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What the Eagles should do at defensive tackle

Eagles roster outlook: position-by-position.

Baltimore Ravens v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Today we continue our Philadelphia Eagles roster outlook series by examining the defensive tackle position. Previously: Defensive end.

THE PLAYERS

FLETCHER COX

STATS: 746 snaps, 41 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 9 QB hits, 31 QB hurries, 1 pass deflection

REVIEW: Cox got off to a slow start last year with just one sack and four quarterback hits in his first seven games. He picked it up from there and still showed signs of being a disruptive player but he was more “pretty good” than “very elite.” Pro Football Focus had Cox graded 29th out of 50 interior defenders. Cox’s impact isn’t always best represented by stats due to the extra blocking attention he receives that creates opportunities for others. Still, I think it’s fair to say the Eagles ideally needed even more impact out of a player who carried the highest cap hit on the team before he restructured his deal last year. Again, this isn’t to suggest Cox was bad; he ranked second among 4-3 NFC defensive tackles in sacks and tackles for loss at the time of his sixth straight Pro Bowl berth.

OUTLOOK: Cox turns 31 this year and, if you include his playoff games, he has about 9.5 NFL seasons under his belt. One can only wonder if Cox is past his prime of being a true difference-maker, especially relative to his price tag. The Eagles won’t be moving on from him this offseason because trading or cutting him would only clear $2.8 million in cap space compared to $21 million in dead money. If the Eagles get off to a bad start during the upcoming season, which seems plausible, they could look to sell him ahead of the 2021 NFL trade deadline. Otherwise, they might look to deal him during the 2022 offseason if they’re still looking to facilitate their retooling process.

MY TAKE: Stay.

Poll

Fletcher Cox: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 89%
    Stay
    (3493 votes)
  • 10%
    Go
    (414 votes)
3907 votes total Vote Now

JAVON HARGRAVE

STATS: 601 snaps, 38 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 8 QB hits, 28 QB hurries, 1 pass deflection

REVIEW: Hargrave missed the entirety of training camp and Week 1 due to multiple injury issues. The lingering effects of those ailments were seemingly felt with Hargrave only logging 1.5 sacks, two tackles for loss, and four quarterback hits in his first 10 games. Hargrave’s final five games were better with three sacks, three tackles for loss, and four quarterback hits. Hargrave finished the season with PFF’s fifth-best interior pass rush grade but 111th best run defense grade, putting his overall grade 78th out of 139 players. Not exactly what you’re looking for from the NFL’s 12th highest paid interior defender at $13 million per year.

OUTLOOK: The hope is that a healthier Hargrave, who turns 28 in February, will be able to build on last year’s late-season promise. He might also benefit from having more time to adjust to Philly’s scheme. Otherwise, he’s at risk for being another Howie Roseman free agent flop.

MY TAKE: Stay.

Poll

Javon Hargrave: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 86%
    Stay
    (3146 votes)
  • 13%
    Go
    (476 votes)
3622 votes total Vote Now

MALIK JACKSON

STATS: 538 snaps, 28 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 13 QB hits, 19 QB hurries, 2 pass deflections

REVIEW: After missing most of the 2019 season with a Lisfranc injury, Jackson got off to a solid start in 2020 with 1.5 sacks and 11 quarterback hits in his first six games. But then he missed Week 7 with a quad injury and had just one sack (came in the meaningless Week 17 game) and two quarterback hits (one in the meaningless Week 17 game) the rest of the year. Jackson clearly didn’t come close to living up to the three-year, $30 million contract ($17 million guaranteed) that Roseman signed him to in March 2019. Maybe it wasn’t the best idea to give big money to an aging player who got benched and cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

OUTLOOK: The Eagles reportedly restructured Jackson’s deal after the 2020 season in a move that signals he’ll be released with a post-June 1 designation.

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

Malik Jackson: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    Stay
    (383 votes)
  • 89%
    Go
    (3222 votes)
3605 votes total Vote Now

HASSAN RIDGEWAY

STATS: 138 snaps, 11 tackles, 1 sack, 0 forced fumbles, 1 QB hit, 3 QB hurries

REVIEW: Ridgeway contributed as a rotational defensive tackle before suffering a season-ending bicep injury in October.

OUTLOOK: Injuries have limited Ridgeway, an impending free agent, to playing in just 17 out of 51 possible games over the past three seasons. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if the Eagles re-signed the 26-year-old to a minimum deal but they should probably just move on. Can’t rely on him to stay healthy.

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

Hassan Ridgeway: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    Stay
    (1336 votes)
  • 58%
    Go
    (1892 votes)
3228 votes total Vote Now

T.Y. MCGILL

STATS: 127 snaps, 9 tackles, 0.5 sack, 0 forced fumbles, 3 QB hits, 2 QB hurries

REVIEW: The Eagles used the new practice squad promotion rules to have McGill available as an extra defensive tackle on multiple occasions. He looked like a replacement level caliber journeyman.

OUTLOOK: The Eagles signed him to a one-year minimum deal after the 2020 season. He turns 29 in November so it’s not like he’s a guy with much upside. Ideally, the Eagles can find a way to add some younger talent. If they can’t, they could do worse for a fourth defensive tackle.

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

T.Y. McGill: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    Stay
    (625 votes)
  • 77%
    Go
    (2210 votes)
2835 votes total Vote Now

RAEQUAN WILLIAMS

STATS: 98 snaps, 5 tackles, 1 sack, 0 forced fumbles, 1 QB hit, 1 QB hurry

REVIEW: Williams, a 2020 undrafted rookie free agent signing, spent most of the season on the practice squad before being signed to the roster in December. He played sparingly.

OUTLOOK: Williams didn’t show much as a rookie but at least he had the opportunity to get some NFL snaps. He’ll have a chance to compete for a roster spot in 2021. Preferable to keep him, a soon-to-be 24-year-old, over some dead-end veterans like McGill and Hester.

MY TAKE: Stay.

Poll

Raequan Williams: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 77%
    Stay
    (2051 votes)
  • 22%
    Go
    (581 votes)
2632 votes total Vote Now

TREYVON HESTER

REVIEW: The Eagles re-added Hester, he whose fingertip help cause the Double Doink, to their practice squad in November. He didn’t end up seeing any game action.

OUTLOOK: Hester signed a futures deal so he’ll have a chance to compete for a roster spot this offseason. He turns 29 in September so the Eagles should aspire to find someone younger to take his place.

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

Treyvon Hester: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    Stay
    (654 votes)
  • 73%
    Go
    (1828 votes)
2482 votes total Vote Now

FREE AGENCY OR TRADES

The Eagles will enter the upcoming season with Cox and Hargrave as their top two defensive tackles. Depending on how they handle Ridgeway, they could afford to add a veteran minimum-type player at this position.

NFL DRAFT APPROACH

The Eagles likely won’t be taking an interior defender at No. 6 overall but there’s good reason to take one at any point after the first round. Cox isn’t getting any younger and the team needs more depth behind him and Hargrave.