Just How Good is the Eagles Defense?
We have heard a lot all about the Eagles’ defense this summer. After it was very mediocre last year, they spent the off-season rebuilding it. They drafted Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean and signed players like Hasson Reddick, Kyzir White, and James Bradberry. And the buzz around this squad is palpable. But how good are they? We have had multiple guests this week talk about what they have seen from the defense, and how good they think this squad can be. Guys like Jeff McLane, Tim McManus, Barrett Brooks, Mike Kaye, and Adam Schefter joined The John Kincade Show, The Anthony Gargano Show, and The Best Show Ever, and shared their thoughts. Here is what they all had to say.
Tim McManus Thinks Both Sides of the Line are a Strength
“I don’t think there is any question. They have got some things happening here… It goes like from one wave to another, where they have this depth that’s piling up. The defensive line has been the most pronounced to me. But yea, you can flip that on its head, and the offensive line is the envy of a lot of teams around the league. Not just how good the starting 5 is, but the depth behind it… The health of a team should be gauged by how good they are upfront, on both sides of the football. QB reigns supreme we know that. But the next thing to be a functional team is if your fronts can get it done. That is absolutely where their strength is.”
At DT they have Jordan Davis, Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, and Milton Williams. On the edge, they have Josh Sweat, Hasson Reddick, Brandon Graham, and Tarron Jackson. Whether they are in a 3-4, or 4-3, the number of people they have along the line, or at the edge, runs deep. This team generated no pass rush last year. But as Tim McManus points out, the line and the edge rushers are strength now, at least on paper.
Tim McManus on the Edge Rushers
“Tarron Jackson has started to come on the last few practices. If that continues this pass-rushing group on the edge is going to look really nice and have some decent depth to it. Beyond Derek Barnett coming back, and I know people have mixed feelings about him, he’s really like more of a depth piece at this point. Josh Sweat has been coming on of late. Brandon Graham has enjoyed a really good camp even though he’s 34 and coming off a ruptured Achilles. And of course, they have Hasson Reddick who comes in having double-digit sacks each of the last two seasons. For Jackson last year there were some moments of promise. He continues to develop. As it stands right now, it’s looking like a pretty strong edge group coming into the season.”
A lot of the talk has been about the interior and Jordan Davis. But as Tim McManus points out there is some reason to look forward to the edge rushers too. Hasson Reddick has a chance to be the Eagles first true star pass rusher in a while. They haven’t had someone with double-digit sacks since Fletcher Cox in 2018.
Mike Kaye Thinks Jordan Davis is the Key to Unlocking this Defense
“When you watch Georgia highlights. Every single Dean highlight is Jordan Davis moving a bunch of human lives out of the way so that Dean can attack the ball carrier. That is what Davis does, he’s a massive man. I know there were concerns about his, but I haven’t noticed anything wrong with his weight or his speed. I think he’s going to allow a lot of players on defense to eat. Most notably Hasson Reddick. When he’s taking on double and triple teams, guess what, everyone else is single-teamed… Jordan Davis is never going to be an 8-sack-a-year guy, but if he gets 3-sacks and everyone else is combining for about 40, I think they will take that.”
Every time people bring up the Eagles, Jordan Davis works his way into the conversation. And it is easy to see why. He is a massive man who moves like a gazelle. And as Mike Kaye pointed out, having that huge bulldozer in the middle of the line helps everyone. Even if he doesn’t produce stats himself, he will help others get sacks and tackles.
Jeff McLane Thinks New Additions Create a Trickle Down Effect
“I gotta give Howie credit, he really went out and addressed the areas which he needed to address. There’s a trickle-down effect and it starts with that guy in the middle. Having that Nt, a legitimate guy that you can line up over the center just creates a trickle-down effect. Now you don’t have to have Javon Hargrave doing that as much, you don’t have to have Fletcher Cox doing that. They can be more in the 3 tech spot. And what that does is Josh Sweat doesn’t have to play that role anymore. Hasson Reddick in turn does the same thing. You now have a strong side linebacker whos been that guy for the last few years.”
Similar to what Mike Kaye said, Jeff McLane spoke to Anthony Gargano about how the mere presence of Jordan Davis will help everyone else. Not only because of the double teams but because it allows other people to play roles that better fit their skillsets. We heard Fletcher Cox grumble last year about being used in ways he didn’t like. Well, now he can focus on what he is good at. And Hasson Reddick being a true edge rusher does the same thing.
Barrett Brooks Talks About New Defense Allowing Jonathan Gannon to Be More Aggressive
“(Gannon) has no excuse not to call very aggressive games. He has to be aggressive in his play calling. He can’t be scared to send a blitz. They have 3 great corners that can cover. This might be the best trio in the league. Now he has guys who can create pressure… He has to call an aggressive game. I don’t want to see corners 10 yards off anymore.”
It’s not just the front 7 that has improved. Barret Brooks said last Friday that the addition of James Bradberry gives the Eagles a great CB trio. And that great trio should force Jonathan Gannon to be more aggressive because at least at corner, they have players they can trust to hold up if they play aggressively.
Adam Schefter Isn’t As High on the Eagles Defense
“Im not prepared to go there just yet. I reserve the right to change my mind 6 weeks from now. I think they are going to be a good defense. But I dont view them as a dominant defense. When Im thinking of the top defense in the league right now, I dont instantly think of Philadelphia in that group.”
Adam Schefter was a bit more mellow on the defense. He didn’t say they were bad, but he would not put them as a top NFL defense, yet. The question is do we give him more attention because he isn’t a local guy and has less reason to be biased? Or do we give more respect to the local media who are around this team and are in camp because they have more hands-on knowledge?
What I will say is Jeff McLane and Tim McManus may be local media, but they do not have the reputation for being biased. If they didn’t think the defense was genuinely good, they would say so. And Mike Kaye was a local guy last year, but he is in the National Media now. Don’t dismiss what they are saying just because they have local connections. If those guys are propping up this defense, there is a good reason to pay attention.