The official kickoff to the 2022-2023 season is today, and the age old question any fan wants to know is, will my team be good this year?
For the Philadelphia Eagles, critics are speculating that will be the case. Earlier this week, we took a look at the Eagles offense, comparing the starting line-up for 2022 to that of 2021. However, the most roster changes over the previous two seasons have stemmed from the Eagles defense.
Last season, the Eagles’ defense ranked No. 18 in the league. Philadelphia had the worst sack rate with the exception of the Falcons. They also allowed the second-highest pass completion rate (69.4%) from opposing offenses. However, after making a signifiant improvement, the Eagles’ defense is now ranked No. 6 going in 2022.
11 VS. 11: EAGLES DEFENSE
|Position||2021 Season||2022 Season|
|Left Defensive End||Brandon Graham||Brandon Graham|
|Defensive Tackle||Fletcher Cox||Fletcher Cox|
|Defensive Tackle||Javon Hargrave||Javon Hargrave|
|Right Defensive End||Derek Barnett||Josh Sweat|
|Linebacker||Genard Avery||Haason Reddick|
|Linebacker||Alex Singleton||T.J. Edwards|
|Linebacker||Eric Wilson||Kyzir White|
|Cornerback||Darius Slay||Darius Slay|
|Safety||Anthony Harris||Marcus Epps|
|Safety||Rodney McLeod||Chauncey Gardner-Johnson|
|Cornerback||Steven Nelson||James Bradberry|
|Cornerback||Avonte Maddox||Avonte Maddox|
DEFENSIVE CHANGES & IMPROVEMENTS
Five players have remained constant — Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Darius Slay, and Avonte Maddox. They’re all veterans, and big names at that.
Graham will return after suffering a season-ending injury last season, and critics have stated that he has returned even better. Before his injury, he was selected for the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career, and is looking for another repeat. Despite another year older, Graham’s athleticism remains unchanged.
Cox and Hargrave will bookmark the defensive ends, and though Cox had a slow 2021 season, Hargrave finished with a career-high 7.5 sacks. Slay was named a Top-100 NFL Player coming off of his fourth Pro Bowl, and Maddox finished with a career-high 73 tackles, five tackles for a loss, and two forced fumbles. Maddox will remain in the slot this season, which has proven beneficial for him.
Aside from these five powerhouses, the lineups from 2021 and 2022 are remarkably different. And though different, the changes come with huge upgrades.
Josh Sweat is taking over the starting position, pushing Derek Barnett to back-up. Last season, Sweat finished with 45 tackles and 7.5 sacks to Barnett’s 46 tackles and two sacks in two additional starts. Barnett also led the team with the most penalties, which will hopefully decrease the number of yards lost this coming season.
T.J. Edwards is also moving up from back-up. In 2021, he completed 130 total tackles, one sack, one interception, and five pass deflections, becoming one of Nick Sirianni’s favorite players.
The newest additions to the team include Haason Reddick, Kyzir White, James Bradberry, and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. These four players alone will enhance the defense, making it that much better than they are joining a slew of Philadelphia’s veterans.
Reddick has 34 quarterback hits over the last two seasons, and White was his team’s leading tackler in 2021. Bradberry is a Pro Bowler, ranking No. 22 out of the top-32 cornerbacks in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson was one of the Eagles’ most recent trades. He’s fast, and while he plays safety, he is also effective in covering out of the slot.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
If fans look at stellar 2021 performances, Marcus Epps doesn’t automatically come to mind. In his last two seasons, he played in 30 games with eight starts, playing 45% of the defensive snaps last year. But, despite his limited role, he was Philadelphia’s best safety, ranking 18th ahead of former Eagles’ players, Rodney McLeod (43rd) and Anthony Harris (53rd).
The 2022 season provides Epps with a chance to improve upon his gameplay. As he steps into an expanded role, it will be interesting to see if his confidence translates to success. This season, he will also be entering the final year of his rookie contract.
The 2022 defensive starters are undoubtedly a better group than that from the 2021 season. And with that, and improved offense, the Philadelphia Eagles should find great success. Their first regular-season game is on Sunday, September 11 against the Detroit Lions.