The Philadelphia Eagles are not rebuilding, they are reloading, and as such new areas of weaknesses caused by a strict cap situation calls for discount deals on aging commodities. This is the case with the newly acquired defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. The one-year deal counteracts the loss of DT Beau Allen and brings yet another player with a Super Bowl pedigree to join a roster full of champions.
The 34-year old is coming off a down season, but not due to production. Ngata’s 2017 campaign ended after suffering a torn biceps, forcing him to only play in five games. It was assumed that Ngata would return to a Detroit Lions team that needed defensive tackle depth outside of budding DT A’Shawn Robinson. Instead, Ngata and his five Pro Bowls decided to chase another ring by bolting to Philadelphia. The question with all of these newly acquired players, of course, is how they will be deployed and how they fit.
It’s sometimes a challenge locating a player when watching their film. There aren’t any fancy exploding circles over them as if you’re watching a well-produced cut-up of a college prospect. At times this forces you to be an expert in fashion, noting if a player is wearing a sleeve on a certain arm or keying in on their shoe color. This is not the case with Ngata. His size, even surrounded by other large men, stands out immediately.
At a playing weight of over 330 pounds, his bulk is only accentuated by his play strength. This was evident not only on film, but in his testing as well, as he put up an eye-popping 37 reps on the bench press during the 2006 NFL Combine.
This play strength and understanding of angles allows him to take advantage of any misstep, discarding linemen easily when presented a clear leverage point.
Labeled as a 1-tech, Ngata still provides value as a 3-tech, especially to the strength of a formation and in the pass rush. When lined up outside of a guard on passing downs, Ngata can crash inside and occupying multiple lineman due to his ability to continue his push at the point of attack. This proved useful when the Lions went with a 3-man rush against a Giants offensive line with more holes than a colander.
Far past his peak as a productive pass rusher, not having notched 5 sacks in a single season since 2012, Ngata fills a very specific role for the Eagles. On early downs, Ngata will serve as a space plugger, soaking up blocks like a front-line grunt soaks up ammunition, allowing those around him to prosper. Still, he knows his way to the quarterback and is no slouch in his ability to push a pocket, causing early check down throws. Notice his alignment on this rush, an outside shade on the right tackle.
So we’ve seen Ngata lined up at the 1-tech, 3-tech, and on the edge. What about his ability to line up as a true nose tackle and push a pocket? Needless to say, you better have a Bering sea-worthy anchor to stave off the Tongan.
Ngata may be years past his prime, but the hope is there is still something left in the tank. At worst, you have an early down space-eater to occupy blocks, accentuating the play of the linebackers behind him. At best, you have the run support plus a chess piece on passing downs that can be utilized as a tip of the spear to collapse the front lines. The details of Ngata’s compensation remain unknown, but barring anything crazy, this is a solid acquisition that accentuates an already robust defensive line.