With Training Camp now just a few days away, excitement is beginning to build. After months without sports, we’re being bombarded with them at every turn and for Eagles fans in particular, there’s a lot to look forward to.
When it comes to defensive end however, the optimism for most will turn into an element of concern. It feels like only yesterday that the team fielded a deep group of pass-rushers. Michael Bennett, Chris Long, and Vinny Curry, have all played huge roles throughout the Doug Pederson era. But it looks as though 2020 will be a little quieter.
Brandon Graham is still at the top of the depth chart and understandably so. After finally getting a deserved payday, he racked up 8.5 sacks in 2019, his second-highest career total. The 32-year-old isn’t getting any younger though and the long-term questions are only just beginning.
Derek Barnett was a first-round pick in 2017 but has arguably struggled to live up to the hype. He’s had his fair share of splash plays and flashy moments, but injury setbacks and a lack of developmental consistency have stopped what was promised to be an electric career. It’s still a little too early to call the pick disappointing, and he is coming off of a 6.5 sack season. But the Eagles picked up his fifth-year option and at 24-years-old, Barnett has two seasons left to prove he’s worth a contract extension and convincing Howie Roseman that he doesn’t need to hit the reset button.
The one player I’m really excited to watch this Summer/season is Josh Sweat. He took a massive leap in production last year and I can’t wait to see what a full season of NFL play has done to his game and heading into camp against names like Lane Johnson is only going to help that growth. is easily the team’s EDGE3 going into camp. It’s a role he should have no issues in keeping though…and there lies the issue.
Shareef Miller is the next man on this list. A fourth-round pick last year, Miller played in 2 special teams snaps. He then guaranteed the world ten sacks on Twitter this past offseason. Brilliant. It’s always good to set yourself goals, but with a new DL coach, three names ahead of you on the depth chart and a wealthy 2 NFL regular-season snaps behind you (0 on defense), it might be better to temper them a little.
The meat of this battle comes down to the last four names on the depth chart. Two have been here before, one has not. Joe Ostman & Daeshon Hall are both coming off of torn ACL’s meaning that they’ll have a lot of ground to gain if they’re to make the final roster. Ostman has long been a Training Camp darling, but injuries have stopped the scout team star from Central Michigan from taking that next leap. In his third year, that has to come to an end.
The final two names of that quartet will be the most intriguing but for different reasons. Casey Toohill was the team’s final Draft pick this year. At 6’4, 250 lbs, Toohill’s size may need bulking. Believe it or not, he also ran a rapid 40-yard dash at 4.69…shocking. A long and rangy edge-rusher, Toohill will be the first project of a new defensive line coach in Philadelphia. Toohill reminds me a lot of Genard Avery in terms of his skillset, which may be worth noting.
Talking of Avery and diverting slightly off-topic, he really is a total wildcard. Will he play at defensive end, or as a linebacker? Will he be able to put his hand in the dirt or be a stand-up edge rusher? The Eagles gave up a fourth round pick for his services last year but he barely saw the field after an impressive debut. This Camp will be absolutely pivotal for a player trying to find his long-term home.
The final player though is Matt Leo – An Austailian defensive end who joined the Eagles through the NFL’s international pathway program. Formerly of the Iowa Cyclones, his path to a roster spot is a long one, but he had 5.5 TFL in 2019 as a rotational DE and brings intriguing size at 6’7, 275 lbs.
Do the team need outside help? Should they bring back Vinny Curry? Can the guys on the edge of the roster step up? The Eagles may not have a lot of starting depth at DE, but they do have a lot of questions that an intense training camp will answer.
Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports
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