2019 Eagles vs Super Bowl 52 Championship Eagles: Defensive Edition

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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Philadelphia Eagles
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Defensive Ends

The final piece to the defense and defensive line the edge rushers were a key component to the Eagles 2017 championship. With Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry starting on the outside of the line, and Chris Long, and Derek Barnett ready and waiting in the rotation.

The two starting ends had career seasons in different ways during 2017. Graham put up the most sacks in his career with 9.5 in 15 games. The talented vet would also pick up a fumble, forced two, combine for 47 tackles, and 15 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Although going through the first two postseason games without a sack in 2017, Graham got his (and the team’s) first at the perfect time with that strip-sack on Brady with two minutes left in the Super Bowl.

Although Vinny Curry started 16 games, the defensive end only recorded three sacks but still managed the most solo tackles of his career with 25, 10 of which were for a loss, while also forcing a single fumble. Although not the shiniest of numbers, Curry contributed in the playoffs with six solo tackles and four QB hits in three games.

The other veteran edge rusher in 2017, Chris Long played more than some may have expected – playing in all 16 games with one start. In his rotational role, Long recorded a career-high in forced fumbles with four – one more than his previous personal record back in 2010. The vet also brought the quarterback down five times and the ball carrier down 20. Although being somewhat silent in the playoffs, Long was able to get two QB hits in a Super Bowl that didn’t see the Eagles’ first sack until two minutes left in the game.

Despite the fact that Derek Barnett was a rookie, the Eagles didn’t shy away from giving the first-round pick a good amount of playing time in 2017. Playing in 15 games, the rook forced one fumble, picked up two (returning one for a touchdown), secured five sacks with 16 QB hits, and tallied himself 18 solo tackles. Without the most eye-popping stats, Barnett contributed in a big way in the playoffs, recording his first postseason sack in his second postseason game but mostly by recovering the Brandon Graham strip-sack on Brady.

In 2019, the Eagles will welcome back three of these four defensive ends (with Chris Long officially retired). Extending Graham’s contract, signing Vinny Curry to a one-year deal, and Barnett still on his rookie deal giving the Eagles three-fourths of their championship-winning ends.

The fourth spot holds a bit of a position battle with two viable options being able to fill that role with second-year player Josh Sweat and 2019 fourth overall pick Shareef Miller. Both have little to go by even with Sweat being in the NFL for a season, playing in nine games in a limited role only recording one tackle and one QB hit.

Meanwhile, in 2018, Shareef Miller was the co-winner of Penn State’s Most Valuable Defensive Player Award. To earn this, Miller started 12 games bringing down the ball carrier 41 times along with 7.5 sacks.

With three-fourths of the 2017 defensive ends returning in 2019, the Eagles have a good idea for what they have. Graham a late bloomer in the NFL seeing more success later rather than sooner in his career, a now even more vetted Vinny Curry who may play a more limited role due to a budding and rising talent in Derek Barnett. At the same time, Philly has two prime candidates for the fourth spot in Josh Sweat and Shareef Miller, which should make preseason and camp very enticing.