The sun is shining and we should be hearing the sounds of Football gently grace the NovaCare Complex. unfortunately, that’s still not the case. With a shortened offseason, the Eagles may well lean on their veterans to hold down the fort in 2020 – especially those signed in Free Agency. But who will have the biggest impact?
The Eagles finally have a shutdown corner in the way of a three-time Pro Bowler and there is no denying that he is a monumental upgrade over what the Birds’ were working with in 2019.
What really stands out to me though is that somehow, some way, the Eagles DB’s forced the fifth-most incompletions in the NFL last year. This was in-part due to the zonal system deployed by Schwartz that encourages his players to break on the ball and keep the play ahead of them. It’s no coincidence that Darius Slay has forced the most incompletions (85) of anyone since 2014.
Slay will be tasked with shadowing a team’s number-one receiver which will be a massive weight off the shoulders of both the Safety group and his running-mate. It will allow the secondary to breathe a little more and get far more experimental with how they field nickel and dime sets.
To me, Slay’s impact may well resemble that of Alshon Jeffery in 2017. His stats may not set the world alight right away and he may not lead the league in pass breakups or picks, but his presence alone will allow the defense to shine in ways that were previously off the cards.
The first big move of free agency was signing the former Steelers DT to a three-year, $39 million deal, making him the highest-paid nose tackle in the NFL.
What makes this signing so important is the durability aspect. The 27-year old played in all 16 games for the last three seasons and has posted a total of 12.5 sacks in that time period. The last few years have been nothing short of a total disappointment at the DT position. Fletcher Cox has had to go to war with a band of broken soldiers, as interviews rip through the unit year after year. Hargrave may finally be able to buck that trend, allowing Cox to do what he does best – dominate.
In 2019, Hargrave was rated as the 8th best interior lineman in the league with a grade of 83.4. He’s also rallied to 13 tackles for loss in his last two seasons. The Eagles aren’t just getting an efficient run-stopper, but someone who can withstand the rigors of the NFL and play at a very impressive level.
We don’t yet know that NRC is going to be the starting nickel corner. He started 7 games in three years with the Rams, but there’s a good chance he’ll get the nod. The position has suffered significant injury setbacks over the last few years, but Robey Coleman has missed one game in seven years, playing in 111 out of 112 possible matchups. In today’s NFL, that’s beyond impressive.
In his last three seasons as a Ram, the former UDFA had 122 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, 3 interceptions, 20 passes defended and 9 tackles for loss. What’s even more impressive is that he did this while averaging between 50%-60% of snaps.
NRC does have a high missed-tackle percentage which is worrying and that may hurt an Eagles defense that appeared to be covered in Butter at times last year.
Robey-Coleman’s impact on the Eagles will be dependent on his role. If he starts, he could well be a huge asset and his durability is bound to play a role on a team that just can’t seem to escape the clutches of the injury bug.
I think Parks could have one of the most sizable impacts of any free agent signed by the Eagles. He’s as versatile as DB’s come in today’s game. Just look at how he was used in Denver!
He can play both Safety spots and inside the nickel, standing at 6’1, 218 lbs. In four seasons with the Broncos, Parks has racked up 148 tackles, 4 picks, 13 passes defensed, and 2 forced fumbles.
With the Eagles losing Malcolm Jenkins this offseason, Parks and his tenacious mindset will be a welcome addition in an effort to negate the departure. Parks may have a rotational role depending on package, but could easily end up being one of the defenses biggest standouts at age-25.
Williams is a signing of real intrigue and was the first move made by the team this offseason way back in January. If he can win the CB2 spot, he could well be this year’s Patrick Robinson. Morgan Burkett broke down some of Williams’ play in 2017, before injuries started to wreak havoc.
Before the injury bug savagely sunk its teeth into the career of Williams, he was struggling…or so it seemed. Our man Morgan Burkett did some digging to reveal that in a stunning 2017 campaign, he ranked as PFF’s 10th best corner and stunningly allowed a passer rating of 10.4 on throws that came 2.6+ seconds after the snap (deep attempts).
Williams is only signed to a one-year deal and it’s a cheap one at that. If he hasn’t quite been able to rekindle his old form, it’s no real loss to the Eagles. But if he can, he may well be the perfect running-mate for Darius Slay after buddying up with Casey Hayward in Los Angeles.
Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports