Are Eagles showing faith in unproven underdogs at defensive end?

There has been a lot of speculation surrounding the Eagles defensive end group this past offseason. The team let Vinny Curry walk into free agency and as things stand, the only addition made was in the seventh-round of the Draft where they selected Casey Toohill. This would be fine if the core was built around stability, but the truth is, it’s anything but.

Brandon Graham had a tremendous 2019 campaign but isn’t getting any younger and as mystery grows around Derek Barnett, so does his contract value, that has now been pushed down the fifth-year option route. Outside of Josh Sweat who took a big leap forward last year, there are some wild unknowns.

Shareef Miller was a fourth-round selection one year ago but saw just two special teams snaps all season. Part of this was intentional as he really wasn’t ready to make that leap and was always regarded as a project. The Penn State product has an impressive bull-rush, but entered the NFL as a one-trick pony and preseason highlighted that.

The Eagles then parted ways with DL coach Phillip Daniels this past offseason, which may not be a great sign for how Miller’s first NFL season went in terms of growth. With a shortened offseason, there’s no OTA period for Miller to refine his craft and really work on the technical holes in his game…but this didn’t stop him guaranteeing ten sacks.

If the Eagles echo that confidence then it certainly explains why they haven’t added to their corps.

The other wildcard here is of course Central Michigan’s Joe Ostman – who signed as a UDFA in 2018 and went on to have an electric preseason, stacking 9 tackles. At 6’3, 259 lbs, Ostman tallied 45.5 tackles for loss and 26 sacks during his collegiate career and his development on the practice squad left the coaching staff purring. He emulated names like J.J Watt and Khalil Mack on the scout team as a rookie, leaving many to expect a big jump in year two.

That jump at least started to take place. Ostman was explosive all through the OTA and training camp period until an ACL tear ripped the carpet from under his feet. With a new defensive line coach in town, it’ll be interesting to see if Ostman can pick up where he left off when training camp does open. The Eagles are really high on the young defensive end and another strong offseason could be all it takes for him to make the final 53.

With Miller and Ostman providing two wildcard entries into the DE4 challenge, it’s intriguing to see that the Eagles still haven’t signed a veteran. No Vinny Curry, no experience, not a single NFL snap between the two candidates looking to compete. Either the Birds’ are waiting until later in the proceedings to sign a cheap vet, or they’re showcasing a wealth of confidence in unproven talents who may well have been shining behind closed doors. If it’s the latter, then this Summer and beyond suddenly got very spicy.

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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