Eagles Rookies Will Play a Huge Role in This Season’s Success.
As the Eagles roster starts to take form and we get closer to seeing the 53-man roster set to take the field week 1, it is becoming more apparent what rookies will have a significant role early on. With most of the Eagles’ picks coming from the defensive side of the ball, it’ll be up to Sean Desai on how he’d like to utilize them. Desai has used a defensive base front called the “Tite” front on his previous defenses, and it’ll probably be like that in Philadelphia. Basically, this formation is a five-person front and allows the defense to have three defensive tackles on the line at times.
The Eagles will most likely use this front with the talent they have at defensive tackle. This was probably a large reason Desai got the coaching job. With the loss of talent due to free agency, it is almost a given that Jalen Carter, Nolan Smith, and Sydney Brown will all have a significant role as rookies. It’ll more than likely be a rotational role, but we saw how effective that was last season. Having more starters for a position than spots available is a great problem to have. This rotation will benefit these rookies and allow them to be fresh more often when other teams are sustaining long drives.
Jalen Carter, DT – 1st round, No. 9 overall
I’m still in a state of shock that Jalen Carter fell far enough for the Eagles only to move up one selection to grab him with the ninth overall pick. This was best case scenario due to the fact the Eagles are hopefully not going to be in a situation any time soon where they have such a premium first-round selection. That is unless Howie Roseman can pull off another move as he did with the Saints. Jalen Carter was at one point projected to be the number-one pick, but as we know, his off-the-field issues diminished that prediction. This year Jalen Carter will be in a rotational role with Fletcher Cox, Jordan Davis, and Milton Williams.
Although in a rotational role, Carter will see a lot of snaps throughout the season. This is due to Desai running a defensive front that will feature three defensive tackles in a lot of formations. Carter will most likely line up in a 4i role on the defense. This means he will be lined up across from the inside shoulder of the offensive tackle. This will allow him to have numerous one on one opportunities and free up space for edge rushers to produce sacks.
Being in this role, Carter will see more tackle edge work, allowing him to create more pressure compared to lining up closer to the center. Jordan Davis has shown he is superior in a run-stopping role and will most likely fill the inside gaps. Milton Williams turned it on late last year, but he’ll be expected to follow that up if he plans on seeing significant snaps. I don’t think Jalen Carter will get a lot of sacks next year, but I do feel he will have a serious impact on opposing quarterbacks.
Year 1 Projected Stat Line – 43 TOT, 4.5 SACK, 2 FF
Nolan Smith, LB – 1st round, No. 30 overall
Nolan Smith is in a similar situation to Jalen Carter. Smith will be competing for snaps with Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat. Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett will be playing a completely different role than Nolan Smith. Nolan Smith is a freak; his combined numbers were off the charts, and the hope is that it translates to the next level. Desai’s scheme could see him playing a lot of different positions within the formation, but he’ll have to beat out Josh Sweat if he’d like to see a large snap count on defense. If he cannot become the starter, playing behind stars like Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat will benefit the rookie.
Smith won’t see as many snaps as fellow rookie Jalen Carter, but he will have enough snaps to be impactful. He will see much of his production coming from the Dime and Nickel formation, where he’ll rotate with Reddick and Sweat. If he can find a fit rotating with Reddick and Sweat, it’ll be trouble for opposing offensive lines.
Year 1 Projected Stat Line – 37 TOT, 3.5 SACK, 1 FF
Tyler Steen, OL – 2nd round, No. 65 overall
Tyler Steen was a future pick for the Eagles. He will be competing with Cameron Jurgens in training camp for the right guard spot. The year Cam Jurgens just spent cross-training in both the center and guard spot will probably lead to him being the week one starter, but you never know. Tyler Steen is a little bit bigger and will probably be the starting right guard once Jason Kelce retires and Cam Jurgens moves back to center.
Steen has a great base and surely has the potential to play guard. The transition from tackle to guard shouldn’t be that difficult for him. A year of working with Jeff Stoutland will maximize his potential of being a starter on this offensive line. Injuries happen, and having depth is critical for teams with Super Bowl aspirations. Although he may not see offensive snaps next year, he will be a key player on the Eagles’ depth chart.
Year 1 Projected Stat Line – Special Teams/ Rotational line work
Sydney Brown, S – 3rd round, No. 66 overall
Sydney Brown is an interesting selection because I’m not sure where he’ll fit in schematically. Brown played almost exclusively in coverage at Illinois, and Desai’s defense spends a lot of time in zone coverage. In 2021, Desai’s Bears’ defense spent about half their snaps in light boxes and two-high shells.
Desai does a good job mixing different defensive looks, but Sydney Brown is built more for a man coverage scheme. This will result in Brown playing a lot of coverage from the slot. The biggest issue with Desai’s defensive scheme is the importance of strong safety play. These zone-look coverages allow the defensive front to get to the quarterback.
Sydney Brown will compete with Reed Blankenship and Avonte Maddox for the starting role. A lot of his playing time will come down to the defensive schematics.
Year 1 Projected Stat Line – 26 TOT, 1 INT, 1 FF
Kelee Ringo, CB – 4th round, No. 105 overall
Going off what I just said about Desai’s defensive scheme, being in zone coverage will help Keles Ringo succeed in years to come. Ringo fits the mold of over-the-top coverage and not allowing big plays. He will more than likely spend most of this year on special teams, but he could fill in due to injury. His man coverage is nowhere near as solid as his zone coverage, so it is in the Eagles’ best interest that he is not put in that position.
Kelee could see some playing time in zone coverage, and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he transitioned into a safety. He has the speed and zone coverage ability to thrive in that position. With the re-signing of James Bradberry and Darius Slay, his playing time at the corner will be extremely limited.
Year 1 Projected Stat Line – Special Teams/ Some zone defensive scheme work
Tanner McKee, QB – 6th round, No. 188 overall
Tanner Mckee will be battling for the third quarterback position with Lan Brooks. Due to the Eagles spending a draft pick on him, it is likely he will win the spot over Brooks. There is not much you can expect from him next season or any season after that as a Philadelphia Eagle.
Hopefully, he is a good teammate and helps in any way possible.
Moro Ojomo, DT – 7th round, No. 249 overall
Ojomo will be buried on an extremely deep depth chart on the defensive line. He could see some rotational work and has the potential to be in some run-stopping formations.
He tested well and could potentially develop into a nice player down the road. I don’t see him having any impact next season, and he will have to progress as a pass rusher ever to become a starting defensive tackle. His performance at the combine was encouraging.
Year 1 Projected Stat Line – Special Teams/ A few run-stopping defensive packages
Photo: Getty Images