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Eagles know you can never be too deep at defensive tackle

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro
Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro

He has been an Eagle since 2012, and the day the Eagles traded up in the first round of the NFL Draft to select Fletcher Cox represented a huge gain and a continued commitment to the defensive tackle group, so Cox understands the premium nature of the position. He understands that the Eagles didn't necessarily need to add to the interior of the defensive line in the spring but having the chance to draft a player with special qualities, well, you just do it.

"We have a very talented room," Cox said of 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."

The Eagles entered the NFL Draft season with a fine-looking three-man rotation at defensive tackle – Cox, one of the greatest players in the NFL in the last decade; Javon Hargrave, a relentless playmaker who earned his first Pro Bowl nod in 2021; and Milton Williams, a third-round draft choice in '21 who is someone the coaches are extremely excited about after his strong rookie campaign. Next in line were players like second-year man Marlon Tuipulotu, a sixth-round draft pick in 2021 who has a lot of promise; Renell Wren, a former fourth-round draft pick who spent two seasons in Cincinnati before signing in free agency here; and Marvin Wilson, signed in 2021 following the NFL Draft. He spent the season on the practice squad until a promotion to the active roster in the Week 18 game against Dallas and Wilson responded with three tackles in 19 snaps.

So, the Eagles didn't feel they needed to trade up and select Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis on the first night of the 2022 NFL Draft, and that's why doing what they did made even more sense. They trusted their board. They saw a player with "special" skills and traits and they went up and got him.

Look this is nothing new for a franchise that has been committed to defensive tackle for, oh, so long. Taking Corey Simon in the first round of the 2000 NFL Draft really started things in the modern era, followed by Mike Patterson in 2005 and then Brodrick Bunkley in 2006, and then, in one of Howie Roseman's masterstroke moves, deftly moving up in 2012 and bringing Cox to Philadelphia.

Since then, it's been a commitment to making the position as deep and as talented as possible, with the idea that stuffing the running game and also collapsing the pocket from the inside out would greatly benefit the defense.

"Play on the other side of the line of scrimmage. That's what we want to do," Cox said. "We're in the second year with this defense, so getting to know each other and creating relationships, that's what we're doing."

Davis is a huge addition – literally at 6-foot-6, 336 pounds – and he's also a young sponge eager to soak up the knowledge from Cox and Hargrave.

"It's been great talking to the older guys and learning from them," Davis said during the spring practices. "I can't imagine being in a better situation to learn from the best players in the league who want to help me be the best player I can be. I think I've already improved a lot."

Many analysts have lauded the Eagles for their offseason moves, and rightly so. The Eagles bolstered key areas on both sides of the ball. Taking Davis, obviously, was important. A deeper peek illustrates the true meaning: The Eagles know there is no such thing as "too deep" at defensive tackle. They've got one eye on 2022 and another on the future, so adding Davis to the mix makes perfect sense.

Philadelphia wants to have a wrecking crew on defense this season. Coordinator Jonathan Gannon did wonders with the group last year minus some key players – losing end Brandon Graham in Week 2, for example, was a huge blow – as the Eagles held opposing offenses to 18 or fewer points in 10 games. Where the Eagles wanted to improve for 2022 was in their ability to get to the quarterback and in takeaways. Adding another crusher inside at defensive tackle certainly helps both of those prospects.

"He's a big, explosive, violent man that can win one-on-one, so yes, he will definitely have a role in the passing game, and he will affect the quarterback in a good way. Excited about his skill set and what he can do in the run and pass game," Gannon said of Davis. "There are going to be certain times where we let him cut his ears back and rush. At that place, obviously they play really good football there, they didn't ask him to do that a lot (at Georgia). But he definitely has the skill set to do that when you start looking at how he moves and his body and his traits. He definitely will project to affect the game in the pass game, as well."

That's the blueprint – disrupt from the defensive tackle position. Blow it up from the inside out. The Eagles have prioritized defensive tackle for many, many years, and in 2022 they are poised as well as they have ever been to control the trenches.

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