After racking up the third-most sacks (70) in a single season in NFL history, the Eagles went into the draft and promptly spent a pair of first-round picks on two more quarterback hunters from their favorite college football factory. Defensive tackle Jalen Carter (the No. 9 overall pick) and edge rusher Nolan Smith (No. 30), fresh off a second consecutive national championship with the Georgia Bulldogs, join a star-studded defensive front that overwhelms opponents with waves of pressure.
Featuring a collection of pass-rushing specialists with size, speed, athleticism and explosiveness, Philadelphia creates mass destruction in the trenches. Four different players on the Eagles’ defensive front hit double-digit sacks last season: Haason Reddick (16), Brandon Graham (11), Javon Hargrave (11) and Josh Sweat (11). With Fletcher Cox (seven sacks) and Milton Williams (four) also providing pressure, Philly cycled through a series of game-wreckers, keeping everyone fresh and raring to wreak havoc. I haven’t even mentioned last year’s first-round pick, Jordan Davis. A gargantuan human being at 6-foot-6 and 336 pounds, the surprisingly athletic Georgia product flashed disruptive ability — especially against the run — before a midseason ankle injury. With difference-makers all across the front, the Eagles can confine quarterbacks to the pocket while generating the gut pressure to register sacks through simplistic rush schemes. And in a passing league, this dynamic unit is a big reason why Philadelphia has emerged as a perennial title contender.
Now, the Eagles did lose Hargrave to San Francisco in free agency. For a normal unit, this would be a crippling blow. But Howie Roseman has built up such enviable depth in this area of the roster that Philly’s defensive front will continue to devastate opposing offenses in the coming season and beyond. Even without Hargrave, this remains the best position group in football.