfield and get to the QB or cause chaos.
Over the last two seasons Babin has emerged as one of the league’s most ferocious pass rushers. Since 2010 Babin ranks 3rd in the NFL in sacks with 30.5. He is just one of three players with 12 or more sacks in the past 2 seasons. Babin had 6 multi sack games in 2011, including 3 games with 3 sacks. In weeks 14 and 15 he was the 10th player in NFL history to have back to back 3 sack games, the first Eagle ever to accomplish that feat. With the likes of Reggie White, Clyde Simmons, Trent Cole, Huge Douglas and Jerome Brown in our team’s history, that is quite impressive.
It was clear as the year went on that defensive coordinator Juan Castillo was finally figuring out how to use his monstrous sack duo by employing Babin and Cole from all over the line. Allowing them to roam around like linebackers and attack at will.
Adding to the mix in 2011 was another new addition, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, who added 5.5 sacks to the defensive line. Jenkins had this to say about fellow line mate Babin.
"He has been coming up with some huge plays," Jenkins said of Babin. "He is so explosive off the ball and getting around the quarterback on what seems like every play, and to have somebody like that is huge."
Tattoos and all Babin looks like a man you do not want to mess with. His signature sack celebration, one arm flexed, the other to the sky was seen often in 2011 and we will no doubt see a lot of in 2012. Babin practices hard and plays even harder, just the type of player that Eagle phans love to love.
"My thing is, I'm just going to keep doing what I do every week, practicing hard, doing what I'm told," Jason Babin said. "And on Sunday, give it my all."
Despite an up and down year the Eagles D finished in the top 10 in yards per game, points per game, and #1 in sacks due in large part to the play of #93 Jason Babin who is #18 on our Top 20 Best Athlete in Philadelphia countdown.