Five Eagles who need to take a step forward in 2021: Defense edition

PHILADELPHIA, PA – OCTOBER 18: Philadelphia Eagles Defensive Tackle Javon Hargrave (93) heads to the locker room after the first half during the game between the Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles on October 18, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

The Eagles are preparing to usher in a new era of football in Philadelphia and while there will be some familiar faces on defense, there is also a real sense of mystery when it comes to expectations. With a new scheme comes new opportunity and this very young core will be hungry to prove its worth this Summer. Here are five players who could be looking to take a significant step forward under Jonathan Gannon’s tutelage.

Josh sweat

The Eagles may have invested heavily at defensive end this offseason, but the fact that Josh Sweat’s role has remained unquestioned says a lot. The FSU product had a breakout season last year, playing with way more confidence than the year prior. Sweat played in 14 games while starting in just 3. He also tallied a career-high 6 sacks and 38 total tackles. 

The 24-year-old improved on his ability to quickly get off of the line of scrimmage and his nose for the football benefitted hugely. He had a career-high 3 forced fumbles and 12 QB hits. New defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon is primed to help maximize Sweat’s talents this upcoming season. 

K’von Wallace

K’Von Wallace had a bit of an up-and-down rookie season, in part due to the way that Schwartz manages his rotations. It was no secret that Jim Schwartz was a big fan of Jalen Mills, who returned at a new position last offseason in hopes of filling the void that Malcolm Jenkins left. Mills was solid, but now all eyes are on the second-year defensive back who brings just as much passion to the table.

We may be seeing Wallace flying around as the third safety fairly often in 2021. K’Von was one of the few healthy defenders last season as he played in 15 games but only started in 3 of them. He tallied 21 total tackles while allowing 6 completions out of 9 targets. 

Javon Hargrave

The Gravedigger had a rough start to his career as an Eagles defensive tackle. Many fans and media members questioned why the Eagles made him the highest-paid NT in the NFL, but he eventually started to show enough to turn heads and prove he could yet be worth the price to pay.

It was no secret that on top of the health concerns, Hargrave was having a hard time adapting to his new scheme. However, he actually finished with decent numbers. Outside of his total tackles, Hargrave finished with better numbers than he had in his previous season at Pittsburgh. He tallied 4.5 sacks, 8 QB hits, and 38 total tackles in 15 games.

If Jonathan Gannon is truly going to tailor his defense around the talents of his players, then the world may be in for a rude awakening when Hargrave touches the field next season.

Michael Jacquet

Michael Jacquet is a very interesting player. He has all of the physical traits that you want in an outside corner but lacks polish in coverage. At times he showed signs of great awareness and speed, but other times, he looked completely lost out there. The former UDFA’s poor positioning was exploited in games against the Cowboys and even the Cardinals.

At 6’2” 201lbs, Jacquet would be the perfect poster boy for what his coaching staff has been preaching all offseason. He’s a tough competitor that has no quit in him and will fight until the whistle, but he needs to better understand his assignments and make sure he isn’t caught napping if he is to have any shoe in this CB2 race.

Ryan Kerrigan

Ryan Kerrigan is finally playing for the right team in the NFC East. After being buried behind some of the best young edge rushers in the league in Washington, the former rival has decided that Philly will be his next stop. If you’ve watched Kerrigan throughout the years then you’ve feared the impact that he would have if Lane Johnson wasn’t playing. 

Kerrigan signed with the Eagles due to the amount of playing time offered to him and should make some noise for the birds and to help bring back this organization to its 2017 glory. A guy like Kerrigan is cerebral and could do some damage in a defense that will pride itself on a stable back-end, buying him time to feast. With the added versatility to play as an outside linebacker, expecting a jump from the veteran is logical under Jonathan Gannon.

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire