Defensive tackle was a prominent need from the moment the Eagles’ playoff run came to a close last year. Howie Roseman came to the rescue with the signing of Malik Jackson and the idea to bring back Timmy Jernigan, who arrived with an enormous chip on his shoulder, fuming that he lost out on that once hefty contract. Two weeks into the season however, and both players are now injured. The Eagles are back in familiar and unpleasant territory.
In 2017, Beau Allen and Destiny Vaeao combined to play in over 60% of snaps and that was with a healthy Timmy Jernigan in the fray. Cox had to stay on the field for 59% of defensive snaps. That number in 2017? 58.9%. We all know that number spiked last season and the reasons why. It also led to Cox missing the bulk of offseason activity.
“Things have a way of settling down after an amount of time. There’s always going to be an adjustment period when you have new guys coming in and guys are settling into new roles.” Jim Schwartz explained on Tuesday. “That’s part of the job description for coaches in the NFL. That’s part of the job description for players in the NFL. We preach all the time that if you’re on our 63-man roster, if you’re here, if you have a seat, practice squad, regular, 53, 46, whatever it is, you’re going to have to be counted on at some point during the season, so get yourself ready. I think we’ve seen that plenty of times, and we might be in that same boat pretty soon.”
Fletcher Cox posted a career-high in sacks last season, but did so without much in the way of a supporting cast due to a flurry of injuries. Schwartz likes to rotate his defensive tackles early and often and once again, his hands are tied. Without his prized DT2 or a hungry DT3, the next man up is someone who went massively under-the-radar this offseason; Hassan Ridgeway.
On day 3 of the NFL Draft, the Eagles traded a seventh-round pick to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for Hassan Ridgeway, a defensive tackle the team had been high on prior to the 2016 draft. The move almost seemed too good to be true.
The 24-year old was originally a fourth-round selection back in 2016 and since then, has played in 34 games (starting 6), notching 41 tackles, 6 TFL, 4.5 sacks and one pass defensed. In 2018, he only played in 6% of snaps, tallying 6 tackles. But he appeared in five games that year and also had 3 tackles, 1 TFL and 0.5 sacks in the Colts short playoff run.
Already in two weeks for the Eagles, Ridgeway has played in 55 defensive snaps. 36% in week one and 47% in week 2, as well as a third of special teams opportunities.
Ridgeway tallied his first QB hit as an Eagle on Sunday night and the Birds will be hoping that it’s a sign of things to come. The team did sign former Dolphins DT Akeem Spence recently but while he started all 16 games last season, there is bound to be a learning curve when it comes to picking up the playbook and terminology used etc. This will leave Ridgeway pretty much uncontested at DT2 for a while. If he’s ever going to prove that a change from a 3-4 to a 4-3 was absolutely the best move for his career, it’s now. There may be no greater opportunity for the young pass-rusher to shine than in the remainder of 2019.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
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