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Training Camp Position Preview: Defensive Tackle

Fletcher Cox
Fletcher Cox

It is a very simple concept, yet exceedingly difficult to execute: Build the defensive line with as much depth as possible and get after teams with waves of players. It's a blueprint the Eagles have followed for many years, and 2023 is no different.

The defensive front is loaded, even after the team lost one of the marquee players in unrestricted free agency (Javon Hargrave). How did the Eagles rebuild – no, reload – for the season ahead? It was a combination of a lot of things, starting with the re-signing of veteran tackle Fletcher Cox, who played at a high level in 2022 and expects to bring it again with his energy, versatility, and leadership up front. Then the Eagles added tackle Kentavius Street, who is on the rise in his NFL career.

Then there is the idea of internal improvement – and the Eagles have some exciting prospects here. The team's 2022 first-round draft pick, Jordan Davis, has big plans for his second season after a promising rookie campaign, and third-year man Milton Williams is looking forward to continuing his momentum from last season. Two young players, Marlon Tuipulotu and Noah Elliss, are healthy after injury-plagued 2022 seasons.

And of course, the Eagles continued to invest in the defensive line in this year's NFL Draft, starting with Jalen Carter with the ninth overall selection after a decorated career at the University of Georgia. Carter is regarded in the building as a special talent, the total package at defensive tackle with immense strength to dominate at the point of attack and the get-off to be a factor in the pass game. Seventh-round draft pick Moro Ojomo will also look to make the roster and help up front and he could see time in the summer at both tackle and end after playing both spots at the University of Texas. – Dave Spadaro

Did You Know?

• Fletcher Cox's 7 QB sacks in 2022 were his most since the 2018 campaign, when Cox recorded 10.5 quarterback sacks.

• Milton Williams had 9 tackles for loss and 4 quarterbacks sacks in his second season with the Eagles.

• Jordan Davis was selected to the Pro Football Writers Association of America All-Rookie Team in 2022.

• Marlon Tuipulotu played in 9 games (1 start) and recorded 16 tackles (8 solo) with 3 QB pressures, 2 QB hits, and one sack.

• Noah Elliss spent the entire 2022 season on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list.

What Does the Film Show?

Jordan Davis was on an upward trajectory before his midseason injury last fall. A physical marvel, Davis showed the potential to be a dominant presence as a nose guard in the Eagles' multiple-front defense, particularly against the run. His impact won't always be felt in the stat sheet, but I'm very excited to see what Davis can provide in Year 2.

People are sleeping on third-year player Milton Williams. With his combination of athleticism, strength, and effort, he has the ability to disrupt offenses on any snap.

Jalen Carter is a special talent and his athleticism showed up in every phase of the game. He was an easy evaluation in college; it didn't take long while studying tape to see that he had the physical skills to star in the league. Going back through and watching his film with a long-time NFL offensive lineman in Ross Tucker only further cemented that fact. – Fran Duffy

Key Stats

32.8 – Jalen Carter's pass rush numbers were outstanding on a per-snap basis when you look at the stats from last season at Georgia, but the fun doesn't stop there with him. At 6-foot-3 and nearly 320 pounds, Carter was also a dominant force against the run. According to PFF, Carter graded out positively on 32.8 percent of his run defense snaps last year, the highest number of any defensive tackle selected in April. Pair that with his athleticism and there's a LOT to be excited about.

18 – Carter's former teammate, Jordan Davis, also found a strong way to shine last year. Amongst qualifying defensive tackles, Davis was the only player in in the NFL at the position to grade out positively on more than 18 percent of his run defense snaps while grading out negatively in less than 10 percent. When he was on the field, he was making a positive impact.

9.1 – Every year in the NFL Draft, Kent Lee Platte calculates prospects' athleticism with a formula that he has coined Relative Athletic Score or RAS. Any player with an 8.0 or above is deemed to be elite, with 10.0 being a perfect score. Rookie Moro Ojomo popped with a 9.10 score. Pair that with an outstanding Pass Rush Win Rate of 18.0 percent and unique length with 34.5-inch arms? That's a fascinating prospect. Just how rare of a combination is that though? Ojomo is the only player drafted in the last decade to hit those three marks. I'm excited to see the rookie this summer.

New to the Nest

• Jalen Carter – A two-time National Champion, Carter was a first-team All-America and All-SEC player in 2022 when he was also a finalist for the Lombardi Award as the nation's top lineman. Carter hails from Apopka (Fla.) High School, the same as Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp. Carter played multiple positions, including punter. He booted a punt of 60+ yards in the state championship game.

• Moro Ojomo – A seventh-round pick out of Texas, Ojomo was born in Nigeria and emigrated to the United States when he was 8 years old. He enrolled at Texas when he was 16 years old and will only turn 22 in mid-August. Ojomo played both end and tackle for Texas. He finished his career with 95 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, and five sacks in 50 games.

• Kentavius Street – The fifth-year veteran has increased his tackle totals in each of his previous four seasons and is coming off a career year that also featured 3.5 sacks, eight QB hits, and 21 QB pressures while playing 46 percent of the snaps for the Saints. After a pre-draft knee injury delayed the start to his career, Street has played in all 37 regular-season and playoff games over the past two years. – Chris McPherson

They Said It

"I've grown a lot as a leader and being able to help anybody understand what it takes to be a pro, that's something that I really enjoy. That's part of why we've had success here. Good players, great coaching, and we've all connected. I'm still playing strong, I still love the game, and I love Philadelphia, so I'm excited about what we have here." – Fletcher Cox

"I definitely know what's expected of me and I'm ready to meet those expectations. I understand that you're asking a lot more of me and that's OK, that's what I'm here for. I'm lucky that I had that experience behind those guys to see what it took. But just try to take those lessons that they gave me and not let it go to waste." – Jordan Davis

Check out the defensive tackles on the Eagles' roster heading into Training Camp, presented by Independence Blue Cross. Players are listed in numerical order.

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