Eagles Positional Spotlight: Defensive Line

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Just like the offensive line, the defensive line has been an area that the Eagles organization has always valued more than most teams. Howie Roseman seems to treat both the offensive and defensive line like his pride and joys, a cornerstone for the Eagles to build around, and once again, the Eagles have added to this area during this offseason. Let’s have a look at how the defensive line is looking for the Eagles heading into the new season and how the new faces could make an instant impact. 

Defensive tackle

Obviously the main defensive tackle the Eagles have for the 2020 season is Fletcher Cox. Cox has been one of the best performers for the Eagles over the years and is one of the best defensive tackles in the league right now. Howie and the Eagles decided to give Cox a new partner for the upcoming season in the way of former Steeler Javon Hargrave. He was arguably the best defensive tackle available for teams to pick up in free agency and the thought of him and Cox being the main attacking pair for the Eagles is the stuff of dreams unless you’re coming up against them, in which case it’s the stuff of nightmares. 

The Eagles then have a fantastic rotational piece in Malik Jackson. Philly never got to see what a partnership between Cox and Jackson could produce for the team when Jackson went down in one of his first snaps for Philly last season with a season-ending injury. Jackson will be a brilliant rotational piece for the Eagles that will allow them to freshen up the attack with a seriously versatile tackle who offers something different to Hargrave’s ‘nose’ style.

Hassan Ridgeway is another name that will be an impact player for the Eagles after signing a new one-year deal with the team during the offseason. Ridgeway will be a great backup option for the line and you’d imagine he sees the field on a fair chunk of snaps too.

You then factor in that the Eagles have Bruce Hector, Albert Huggins, Anthony Rush and newly added UDFA Raequan Williams developing in the background, you have to say, the Eagles are seriously stacked at the position. 

Defensive end

While the opposition center and guards are dealing with that group of monsters, tackles will be having a tough task at dealing with the Eagles defensive end group. A group that includes some really interesting options, with one of them being the veteran defensive end Brandon Graham.

Graham has been a consistent producer for the Eagles defensive line and when you pair him with former first-round pick Derek Barnett, the Eagles have an explosive pairing. Barnett has to really prove himself this year, the former first-rounder hasn’t really reached his full potential in Philly, don’t get me wrong, he’s a great defensive end, but he could be so much better and everyone is hoping he can produce during this upcoming season. The Eagles picked up his fifth-year-option which may keep pressure off his shoulders for now.

Behind the starters, the Eagles have some really good options in guys like Genard Avery, Daeshon Hall, Shareef Miller, and Josh Sweat. All of the players I’ve just mentioned have shown real flashes of talent during their time with the Eagles, but they haven’t done so consistently during their time on the field to earn a real role in the rotation.  

Heading into the season, two of those options are ones I’m excited about and that’s Miller and Sweat. Sweat looks like he’ll be a dominant edge rusher in the league and hopefully he can really produce this season, I have a funny feeling that he will as well. Miller has one year under his belt now but experience lacks and this is his year to really take control of that rotational role he currently holds. There’s a real melee between those 4 guys I mentioned for a firm grasp of snaps and hopefully that competition will force the guys to evolve their games further. 

Further down the depth charts, you have Joe Ostman and newly added draft pick and 7th rounder Casey Toohill. Toohill is a guy who looks to be an Avery type, a former linebacker who the Eagles have decided to use as an edge rusher. It seems to me, from the tape I’ve watched that Toohill may not have the necessary athletic ability to be an edge rusher but if the Eagles believe he does so it’ll be interesting to see how he takes to the position and how quickly he develops under guys like Barnett and especially Graham. 

Heading into the 2020 season, the Eagles starting defensive line has to be one of the best in the league, a starting 4 of Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave and Derek Barnett is electric. There’s so much talent on that starting line. Then you look at the talent behind the starters and you can’t stop yourself getting way too excited for the upcoming season, guys like Malik Jackson, Hassan Ridgeway, Josh Sweat, Shareef Miller, Daeshon Hall and Genard Avery on rotation is an incredible lineup to have, especially when you have guys like Raequan Williams, Casey Toohill and Joe Ostman all developing in the background and hopefully under the wings of guys like Cox, Jackson, and Graham.  

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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