By now, we know the importance of defensive end depth for the Eagles. With an insurance policy of a potential Connor Barwin return, it’s down to Josh Sweat and Shareef Miller to prove they’re ready to step into a potential EDGE4 role and assume a much greater defensive impact.
Drafted in the fourth round last year, Sweat had just 14.5 sacks in his FSU career, but more worryingly, endured a horrifying High School injury that saw him need surgery on his ACL, MCL, and PCL. If that wasn’t enough, he never really flourished in the Seminoles defense, becoming an athletically gifted schematic misfit.
In his senior year, he stood at 6’5, 251 lbs, and was used just inside the shoulder of the offensive tackle and expected to use a four-point stance, Sweat was never a devoted pass-rusher, nor a devoted run-stopper. This in turn, somewhat stagnated his production although as the above video shows, he was able to do more than enough to turn heads.
When he arrived in Philadelphia, his development excited many, but his rookie season flew under the radar. Sweat played in just 68 defensive snaps last year (20 of which came against the Saints in a blowout loss) before an ankle injury ended his first NFL campaign. He will now be tasked with a role that could see him play upwards of 200. It’s a big leap, but the Eagles have to remain confident it’s one that a player who lined up all over the Seminoles D-line as somewhat of a schematic misfit who produced everywhere, can do so. The good news is, the confidence is extremely high.
“It’s a huge difference between being a rookie, trying to learn, and trying to adapt. It’s not just the on-the-field. Off the field, he was battling some injuries. To come back the second year, have it all under your belt, the experience of getting a little bit of playing time. You say the game slows down. That’s a real common cliché.
I think you just become so much more comfortable, and you can see somebody’s ability. He did a really nice job through all of our OTAs. But how he contributes this year will be dependent on how he practices in training camp, and what he looks like in pre-season games.
But we’re excited about him. He’s long. He can play with some power. He has speed. He’s around the passer when he rushes because he’s so long. There are a lot of good things with him. He just needs to have a good camp, and I think he’s focused to be able to do that.”– Jim Schwartz after Friday’s practice
It’s not just the defensive coordinator who’s excited, either. Sweat, who has added around 15 pounds to his frame, has drawn praise from teammates past and present, as well as showing a ruthless mentality that is bound to win the hearts of the Philadelphia faithful.
“He’s strong as can be. He played two-gap at Florida State. I mean, you look at him, he looks like a 400-meter sprinter. He was legs wide, squared up, doing those kind of things. He has some of the strongest hands of all our defensive linemen, which then you start putting him into situations where he can use his speed a little bit more. It’s a bonus that a lot of other guys don’t have. He’s very strong. We feel strongly about him stopping the run.”– Jim Schwartz
Sweat seems like a guy that’s fired up and ready to explode in 2019, which is good news for a team trying to replace the production they lost in Chris Long and Michael Bennett.
He may have flown firmly under the radar as a rookie, but there’s every chance he breaks out in a fashion that sends the radar into a frenzy of blips in 2019.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports