In the final 20 days before the start of the regular season, we are counting down the top 20 players in the NFC East. For a full explanation, see this post.
No. 9 -- Jason Babin, Eagles DE
Babin's game is pretty simple. Once he arrived in Tennessee for the 2010 season and teamed up with defensive line coach Jim Washburn, he was able to strip away everything he didn't do well and focus on the one thing he does extremely well -- get after the quarterback. Babin picked up 12.5 sacks that year with the Titans, and when Washburn jumped to Philadelphia in 2011, Babin followed and collected 18 more sacks last year for the Eagles. Only Minnesota's Jared Allen and Dallas' DeMarcus Ware had more.
A perfect fit in Washburn's Wide 9 defensive line scheme, which asks its ends to be fast and aggressive enough to speed around blockers and pursue the quarterback on every play, Babin has turned himself into one of the great sack artists in today's game. It's a passing league, as I'm sure you've heard, and of the eight players ahead of Babin on this list, only one is not strictly a passing-game player. It may well be that Babin doesn't play the run as well as some of his peers, or that he's not the same kind of all-around player that some of the other pass-rushers in his division are. But that misses the point.
Babin is a lethal pass-rusher at a time when rushing the passer is perhaps more important than it's ever been in NFL history. He's a lethal pass-rusher in a defense that can't function unless its ends are wreaking havoc on the backfield. He's a man for his time and his team, and because he's as great as he is at what he does, he deserves this spot on this particular list.
Rankings so far:
10. Victor Cruz, WR, Giants
11. London Fletcher, LB, Redskins
12. Michael Vick, QB, Eagles
13. Tyron Smith, T, Cowboys
14. Brian Orakpo, LB, Redskins
15. Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys
16. Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys
17. DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles
18. Osi Umenyiora, DE, Giants
19. Evan Mathis, G, Eagles
20. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants