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What the Eagles should do at defensive end

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Eagles roster outlook: position-by-position.

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NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Buffalo Bills Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 NFL offseason has begun for the Philadelphia Eagles. Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson have a lot of tough decisions to make as they try to get this team back to Super Bowl contention. Today we continue our position-by-position roster outlook series by examining the center position. Previously: Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | Offensive tackle | Offensive guard | Center.

THE PLAYERS

BRANDON GRAHAM

Regular season snaps: 775 snaps, 50 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 11 QB hits, 47 QB hurries, 0 pass deflections

Playoff stats: 38 snaps, 1 QB hurry

Review: BLG (Brandon Lee Graham) entered the 2019 season saying he wanted at least 10 sacks for his 10th season in the NFL. He fell short but he did still finish with the second highest sack total of his career. It was a bounce back season for him after only putting up four sacks the previous year. It probably helped that Graham wasn’t coming off offseason surgery like he was heading into the 2018 campaign. Graham ranked 33rd out of 124 players in PFF’s pass rush productivity stat.

Outlook: Graham, who turns 32 in April, is signed through the 2021 season. We very much know what BLG is at this point in his career. He’s not an elite pass rusher but he’s pretty good and durable. The feeling here is that he’ll age well considering his game is based on power (as opposed to speed) and he didn’t start taking full-time starting snaps until the 2015 season. The Eagles’ Super Bowl LII hero will be a starter for this team for at least a couple more seasons.

Poll

Brandon Graham: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 97%
    Stay
    (4495 votes)
  • 2%
    Go
    (135 votes)
4630 votes total Vote Now

DEREK BARNETT

Regular season snaps: 695 snaps, 30 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 14 QB hits, 26 QB hurries, 0 pass deflections

Playoff stats: 56 snaps, 3 tackles, 1 QB hit, 2 QB hurries

Review: Barnett missed the entire 2019 offseason as he recovered from a shoulder injury that ended his 2018 season after six games. Barnett was often listed on the injury report early in the year so he clearly wasn’t 100% even though he was playing. Barnett missed two games to injury later in the season. The 2017 first-round pick logged a career high in sacks with 6.5 but he didn’t quite make the leap to being the impact player the Eagles need him to be. Barnett ranked 60th out of 124 players in PFF’s pass rush productivity stat. He was fine but nothing spectacular.

Outlook: After seeing how not having a healthy offseason hindered Graham in 2018 and Fletcher Cox in 2019, perhaps Barnett deserves slack for not being better last year. Perhaps Barnett, who only turns 24 in June, will make a big leap in 2020. The team could really use that from him. It’s worth noting that the Eagles have a decision to make this offseason on whether they pick up Barnett’s fifth-year option. I’d be shocked if they didn’t. Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz loves Barnett. Case in point:

“Yeah, both my daughters wear Derek Barnett jerseys to the games, so that tells you how much I think of him. Derek is always a guy that plays with a chip on his shoulder. It’s one of the things that makes him successful.”

Schwartz offered this in response to a question about Barnett’s avoidable penalties. That’s an areas where Barnett definitely needs to improve. His eight penalties were tied for third most among NFL edge rushers in 2019. A number of them were just straight up dumb.

Poll

Derek Barnett: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 93%
    Stay
    (4415 votes)
  • 6%
    Go
    (301 votes)
4716 votes total Vote Now

VINNY CURRY

Regular season snaps: 393 snaps, 27 tackles, 5.0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 7 QB hits, 29 QB hurries, 0 pass deflections

Playoff stats: 25 snaps, 2 QB hits, 1 QB hurry

Review: The Eagles re-signed Curry after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cut him last year. The team was high on his outlook; Howie Roseman said the following about Curry in early September: “Vinny looks better than he did two years ago [when he started in 2017].” That optimism looked foolish as Curry went on to have just one sack in his first 11 games. The Curry re-signing was looking like just another example of the Eagles’ nostalgia over-reliance. But then Curry turned it on down the stretch with four sacks in his final six games. Curry actually finished the 2019 season ranked 10th out of 124 players in PFF’s pass rush productivity stat.

Outlook: The Eagles really need to get younger, as Roseman stated, and re-signing Curry, who turns 32 this summer, doesn’t help to accomplish that. But the team might look to bring him back on the cheap as a rotational piece.

Poll

Vinny Curry: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 55%
    Stay
    (2514 votes)
  • 44%
    Go
    (2023 votes)
4537 votes total Vote Now

JOSH SWEAT

Regular season snaps: 352 snaps, 19 tackles, 4.0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 5 QB hits, 17 QB hurries, 1 pass deflection

Playoff stats: 20 snaps

Review: Sweat was getting a lot of hype in training camp before getting outplayed by Hall in the preseason. Despite this, the Eagles stuck with Sweat ahead of Hall. Philadelphia’s 2018 fourth-round pick definitely did take a step forward in his sophomore NFL season. Sweat had some nice flashes. But he was also too invisible at times, failing to log a single stat in seven of his 17 games played. Sweat finished 55th out of 124 players in PFF’s pass rush productivity stat.

Outlook: Sweat only turns 23 in March so he’s still very much a young, developing talent. A strong summer should cement his status as the team’s No. 3 defensive end between Graham and Barnett.

Poll

Josh Sweat: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 92%
    Stay
    (4128 votes)
  • 7%
    Go
    (321 votes)
4449 votes total Vote Now

DAESHON HALL

Regular season snaps: 50 snaps, 4 tackles, 1.0 sack, 1 QB hit

Review: Hall earned his spot on the 2019 roster by looking pretty awesome in the preseason. Then the team declined to play him despite the fact they only had one sack by a defensive end in their first four games. The Eagles’ many injuries allowed Hall to avoid being a healthy scratch on game day. He still only played sparingly on defense in addition to contributing on special teams. In a stroke of very bad luck, Hall suffered a season-ending ACL injury in garbage time on the final play of the Eagles’ Week 17 win over the New York Giants.

Outlook: Hall figures to begin the 2020 season on the physically unable to perform list (PUP). He’ll miss at least the first six weeks of the season, if not more. The Eagles can activate Hall to the roster if they find themselves in need of some more defensive end depth.

Poll

Daeshon Hall: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 64%
    Stay
    (2616 votes)
  • 35%
    Go
    (1454 votes)
4070 votes total Vote Now

GENARD AVERY

Regular season snaps: 33 snaps, 2 tackles, 0.5 sack, 1 QB hurry

Review: The Eagles desperately need a wide receiver ahead of the 2019 NFL trade deadline but they ended up trading a 2021 fourth-round pick for a pass rusher instead. It was a strange price to pay for a player languishing away as a healthy scratch on the Browns. Avery barely played after the Eagles acquired him, although the team did use get a little creative with using him as a stand up rusher. Still, Avery failed to make much of an impact and he was a healthy scratch in the Eagles’ playoff game. After the season, Roseman said the Avery trade was more about the future than it was acquiring him for 2019.

Outlook: Avery, who turns 25 in April, could stand to benefit from an offseason with the Eagles. He’ll be able to add some weight and further familiarize himself with the team’s scheme. The coaching staff will also have more time to carve out a role for him. It’d be cool if he could become a dangerous rotational pass rusher. He’s probably looking at being the fourth or fifth defensive end at best, though.

Poll

Genard Avery: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 70%
    Stay
    (2758 votes)
  • 29%
    Go
    (1173 votes)
3931 votes total Vote Now

SHAREEF MILLER

Regular season snaps: 2 special teams snaps

Review: Miller was a healthy scratch for most of his rookie season. The 2019 fourth-round pick was basically a glorified practice squad member.

Outlook: The Eagles don’t seem super high on Miller’s potential given the Avery trade. Miller finished the season as the seventh defensive end on the team. The North Philly native needs to have a strong offseason just to make the 2020 roster ... and even then he’s likely not in line for much playing time. Disappointing to think that the Eagles may have failed to land a meaningful contributor from last year’s deeply talented defensive line class. Along those lines ...

Poll

Shareef Miller: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    Stay
    (1654 votes)
  • 54%
    Go
    (1967 votes)
3621 votes total Vote Now

JOE OSTMAN

Review: Ostman was having a really good training camp in 2019. He was regularly beating offensive linemen with a variety of pass rush moves and he was even taking some first team defense reps in a “Joker” role as a stand-up defensive end. Tragedy struck when Ostman suffered a season-ending ACL injury in early August. He was on track to make the team if he had stayed healthy.

Outlook: It’ll be interesting to see if Ostman, who turns 25 in July, can pick up where he left off last summer. The 2018 undrafted rookie free agent signing will need to have a strong preseason to make the 2020 roster. He could be a fourth or fifth defensive end who also contributes on special teams.

Poll

Joe Ostman: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 66%
    Stay
    (2253 votes)
  • 33%
    Go
    (1152 votes)
3405 votes total Vote Now

FREE AGENCY OR TRADES

Jadeveon Clowney (booing ensues), Yannick Ngakoue, and Shaquil Barrett are among top of the market options. I can’t see the Eagles being the team to outbid their many other suitors. I’m expecting Howie Roseman to go for a cheaper option such as re-signing Curry. I think he’ll be betting on the Eagles’ youth to step up, like he mostly did this past season.

Former Eagles pass rushers Steven Means and Michael Bennett will be available but I don’t sense a reunion is in store for either of them.

NFL DRAFT OPTIONS

Written by Ben Natan:

While the Eagles don’t absolutely need to address their edge rushers, they certainly would benefit from doing so. The 2020 NFL Draft is deep with talented defenders who could solidify the Eagles deep rotation at defensive end.

While Chase Young and AJ Epenesa will likely both be gone in the first few picks, the Eagles could target a few names in the first round. Penn State’s Yegur Gross-Matos was the third best edge defender in the Big 10 after Young and Epenesa. He is a balanced defender with great athleticism and upside. Or the Eagles could target Boise State’s Curtis Weaver, who lacks elite athleticism or a high ceiling, but is a “safe” prospect who immediately could boost any team’s pass rush. K’Lavon Chaisson is a first round player out of LSU who would be a bit more of a project, but has a huge payoff given his talent. Chaisson dominated the postseason for LSU and showed glimpses of the player he could become.

One player who I find intriguing as a top 40 pick for Philly is Wisconsin’s Zack Baun. Baun is a hybrid player who could play on the edge or off ball. He is undersized at about 240 pounds, but was incredibly distributive this season. The Eagles could be interested him as a movable chess piece akin to Anthony Barr, but considering they traded for Genard Avery to play this role, it might be a pipe dream.

Mid-round players could be targeted to play Edge for Philadelphia as well. Utah’s Bradlee Anae was a physical and productive player for the Utes. Josh Uche will bring a high motor guy to the defensive line and Alton Robinson was a hot name out of Syracuse for a while before the Orange fell off the map.

The Eagles have many options in the draft this season if they want to upgrade at Edge Defender. However, they should be eyeing Top 100 players at this position than trying to play the value game later on.