The Eagles’ rebuilt defensive front has a chance to dominate

Eagles’ rebuilt defensive front has chance to dominate originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

When opposing quarterbacks drop back to pass against the Eagles, when opposing running backs take off, when offensive linemen take on defenders, they’re going to see a dramatically different front 7 than a year ago.

Howie Roseman made it a priority to infuse the Eagles ‘defense with high-level talent this offseason, and although the secondary still hasn’t undergone significant change, Roseman has truly reshaped the Eagles’ defensive front.

Alex Singleton, who played 720 snaps last year, and Hassan Ridgeway, Ryan Kerrigan and Genard Avery, who all played between 330 and 380 snaps, are gone.

READ: Dean bringing alpha personality to middle of Eagles defense

Derek Barnett and TJ Edwards, who played about 700 snaps each, have dropped down the depth chart.

That’s 1,781 snaps and 23 starts gone and 1,403 more snaps and 29 starts presumably demoted.

That’s a lot.

The Eagles didn’t have the worst defense in history last year. Not including the meaningless season finale against the Cowboys when the backups played, the Eagles ranked 8th in the NFL in points allowed (20.9 per game) and 11th in passing yards allowed (216), 7th in rushing yards allowed (104) in Jonathan Gannon’s first year as defensive coordinator. They held teams opponents to 17 or fewer points eight times, and only six other teams did that.

But the eye test said they had to get better. A lot better.

Every established quarterback they faced tore them apart, and they allowed opposing QBs to complete 69 percent of their passes-3rd-worst in the league. They allowed 42 percent conversions on third down, 10th-worst. And they were 31st in sacks with just 29 – equaling the fewest in franchise history.

So Howie got to work.

He signed edge specialist Haason Reddick, whose 23 sacks over the last two years are 5th-most in the league (and 10 more than any Eagle). He signed linebacker Kyzir White, who played at a Pro Bowl level last year for the Chargers. He drafted mammoth defensive tackle Jordan Davis in the first round and stole linebacker Nakobe Dean in the third.

Essentially, Reddick, White, Davis and Dean have replaced Barnett, Singleton, Ridgeway and Edwards, and you never know how it’s going to come together until they hit the field this fall, but those are all big-time moves.

Gannon loves rotating his linemen, and now he’ll be able to do it with quality people across the board.

Subscribe to the Eagle Eye podcast

Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | Watch on YouTube

Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave both played about 65 percent of the snaps last year, and now Gannon has the luxury of limiting the 31-year-old Cox’s snaps even more, which should help him be more effective when he does get in there.

And outside, Barnett goes from starter to presumably coming in fresh on certain passing downs, which might jump-start his disappointing production. Whatever the Eagles get from Brandon Graham is a bonus, but now you have Reddick, Sweat, Graham and Barnett rushing the quarterback, and that group has to be good for more than 29 sacks. A lot more, you would think.

It will be interesting to see how Gannon uses his linebackers, but if Dean is healthy I would anticipate him being as close to a three-down linebacker as the Eagles have. White has the versatility to play on running and passing downs as well, and I’d expect Dean to play well over 70 percent of the snaps and White maybe 65 to 70 percent, with Edwards having a reduced but significant role in sub packages or when Dean or White need a break.

With Rodney McLeod and Steven Nelson both gone, the secondary still needs some work, but a significantly upgraded front 7 should make life a lot easier for the defensive backs by making life a lot harder for quarterbacks. We’ll see.

This is a different defense than 2021. Seven of the 17 Eagles who played at least 275 snaps last year are gone and another will should have lesser roles.

The Eagles brought in speed, strength, power, playmaking and versatility and they shed guys who ranged from poor to adequate.

There’s still work to do, but sitting here in May this has a chance to be an elite front. It’s going to be fun to watch and for much of last year that sure wasn’t the case.

Leave a Comment