Going into Training Camp, the Eagles are absolutely stacked at defensive tackle, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t questions to be answered. Here’s everything you need to know about the interior pass-rush ahead of next week’s activities down at the NovaCare Complex.
What to watch
This may well be one of the deepest groups in the entire NFL. The addition of Javon Hargrave to the defensive tackle group may well be one of the most underrated moves by any team this offseason and it was one that was sorely needed. Fletcher Cox may have been fighting a lingering injury, but a secondary injury to his back may well have been sustained after carrying the position by himself for two years.
Cox finally has a running-mate in Hargrave, who has been one of the most durable nose tackles in the NFL, as well as one of the most dominant in recent years. The duo should be in-line for a monstrous year
This will also be a huge offseason for Malik Jackson, whose first campaign in Philadelphia was ripped away after an injury in week one ended his season. A career-high 8 sacks in 2017 showed what he was capable of, but it’s his ability to play both the 3-tech and 5-tech spots that will be invaluable this offseason.
The Eagles do not have a lot of depth at defensive end and are inundated with it at defensive tackle. Having Jackson’s explosiveness partnered wit Hargrave and Cox in the same alignment could be an absolutely terrifying concept for an offensive front to handle. Keep a close eye on Jackson this Summer to see where he’s lining up and where his presence is being felt the most.
The fourth cog in the quartet is just as important back Hassan Ridgeway was also a massive positive for the Eagles. The former Colt stepped up in a big way when injuries ravaged the DT group once again. With 2 sacks and 6 tackles in 3 weeks, Jackson was firing on all cylinders until that injury bug found its way to the bright young talent. Ridgeway will be keen to solidify the DT4 spot and ensure he rolls into 2020 to pick up where he left off last year.
Where the fun really starts though is the free-for-all behind the four-man rotation. Anthony Rush was a pleasant surprise out of UAB last year, registering 9 tackles and 2 passes defended. At 6’5, 350 lbs, Rush is a man-mountain who absorbs pressure like a sponge. Keeping his spot on the roster promises to be anything but straight forward however.
Bruce Hector and Albert Huggins have both seen regular-season action for the Eagles and provided a burst off of special teams when needed. Hector has arguably been the most productive. In 2018, the former UDFA amassed 2 tackles, 1 QB hit and 0.5 sacks, but despite getting his first start in 2019, was unable to log a single stat. It’s an important summer for both to assert themselves and show that they do belong on this Eagles roster and can be valuable pieces down the stretch, even if they rotate on and off of the ‘flex’ spots added to rosters this season.
Finally, there’s Raequan Williams. At 6’4, 308 lbs, the rookie UDFA had 48 tackles, 7.5 for loss, 5 sacks and two pass breakups in 2019. He’ll be looking to make some noise from the outside and cause a summer surprise.
Whichever way you look at it, the Eagles are stacked for depth at defensive tackle going into camp, which is a nice change of pace after two seasons where depth had been totally abolished due to injuries. The question is, how many of those on the edge of the roster will make the final cut?
Mandatory Photo Credit: Jerry Habraken, Delaware News Journal, Delaware News Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC
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