“Control the line of scrimmage and you control the game.”
This isn’t some famous quote from Vince Lombardi or Mike Tomlin or Bill Belichick.
It’s common sense. And the Eagles defensive line looks impressive… on paper.
The Eagles, already basking with Pro Football Focus having selected their offensive line as No. 1, was picked as having the ninth-best defensive line by PFF.
Three teams have top 10 offensive and defensive lines, as selected by PFF — the Eagles (1 offense, 9 defense), Tampa Bay (4 offense, 5 defense) and Green Bay (5 offense, 3 defense). All three were NFC playoff teams last year.
The Eagles D-Line Looks Promising, But are they as talented as the 2017 rotation?
- “We have a very talented room,” Fletcher Cox told the Eagles website about his fellow defensive tackles. “We can all stay fresh and rotate and I think that’s what you always want to do there.
- “It’s a long season. It’s a grind. The more you have at defensive tackle, the better.”
- At the Eagles’ organized team activities last month, Cox talked about the team’s depth among the defensive tackles.
- “The way we rotate, it’s built so there’s not a drop-off. It’s 1A and 1B,” Cox said. “JG [defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon] has different ways of doing everything. He’s finding different things we’re good at.”
Cox and Javon Hargrove are the starting tackles, with highly regarded rookie Jordan Davis and second-year pro Milton Williams right behind them. They all are expected to see significant playing time.
The Eagles’ defensive ends also look to be a strength. The starters are projected to be veterans Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett, with Josh Sweat and second-year player Tarron Jackson as backups.
Again, all are expected to see playing time.
Plus, the Eagles have edge rusher/linebacker Haason Reddick, a sack machine, who at times will line up on the Eagles defensive line.
- Here is what PFF said about the Eagles defensive line, which they placed under the category of:
- Tier 2: Strong with a weak point or two.
“The backbone of Philadelphia’s defensive line for years — a 31-year-old Fletcher Cox and 34-year-old Brandon Graham — is aging. However, the Eagles have done a nice job of continuing to add depth and create a deep rotation this offseason. Philadelphia added Jordan Davis and Haason Reddick this offseason while also bringing back Derek Barnett in free agency.
“As he displayed at the combine, Davis is a truly unique athlete for his size who can single-handedly change a run defense with his power and the way he can hold the point of attack on the interior. Reddick, meanwhile, is tied for 15th among edge rushers in quarterback pressures over the last two seasons (99).”
Here are the rest of PFF’s defensive line rankings (with PFF’s offensive line rankings in parentheses), with PFF comments on the other NFC East teams:
Tier 1: Elite
- LA Rams (11 offensive line)
- Washington Commanders (15 offense)
PFF’s comments: “Expectations were sky-high for Washington’s defensive line and defense overall entering last season. And there were few more disappointing performances than Washington’s defense ending the 2021 campaign ranked 27th in yards allowed per play (5.7).
“It’s reasonable to bank on some regression in 2021, starting with better health at defensive end, where Chase Young and Montez Sweat combined to miss 15 games in 2021. And Jonathan Allen might actually be the best player on the defensive line entering 2022.”
- Green Bay Packers (5 offense)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (30 offense)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4 offense)
- San Francisco 49ers (14 offense)
Tier 2: Strong with a weak point or two
7. LA Chargers (12 offense)
8. New Orleans Saints (21 offense)
9. Eagles (1 offense)
10. Tennessee Titans (27 offense)
11. Indianapolis Colts (10 offense)
12. Minnesota Vikings (19 offense)
Tier 3: Solid, all-around defensive fronts
13. Buffalo Bills (20 offense)
14. Cincinnati Bengals (8 offense)
15. Miami Dolphins (23 offense)
16. NY Jets (13 offense)
17. Denver Broncos (16 offense)
18. Baltimore Ravens (17 offense)
Tier 4: Great edge duo, weak interior
19. Las Vegas Raiders (29 offense)
20. Cleveland Browns (2 offense)
21. Dallas Cowboys (6 offense)
PFF’s comments: “The Cowboys’ ranking depends on how you classify Micah Parsons, as he’ll likely split his time between off-ball and edge alignments again in 2022, just as he did during his rookie season. On snaps where Parsons is lined up on the edge opposite DeMarcus Lawrence, that’s one of the best edge tandems in the league.
“The defensive tackle position remains the weak point of the unit after combining for a 33.1 PFF run-defense grade in 2021 (30th out of 32 teams).”
Tier 5: Relying on younger players to make a leap
22. NY Giants (18 offense)
PFF’s comments: “The Giants’ defensive front has a high ceiling, but that’s reliant on Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari performing at a high level in their first and second NFL seasons, respectively. Thibodeaux has ideal pass-rush traits off the edge that led to a 91.5 pass-rushing grade at Oregon in 2021, but it can sometimes take players in the trenches a season or two to find their footing once jumping to the NFL.
“Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence form a nice foundation on the interior, but the Giants need Thibodeaux and Ojulari to hit to really elevate the unit.”
23. New England Patriots (7 offense)
24. Carolina Panthers (24 offense)
25. Kansas City Chiefs (9 offense)
26. Detroit Lions (3 offense)
Tier 6: Question marks at multiple positions
27. Arizona Cardinals (25 offense)
28. Jacksonville Jaguars (26 offense)
29. Seattle Seahawks (32 offense)
30. Houston Texans (22 offense)
31. Chicago Bears (31 offense)
32. Atlanta Falcons (28 offense)