Haason Reddick’s signing has been overlooked but his impact won’t be

Haason Reddick
CHARLOTTE, NC – NOVEMBER 21: Haason Reddick (43) outside linebacker of Carolina during an NFL football game between the Washington Football Team and the Carolina Panthers on November 21, 2021, at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. (Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire)

The Philadelphia Eagles signed Haason Reddick to a three-year deal worth $15 million per season in March. Darius Slay, A.J. Brown, Jordan Mailata, and Lane Johnson are the only players on the roster with higher projected salaries in 2022. 

However, the buzz surrounding the former Temple University star and Camden, NJ success story surprisingly hasn’t reached the greatest heights. The avalanche of NFL trades involving superstars Russell Wilson, Davante Adams, and Khalil Mack within the same week overshadowed the signing to some extent, and Howie Roseman made his most aggressive moves of the offseason closer to the NFL Draft in April.

Expectations in Philadelphia have soared after the active offseason. The potential progress of Jalen Hurts with a potent weapon like Brown and the additions of University of Georgia studs Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean continue to dominate the chatter. Meanwhile, Haason Reddick continues to fly under the radar in a city capable of reaching hysteria for local products on the big stage.

What kind of role will Haason Reddick have in defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s scheme in 2022? Can he replicate the success he’s had the past two seasons as one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL?

Feared Weapon Haason Reddick

The team’s official website lists him as a linebacker, but he defines himself as a “weapon of mass destruction” to encompass his all-around ability on defense. Roseman and the front office wouldn’t make such a lucrative financial investment in a traditional linebacker, and they expect him to make his biggest contributions in the pass rush.  

Fran Duffy recently studied Haason Reddick’s film from 2021 as a member of the Carolina Panthers. He stood upright on the line of scrimmage most of the time prior to the snap. His former head coach Matt Rhule and defensive coordinator Phil Snow found creative ways to use him in stunts and twists to showcase the premium athleticism of a former high-school running back.

Will Gannon utilize one of his best defensive players properly and maximize his productivity? He spoke about the role of “overhang” players and how Haason Reddick might fit on a unit that struggled to make impact plays in key situations last season.

“As our overhang players, they’re going to rush the passer to affect the quarterback, and they’re going to be violent in the run game and set edges and then they’re going to have to drop a little bit in coverage. He’s (Reddick is) obviously very, very smart, very intelligent, high football character, very good skill set, versatile player, and it’s our job to deploy him and to affect the game, to accentuate his skill set.”

-Jonathan Gannon

Haason Reddick is an unquestionable upgrade over Genard Avery in the overhang role that Gannon referenced. He is one of only five NFL players with more than 10 sacks in each of the past two seasons. His quickness can disrupt an opponent’s position at the line of scrimmage. In addition to his tremendous sack numbers, he had 27 tackles for loss combined in 2020 and 2021.

His ability to drop in coverage and play the run makes him one of the most versatile defensive weapons in the league. Gannon must recognize and account for the need to utilize his versatility without limiting his strengths. While Haason Reddick will contribute in coverage, the responsibility to drop back frequently played into the lengthy growing pains that held him back in three underwhelming seasons with the Arizona Cardinals after he was drafted in Philadelphia in 2017.

Gannon’s Second Eagles Season

Philadelphia’s defense didn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of quality opponents last year. Their passive approach left plays for their opponents to make and allowed opposing quarterbacks to show their true colors (for better or for worse). They allowed an average of 13 points per game against teams who finished with losing records and 33.2 points against teams who finished with winning records. 

The personnel on defense in 2021 didn’t look primed for Super Bowl contention on paper, but they shouldn’t have been nearly as bad as some of their performances early in the season indicated with top-tier cornerback Darius Slay and the most expensive defensive line in the NFL. The additions of Reddick, Dean, Davis, Kyzir White, and James Bradberry will eliminate any benefit of the doubt that Gannon might’ve gotten at points last season based on limited personnel. 

Zach Berman spoke on 97.5 The Fanatic this week about how the defense won’t fit perfectly into the traditional mold of 3-4 or 4-3 in 2022.

The Eagles will split defensive coaching responsibilities differently this season. A new variety of groupings will limit definitive distinctions between linebackers and defensive linemen with hopes to avoid limiting a player’s opportunity to develop versatile skill sets. Haason Reddick could prove to be the player who benefits most from the switch. 

Brian Dawkins spoke in May about the defense’s need to create more turnovers in Gannon’s second season. They finished tied for 26th in the league last season with just 16 takeaways. Reddick finished second in the NFL with six forced fumbles in 2020. Despite a regression back to two forced fumbles last season, he still has a knack for the strip sack, one of the most impactful plays in the sport.

If a South Jersey kid can create takeaways and make a major impact for a defense with a new identity in his first season in Philadelphia, his presence won’t be overshadowed by splashy NFL trades anymore. Haason Reddick will immediately become a fan favorite.

Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire