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What the Eagles should do at defensive tackle

Eagles roster outlook: position-by-position.

The 2019 NFL offseason has begun for the Philadelphia Eagles, which means Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson will spend the next couple of weeks evaluating the 2018 roster. It’s time to start figuring out what this team needs to do to get back to the Super Bowl. Today we’ll continue this roster outlook series by looking at the defensive tackle position.

THE PLAYERS

FLETCHER COX

Regular season stats: 830 snaps, 46 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 24 QB hits, 60 QB hurries, 1 pass deflection

Playoff stats: 95 snaps, 3 tackles, 1 QB hit, 5 QB hurries

Review: After winning the Super Bowl in 2018, Cox said his next goal was to earn Defensive Player of the Year. Cox is ultimately going to fall short of that goal but it’s certainly not due to a lack of effort. Cox was a beast in 2018, finishing the year with the highest single-season sack total of his career. Pro Football Focus ranked Cox third out of 121 interior defenders in pressure rate ... only Aaron Donald and Chris Jones finished higher. Here’s a recap of Cox’s 2018 awards: Pro Bowl, AP All-Pro first team, PFWA All-NFL team, PFF All-Pro first team.

Outlook: Cox only turned 28 in December and he’s signed through 2023. He’s here to wreck shit for a long time.

Poll

Fletcher Cox: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 97%
    Stay
    (1532 votes)
  • 2%
    Go
    (37 votes)
1569 votes total Vote Now

HALOTI NGATA

Regular season stats: 368 snaps, 17 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 2 QB hits, 6 QB hurries, 1 pass deflection

Playoff stats: 53 snaps, 1 tackle

Review: The Eagles signed Ngata in free agency as a potential Beau Allen replacement. With Jernigan getting hurt, however, Ngata ended up having a bigger role than ideally expected. He was fine enough as a run defender but he clearly didn’t offer much in terms of pushing the pocket.

Outlook: Ngata turned 35 years old in January. I’m assuming he’s going to retire after spending 13 seasons in the NFL.

Poll

Haloti Ngata: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Stay
    (140 votes)
  • 90%
    Go
    (1412 votes)
1552 votes total Vote Now

TREYVON HESTER

Regular season stats: 226 snaps, 13 tackles, 1 sack, 2 QB hits, 7 QB hurries

Playoff stats: 35 snaps, 1 tackle (and 1 blocked kick!)

Review: The Eagles signed Hester to their practice squad early in the season after Jon Gruden cut him from the Raiders. Hester eventually got called up to the 53-man roster since the coaching staff saw him as a upgrade over Hector. Hester never especially stood out but he somehow ended up as PFF’s second highest graded Eagles defender. They really liked his efforts in run defense. Hester also just happened to keep Philly alive in the playofs by tipping Cody Parkey’s field goal attempt and turning it into a Double Doink.

Outlook: Hester isn’t necessarily guaranteed a 2019 roster spot but he seems to be in good standing to earn a backup spot at defensive tackle.

Poll

Treyvon Hester: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 90%
    Stay
    (1362 votes)
  • 9%
    Go
    (143 votes)
1505 votes total Vote Now

DESTINY VAEAO

Regular season stats: 157 snaps, 2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 QB hit, 1 QB hurry

Review: Vaeao got a ton of practice time with the Eagles’ first team defense in the offseason with Jernigan hurt and Ngata not practicing much. Vaeao even started three of his six games with the Eagles in 2018 before Philly waived him with an injury designation. Vaeao, a 2016 undrafted free agent signing, was mostly ineffective during his time with Philly, which helps explain why they didn’t bring him back once he got healthy. Vaeao instead signed with the New York Jets late in the season.

BRUCE HECTOR

Regular season stats: 82 snaps, 2 tackles, 0.5 sack, 4 QB hurries

Review: The Eagles gave Hector the most guaranteed money out of all their undrafted rookie free agent signings. He ended up making the Eagles’ original 53-man roster and ultimately spent eight games with the team. Hector was demoted to the practice squad after Hester got called up and that’s where he finished the season.

Outlook: Hector will spend the offseason trying to compete for a roster spot as a backup defensive tackle. He might end up on the practice squad for a second straight season.

Poll

Bruce Hector: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 44%
    Stay
    (566 votes)
  • 55%
    Go
    (692 votes)
1258 votes total Vote Now

T.Y. McGILL

Regular season stats: 46 snaps, 2 tackles

Review: The Eagles felt the need to waive DeAndre Carter, who defied the odds to earn his spot on the roster, just so they could have 46 snaps of “T.Y. McGill.” Seemed pretty pointless. The Los Angeles Chargers claimed McGill after the Eagles waived him.

TIMMY JERNIGAN

Regular season stats: 45 snaps, 2 tackles, 1 QB hit, 1 QB hurry

Playoff stats: 55 snaps, 1 sack

Review: Jernigan underwent surgery on a herniated disc in late April 2018. We still don’t know what caused it. At the time, it was thought Jernigan’s career might be over ... and his reworked contract reflected as much considering all the guaranteed money beyond 2018 was taken out of the deal. Jernigan began the season on the reserve/non-football injury list and didn’t play his first game until Week 12. Jernigan then suffered back spams that caused him to miss three games before he returned to action in Week 16. As you can see from his low snap count total, Jernigan was used sparingly when he did play.

Outlook: There’s a zero percent chance Jernigan returns to the Eagles in 2019 under his current projected cap figure of $13 million. The Eagles should have interest in retaining Jernigan at a much lower number, however, provided they believe he’s at full health. Perhaps the two sides can agree on a one-year, prove it deal. The Eagles would get at least one more year of Jernigan (potentially at a discount) and Jernigan would get to test the market in 2020. I mean, how could you not want to keep this guy around as a potential starter next to Cox?

Poll

Timmy Jernigan: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 86%
    Stay
    (1338 votes)
  • 13%
    Go
    (201 votes)
1539 votes total Vote Now

FREE AGENCY OR TRADES

Ndamukong Suh is going to be available and he previously said he’d play for the Eagles for free! He clearly didn’t mean that as he signed with the Rams for $14.5 million in 2018.

I don’t see the Eagles spending big at defensive tackle in free agency. They could look to add a veteran depth guy, especially depending what happens with Jernigan.

I sure wouldn’t mind seeing Bennie Logan, who only made $4 million last year, return to Philly in that kind of role. He could be looking for more playing time, though.

The Eagles previously showed interested in Domata Peko, who will be available this offseason. He’d replace Ngata as an inexpensive, over-the-hill vet.

BGN alumnus Jimmy Kempski suggested adding run-stuffing behemoth Danny Shelton to the mix. I don’t hate that idea.

Really, there are plenty of options for third or fourth defensive tackle types in free agency. The Eagles shouldn’t struggle to add a body to this position if they wish to do so.

NFL DRAFT OPTIONS

Howie Roseman called the 2019 NFL Draft historically great at both defensive end and defensive tackle. It’s very possible the Eagles could take an interior defender at No. 25 overall. Realistic first-round targets include: Christina Wilkins, Jeffery Simmons, and Dexter Lawrence.

A defensive tackle quartet of, say, Cox, Jernigan, Wilkins, and Hester in 2019 could be nice for Jim Schwartz to work with.

For more draft options, CLICK HERE.