Winning in the Trenches
The Eagles had one of the lowest sack totals in the league last season, with only 26 sacks. However, if they want to improve on their 2021-22 season, they will need to generate more pressure.
Improving the Defensive Line
Howie Roseman worked to improve the line this off-season. To start, he signed Haason Reddick to a three-year 45 million dollar contract. He then brought back Derek Barnett to help with depth. Lastly, Howie added first-round pick Jordan Davis to the group. The Barnett signing is the only questionable move. He constantly takes bad penalties, but is still a young player with value. As a backup, I have no problem with Barnett returning. These changes should help the defensive line be more successful next season.
Also, let’s not forget that the heart and soul of the defense, Brandon Graham, will return from injury. It will be interesting to see how Graham looks this season, but you can’t deny the locker room presence he brings. Further, he was coming off a career year before his injury. BG has been doubted his whole career, which makes me think he’ll come back from this injury stronger than ever.
For years under Jim Schwartz, the Eagles used the idea of a solid and deep defensive line to cover up for other deficiencies (mainly in the secondary). Although this won’t be the strategy with this team, the line has the potential to carry this defense.
This defensive line has the potential to have two legit units. One being Sweat, Hargrave, Cox, and Brandon Graham. They then can mix in Barnett, Davis, Williams, and Reddick. Reddick will be a starter on this defense. Although he is not technically a defensive lineman, he will primarily be used as a pass rusher.
This rotation is important because it will keep the line fresh. Fletcher Cox is still an impactful player but not the guy he used to be. Jordan Davis struggled with conditioning and playing all three downs. I see him getting in better shape with an NFL training camp. Having a line with depth will help players like Cox and Davis stay fresh.
Another key to the line play is that Cox and Davis will constantly require double teams opening up rushing lanes for others. This means there will be one-on-one matchups for Josh Sweat, Haason Reddick, and Brandon Graham, who should all be in the back field quite often next season
This Eagles defense needs to be able to pressure the QB for the team to improve. Although the secondary looks weak, I believe the Eagles will have an improved defense this season. Like the Schwartz years this line could help out the secondary. After all, it is a team sport and you have to find ways to cover your weaknesses. I think the line will be the strength of this defense.
This year, the Eagles will have a more complete defense due to their off-season acquisition. It will be interesting to see if BG and Cox can bounce back this year. I think Davis will have a monster rookie season and I could see him in the running for Defensive Rookie of the Year. A line with Sweat, Cox, Hargrave, BG, Barnett, Davis, and Reddick should be much improved over last season and cause havoc in opposing backfields.
Photo Credit: John Locher/AP Photo
Winning in the Trenches