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Eagles Film Room: Does Josh Sweat deserve a bigger role?

What to make of Philly’s 2018 fourth-round pick so far.

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NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

What is up BGN? I hope we are all doing OK. Thanks for the recent feedback on my new podcast and film piece on Derek Barnett. A lot of you commented asking for me to breakdown Josh Sweat so here we are!

I’m going to try and keep one a little shorter as the Barnett one took forever and I want to get through as many players as possible this offseason. Look out for a Sidney Jones and Avonte Maddox piece in the future …

You know the drill by now, hopefully! I’ll breakdown strengths, weaknesses and then my overall opinion of Sweat. I watched nearly all of his snaps from last year so I feel I have a good insight into him. I also discuss the differences between Derek Barnett and Josh Sweat at the end of the article and I will go into more detail on this on my podcast soon so keep an eye out.

Strengths

Josh Sweat is a pretty incredible athlete. He moves ‘differently’ to any of the other Eagles defensive ends. I always have a soft spot for guys who look as fluid as Sweat does at times. Check out this play for example.

I mean, that’s a pretty special play. Sweat is chipped by Jason Witten and he then just breezes past La’el Colins. He moves like a receiver beating press coverage here. It is rare you see a defensive end beat an offensive tackle without them even getting a finger on him. This is awesome and it highlights the pure athletic talent that Sweat has.

Sweat isn’t just a great athlete with no technique though. He has ridiculously long arms and he uses them extremely well when rushing the quarterback. He uses his arms really well to stop offensive lineman from getting a hold of his pads, as you can see below.

I really like the above play. Sweat knows his athleticism will scare tackles and he fakes the outside rush with a quick step to the outside. This gets the tackle to lean slightly and Sweat uses his long arms to swat away the tackle and then come underneath him. He then shows great closing speed and drills the quarterback for a well-deserved sack.

There are a ton of examples of tape of Sweat winning with his long arms and athleticism. He has the traits to be a high level outside rusher. You can see more examples below.

All 3 of these plays are excellent examples of what I have just discussed. With Derek Barnett, I pointed out in my piece that he had multiple rushes where he just got nowhere. Once offensive linemen got their hands inside his pads he was finished. Sweat is not the same. Sweat uses his arms to frequently disengage with lineman and to stop them getting their hands on his pads in the first place.

When discussing his negatives later, I will point out Sweat needs to work on developing his power and bullrush. However, that doesn’t mean he can’t do it. His long arms also give him an advantage when trying to convert speed to power and get to the quarterback.

As you can see above, Sweat once again fakes the outside rush and gets his hand right inside the tackles pads. The tackle can’t compete with Sweat’s arm length and Sweat is able to drive him backwards. In the end the guard tries to help out but he can’t stop Sweat who very nearly got a sack. Sweat can use this power effectively in the run game too, as you can see below.

Sweat shows good power here to get underneath the tackles pads and drive him backwards and close the gap for the running back. I don’t think he officially received the tackle here but it doesn’t matter. Unfortunately, I didn’t find too many examples of Sweat being effective against the run and I will touch on this later. I included this clip though to prove that Sweat does have the power at times to be a force in the run game but it is not a consistent part of his game yet.

Lastly, I mentioned a lot when discussing Barnett that he shows good hustle and is very competitive. I think Sweat is very similar. There’s nothing special about the below play but I included it here to show that Sweat never gives up when rushing the passer. He has that competitive spirit that I really like to see on tape. I think any good pass rusher has to have this trait.

Weaknesses

So, I just posted all that good stuff… why is Sweat not starting then? I think the biggest issue is his inconsistency against the run. I am not sure Jim Schwartz trusts him as much as Barnett on early downs and I can see why. Sweat has too many snaps where he loses contain or bites on misdirection. I didn’t really see him trusted to set the edge very often either. The clips below highlight some of his weaknesses against the run.

In play 1, he is moved far too easily. He tries to get inside quickly (Brandon Graham style) but does not have the power at all. He ends up being moved completely and there’s a pretty large gap for the running back. In play 2, he is too slow to diagnose and react to the run. He is too focused on getting up the field and loses the running back completely which creates a huge lane for the back to get through. He’s actually so far up the field that the pulling guard barely even gets a finger on Sweat but it doesn’t matter, he’s completely taking himself out the play. If he wants to play more on early downs this needs to get better.

The game against the Lions also had some examples of Sweat on the goal line. Let’s have a look at two plays.

Twice in a row, he was blocked by a tight end (Jesse James) and I wanted to see more power from him. In this situation I want him to win against a tight end get into the backfield but he doesn’t have the power to do this. It’s not that these are ‘bad’ plays, he isn’t exactly moved backwards at all. It just illustrates that he has some work to do in the run game and that will start by getting slightly stronger. Whether he can do that or not remains to be seen.

Sweat’s lack of power also prevents him from being a really good pass rusher. When he does not win with his first step and arm length, he can struggle to get anywhere near the quarterback as he doesn’t have the power to push offensive tackles back into the face of the quarterback (Barnett also struggles with this). You can see this below.

I would love Sweat to get a bit stronger and be able to consistently push offensive tackles back. Brandon Graham may not always get sacks or hurries but I always feel he is putting the quarterback under pressure as he is frequently moving an offensive tackle with his strength. Sweat doesn’t have the ability yet and he is too often negated at the line of scrimmage and is completely taking out of the play.

Although Sweat is a very promising pass rusher, he is still quite raw and has some plays where he struggles to do much. I also noticed that on more than one occasion he does this little jump has he tries to swat the offensive tackle away. I must be honest; I have not seen this very much before and I never saw it actually work for Sweat. Take a look at some examples below.

In all of these examples he sort of jumps at the same time as swatting the offensive tackle but it never works. I really do not know whether this is a deliberate move (I think it is) or whether it is a bad habit he has. Whatever it is, he needs to work on it because it didn’t work last year when he used it. It highlights to me that although his is a promising pass rusher he still has some development to do.

Overall

I think Josh Sweat is currently a good pass rusher and a slightly below average run defender. However, I think Sweat has the potential to be an excellent pass rusher and I am really hoping he can take a big step forward this year.

To summarize his strengths very quickly, I would say Sweat is an outstanding athlete who has rare movement skills. He uses his long arms to consistently stop offensive lineman from getting their hands on his pads and he is able to win both inside and outside to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He has good (not great) speed off the line but has great closing speed to finish plays. He also uses his long arms to hit quarterbacks as they are releasing the ball and slow down ball carriers.

On the negative side of things, Sweat needs to work on his power and his work in the run game. He too often loses contain on misdirections and he can be moved in the run game. He is still an inconsistent pass rusher and could do with developing more power to help with his bullrush. He also has some snaps where he looks really raw and needs to clean up his technique. He is not fully developed as a pass rusher in my opinion.

I know a lot of you are reading this to hear my opinion on this… should Josh Sweat be starting over Derek Barnett? I personally think Sweat is a better pass rusher than Barnett. I do not see many reasons why Barnett should be starting over Sweat on 3rd down or obvious passing situations. However, I understand why Barnett is starting on early downs as he is a more consistent run defender than Sweat. Overall, I hope Sweat does get a lot more snaps as I believe Sweat has a higher upside than Barnett as he is better off the line of scrimmage, uses his arms better and simply put is a better athlete. He has a lot to work on still though, and I think this year will be vital in determining whether Sweat will spend his career as a rotational pass rusher or whether he can become a starting defensive end.

If I had to pick, I think Sweat will probably end up as a rotational defensive end rather than a full-time player due to his lack of power in the run game. Despite this, I do think Sweat will be a very productive 3rd down pass rusher and this role can be vital for a defense. I think Sweat deserves a lot more snaps on 3rd downs next year and I would like to see him more on early downs too, just to see if he can handle the responsibility.