Javon Hargrave impressed with how the defense grew
Javon Hargrave was the talk of the town throughout the year. In his second year with the Eagles, the defensive tackle received a lot of attention from opposing offenses. Hargrave set a new career-high for sacks in a single season with 7.5, and he finished the season with the seventh-most sacks among defensive tackles in the NFL. Hargrave also recorded 63 tackles and nine tackles for loss. Reflecting on the year, Hargrave was not only impressed with his own play, but with defense's play as a unit.
"I think I had one of my best seasons so far in my career. As far as the defense, we kept growing as the season progressed and just kept getting better. Some of the young guys developed and got better and contributed. We got better as a unit," he said.
Fletcher Cox: Next step for defense is consistency
A six-time Pro Bowl selection in his 10 years with the Eagles, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox has just about seen it all during his time in the NFL. He knew that when the team was 2-5, most people on the outside would count the Eagles out. As a team captain, Cox said that he made sure to pull the young players close to him to make sure they saw the right way to handle their business.
The Eagles rallied to make the playoffs and along the way, the defense finished the season tied for first in the NFL with 10 games of 18 or fewer points allowed. Cox cited the team's improved consistency down the stretch as a key reason for the team's turnaround. The goal now is to carry the momentum from the late-season surge into the offseason and beyond.
"We got in the show (the playoffs). It didn't turn out the way we wanted it to, but obviously now we've got something to build on," Cox said. "It stings. It hurts. Now that the guys got a taste of it, I'm sure they're going to be so hungry to go back."
Rodney McLeod thankful for having a healthy season
It was much anticipated to see safety Rodney McLeod back on the field, after he suffered a torn ACL in December 2020. McLeod focused on rehab the entire 2021 offseason. Even with his injury, the team still knew how vital his leadership was as they voted him a captain for the second year. Finally, in Week 4 versus Kansas City, McLeod made his season debut. The sixth-year Eagle finished the season with 58 tackles, two interceptions, and four passes defended.
His biggest play this season came against the Washington Football Team in Week 17. With 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter, McLeod made a diving interception in the end zone to help seal the Eagles' 20-16 victory. The 5-foot-10, 195-pound safety had back-to-back games with an interception. The week following prior, McLeod intercepted Giants quarterback Jake Fromm on the first drive in the second half. On top of the interception, he deflected a pass from Giants' quarterback Mike Glennon which led to a pick-six by linebacker Alex Singleton.
"At the end of the day, I'm proud of my guys. I'm proud of what we've overcome this year and what we were able to do with this team. We were appreciative of the moment and really cherishing the moment because this team will never be the same again," McLeod said. "I like how we fought and I love those guys for continuing to fight all the way up to today. And I'm just happy that I was able to make it out this season healthy. That's a huge step for me."
T.J. Edwards' approach won't change this offseason
Linebacker T.J. Edwards was the first Eagle with at least 125 tackles and two takeaways since DeMeco Ryans in 2013. Since taking over as the starting middle linebacker midseason, Edwards had 102 tackles from Weeks 7-18, which ranked fifth among all NFL linebackers.
Edwards was rewarded for his play with a one-year contract extension during the season. But don't expect the former rookie free agent to rest on his laurels.
"I'll never look at it that way in terms of I have something locked down or feeling like it's mine or anything like that. I want it. It want it to be mine. I'm going to stay the same in terms of my prep and what I'm doing in the offseason. I want to get back bigger, faster, stronger, keep working on the things that have helped me improve year in and year out and really stay connected with my teammates during this time," said Edwards, who also earned NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his blocked punt that turned the tide in the win at Carolina.
Take a look at the very best photos from the 2021 season.
Anthony Harris lasered in on consistency
A seventh-year veteran, safety Anthony Harris signed a one-year deal with the Eagles for the 2021 season. The 6-foot-1, 202-pound safety brought his strength to the defense. Early on in the season, Harris recorded a team-high with 14 tackles (6 solo) in Dallas. That was the second-highest single-game tackle total of his career for Harris. Harris continued to show off his talents when he recorded his first interception with the Eagles in Week 6 when he picked off Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady. Harris produced 72 tackles (36 solo), two tackles for loss, and the interception. The Richmond, Virginia native had a couple of things he wanted to focus on for the 2021 season.
"Coming into this year, I wanted to come settle in, get to know everybody in the locker room and organization," Harris said. "Focus on playing some good football and just having fun playing out there on the field and try to help the team any way I can. For me, it was just about coming in, trying to be consistent, and play at a high level."
Alex Singleton: Remember this feeling in the offseason
Linebacker Alex Singleton led the Eagles in tackles for the second year in a row with 130. He became just one of 11 undrafted linebackers in NFL history to record multiple interception returns for touchdowns. Along with his teammate T.J. Edwards, Singleton was one of only seven NFL linebackers to have at least 100 tackles, a fumble recovery, and an interception in 2021.
Singleton may seem like an overnight sensation, but 2021 was his third year with the Eagles and that followed a three-year stint in the Canadian Football League, where he was a part of Grey Cup Championship team. Singleton understands the value of culture and credited Nick Sirianni and the coaching staff for instilling confidence and belief throughout the entire organization.
"I think that's huge for an organization going in the right direction," Singleton said. "We kept saying we believe in each other. We continue to say we believe in each other. I know every guy in that locker room still believes in each other. Everything's going to be different, and you never know where guys are going to be, but everyone in that locker room respects each other, loves each other, loves how we were able to quiet everything else besides the guys in that locker room, build together, and be a playoff football team."