Eagles' injury-depleted defensive line improves

Updated: October 3, 2003, 2:05 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- Hugh Douglas is gone. Derrick Burgess, Jamaal Green and Paul Grasmanis won't play again this season. Jerome McDougle is still injured and Brandon Whiting is just returning.

The Philadelphia Eagles' defensive line has been decimated by injuries and Douglas' departure through free agency. But they came through in a crucial victory over the Buffalo Bills last week, and are hoping to do the same against the Washington Redskins on Sunday.

"I feel good about the front four," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said Thursday. "We may have a low number of sacks, but we're getting good pressure."

Forced to rely on a four-man rush because the secondary was depleted by injuries, the Eagles still harassed and hurried Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe most of the game. They also completely shut down Buffalo's running attack, holding the Bills to just 21 yards on the ground.

Defensive tackles Corey Simon and Hollis Thomas got a strong rush inside on the slow-footed Bledsoe. Converted tackle Darwin Walker played well at defensive end opposite N.D. Kalu. And Marco Coleman had three tackles filling in at end.

"When it came down to a pass every down situation, they were able to pressure the quarterback," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "When you can do that with four guys that late in the game with only five guys playing, that's impressive."

Johnson usually relies heavily on blitzes to pressure quarterbacks. But with All-Pro safety Brian Dawkins and Pro Bowl cornerback Bobby Taylor out with foot injuries and Pro Bowl cornerback Troy Vincent sidelined in the first quarter with a hamstring injury, Johnson was forced to let the defensive line generate a rush so the inexperienced secondary wouldn't be exposed.

"We're not going to blitz every down. We've got to get some pressure," Johnson said.

Simon and cornerback Sheldon Brown, who replaced Vincent, got the only sacks on Bledsoe, giving the Eagles four sacks in three games. But the five-man line rotation prevented Bledsoe from getting too comfortable in the pocket.

This week's task is getting to Redskins quarterback Patrick Ramsey and preventing him from having enough time to throw to the dangerous tandem of Laveranues Coles and Rod Gardner.

"It's really important to get pressure on him, don't give him time to make his checks and throws," Kalu said. "Those young guys in the secondary are doing a good job, but we need to give them help."

Whiting is back in the starting lineup after missing one game with a hamstring injury. Walker will move back inside and rotate with Thomas. But Vincent is questionable, meaning Brown would have to join Sheppard and Clinton Hart in the secondary. The trio has started four games combined.

"We just have to go out and keep improving," Brown said.

The Eagles had hoped the defensive line would be a strength despite losing Douglas, a three-time Pro Bowl selection who led the team with 12{ sacks last year.

But Burgess went down for the season with a torn Achilles' tendon in the preseason. Green, a fourth-round pick from Miami, also was lost for the season when he broke his leg in the preseason.

McDougle, a first-round pick from Miami, injured his ankle in the final preseason game and still hasn't returned. Grasmanis tore his Achilles' tendon in the second game against New England and will miss the rest of the year.

Meanwhile in Jacksonville, Douglas has just one sack and 11 tackles in four games. He only had 1{ sacks in his final five games last season, including playoffs.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index