While the areas of excitement for the Eagles this season will be the improvement of their offense and their secondary, there’s another position that you should keep your eye on this coming Sunday. The defensive end group hasn’t really grown in numbers outside of the addition of Casey Toohill. With Derek Barnett down this weekend, there’s a huge opportunity for Josh Sweat to make his mark.
Many clamored for the Eagles to trade for Jadaveon Clowney earlier in the offseason, but Howie stood pat – inadvertently issuing a vote of confidence in his young pass-rusher. Sweat didn’t have a masterful season last year but he did have one that rivaled many other DE’s with his limited snaps. The former fourth-round pick tallied four sacks, seven tackles for loss, and 21 total tackles. He also had five QB hurries, fifteen pressures, and ten QB hits. For a rotational player, this was impressive.
The concern for Sweat entering the NFL was how his knees would hold up. In his first season he missed 7 games but he made up for it last year by playing in all 16 games. He seems to have gotten healthier as time has gone by and absolutely stronger. Sweat played 352 snaps on defense and 125 snaps on special teams last season compared to the limited snaps from his rookie season.
Per PFF, he scored pass-rush productivity (measured pressure created per snap basis) of 6.5, good for 2nd of players currently on the team:
Player Rush Snaps Total pressures Pass rush productivity Brandon Graham 482 67 7.9 Josh Sweat 247 27 6.5 Derek Barnett 425 47 6.4 Fletcher Cox 497 56 6.0
With Barnett out of action and entering a vital season, Sweat will step into a matchup where he’ll line up against Morgan Moses. The 29-year-old allowed 5 sacks last year and earned a PFF grade of 65.2, giving up 11 penalties. It was one of his worst seasons to date, having started in over 80 games since being drafted, never missing one. Working against Chase Young in Camp may have helped him, but if Moses does struggle once more and his play regresses, and explosive Josh Sweat could smell blood in the water in kickstart a bid to prove himself worthy of a long-term starting role.
Keep an eye on the former Florida State product this Sunday as the Eagles will rely on their defensive line to control the tempo of the Washington offense. Both Howie and Doug have stated that they want to start giving their young guys a chance and there may be no better player than Sweat to take advantage of this opportunity.
Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire