Michael Bennett paying big dividends, leads team with 6.5 sacks

His solid play will make it difficult to release him, but the team would save $7 million under the cap if he were cut

Three Eagles injuries in the first half of Sunday’s game were announced at once:

Josh Adams has a shoulder injury. He will return.

Brandon Brooks has an ankle injury. He will return.

Michael Bennett has a foot injury. His return is questionable.

Adams returned and ran for 84 yards, a touchdown, and a two-point conversion in the Eagles’ 25-22 win over the New York Giants. Brooks was a factor in the 127 yards the Birds gained on the ground.

Then there’s Bennett.

“We didn't know we were going to get him back,” said Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz on Tuesday. “We were prepared to play the rest of the game without him. And then he trotted back out there.”

It’s a good thing Bennett did. He had a key sack on the Giants’ first possession of the second half to help set the tone that the Eagles’ defense wasn’t going to be pushed around like it was in the first half, when the Giants raked the Birds’ defense for 346 total yards. It was a staggering total and the highest yards put up by any team in a half since 1991.

In the second half, though, the Eagles allowed just 56 total yards.

For me, that's the most yards I've ever given up in the first half of a game, and probably the least yards I've ever given up in a second half of a game,” said Schwartz. “Really hard to put a finger on it. I'll tell you what, the way that game went I was really proud of the way our guys hung in. We've all seen games like that that start that way that keep rolling up on you. Our guys were determined not to let that happen again this week, and I was proud of them for that.”

Bennett’s sack was vital in tilting the playing field back in the Eagles’ favor in the second half.

He blasted around New York tight end Rhett Ellison and dumped Eli Manning to the ground at 2-yard line. The 11-yard sack put the Giants in a third-and-18 and without much room to try another pass, and, sure enough, their third-down call was a give-up play – a handoff up the middle.

The Eagles got good field position from there and converted the short field into a field goal that pulled them within 19-14 with 6:51 to go in the third quarter.

“You block a defensive end on a tight end, that's a play you have to expect your guy to make the play, and Mike did,” said Schwartz. “Got the sack backed up. Got a big stop early in that third quarter. … When the chips were down he really got going for us.

“It was tough for him to come back in that game. He had to really tough it out. That was sort of the boat that everybody was in. His energy and his ability to go in there and make a play certainly had a lot to do with that tackle for a loss, a big sack. Tackle for a loss came from a defensive tackle position. So yeah, certainly a big part of our ability to win that game.”

At 32, Bennett has shown no signs of slowing down since being traded for in the offseason.

After not posting a sack in his first three games, he now has a team-high 6.5 in his last eight games. His play will certainly give the Eagles front office something to think about in the offseason. Bennett still has two years left on his contract, with a cap hit of $7 million in 2019 and $8 million in 2020. But there is no dead money on the deal so the Eagles would get cap relief of $7 million if they were to release him.

Bennett isn’t the only veteran on a sack roll. Chris Long had a pivotal sack against the Giants, too, bringing down Manning for a 10-yard loss on third down that forced New York to punt from its own 12. Again, the Eagles got good field position, but, this time, turned into an Adams touchdown that gave them their first lead of the game at 20-19 that became 22-19 on Adams’ two-point run with 10:15 left in the fourth quarter.

Long, who is 33 and contemplated retirement in the offseason, has 3.5 of his 4.5 sacks in the past three games. He is now second on the team in sacks behind Bennett.

NOTES: Schwartz praised the play of Fletcher Cox, who had two tackles and three quarterback hits on Sunday. “I can't say enough about how Fletch - Fletch was not only playing at a high level, but he was playing with the kind of toughness and leadership that you expect from a guy like that, and that had a lot to do with our ability to come out on the winning side of that.”

Offensive coordinator Mike Groh said on Tuesday that he saw some steps in the right direction toward the Eagles ending their annoying habit of starting slowly. The Eagles have scored just 21 points in the first quarter all season, and 14 of those came in one game – against the Giants on Oct. 11.

“We saw a lot of positives I think at the beginning of the game,” said Groh. “(There were a) couple penalties (that) kept us from getting the production that we want, but there are still things we want to get better at. But we did see some positives there at the beginning of the game.”