Philadelphia Eagles: Can Akeem Spence actually make an impact?

(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

While Akeem Spence may not be a particularly effective pass rusher statistically, can he still be a solid contributor to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2019?

Akeem Spence is kind of a hard player to pin down.

On one hand, the Philadelphia Eagles‘ new defensive tackle has never been on a winning team and has been jettisoned out of town by two consecutive teams after coaching shifts made him a scheme misfit, but at the same time, over 88 career games with 57 starts, Spence has only recorded 10.5 sacks – his season-high topping out at three in 2017.

Is he a player that just needs the right opportunity to shine, or a career journeyman who doesn’t bring much to the table? And more importantly, does he bring anything to the table for the Eagles?

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That question could help to define the season.

A three year performer at Illinois, Spence only amassed 3.5 sacks in 38 games as a Fighting Illini, but still managed to be selected 100th overall (fourth round) by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in large part because of his ability to clog up the trenches and tackle rushers behind the line of scrimmage (16.5).

From there, his run-stuffing abilities continued into the NFL – but his pass-rushing did not.

Though Spence matched his college sack total by the end of his second professional season, his starts became fewer and farther between over his first four years in the league, to which by the time his rookie contract was up, the then-26-year-old was nothing more than a part-time player.

And in a weird twist of fate, despite his lack of production, Spence still had suiters when he hit the open market.

In March of 2017, Spence signed a three-year, $9 million deal to join up with the then-Jim Caldwell-led Detriot Lions to serve was a Timmy Jernigan-esque run-stuffer next to sophomore second-rounder A’Shawn Robinson – and despite only logging decking the quarterback three times in 16 games (11 starts) Spence finished out the season third on the team in sacks.

But alas, Spence was not afforded a second chance to build on his growth in Teryl Austin‘s wid-nine 43 scheme, as he was traded to the Miami Dolphins for a seventh-round pick after Matt Patricia and his NE-lite scheme made the 6-foot-1, 303 pounder irrelevant.

Once again paired up with a certified run-stuffer in 2017 fifth-round pick Davon Godchaux, Spence again led a lousy team in sacks from the defensive tackle position in a wide-nine, despite only logging two in 16 games (16 starts).

With one year left on his 2017 extension, the Dolphins made Spence feel right at home by drafting Clemson tackle Christian Wilkins 13th overall – essentially punching his ticket out of the starting lineup and eventually out of town.

Maybe call it an act of mercy, but after playing for three straight bad teams over three straight seasons, Spence was finally free to sign wherever he’d like, and after a truly unfortunate injury to Malik Jackson, his destination became abundantly clear: the City of Brotherly Love.

Paired up once more with ex-defensive coordinator Matt Burke, who is now a special assistant under Jim Schwartz, Spence will once again earn snaps over the guard’s outside shoulder in a wide-nine scheme; only this time, he’ll be doing so as a third or even fourth option in a stacked tackle rotation.

No longer miscast as the top interior rusher on an anemic front, Spence will have the best running mates of his career in Fletcher Cox and Jernigan to double-team for, creating one-on-one assignments even if it negatively impacts his individual stat line.

And for a team like the Eagles, that should be enough to keep things ticking right on schedule.

Next. DeSean Jackson is eating Nelson Agholor’s lunch. dark

While it would have been nice to add a legitimate pass-rushing threat to replace Jackson, you aren’t going to add a Leonard Williams-esque talent without surrendering serious draft capital to get a deal done. With limited options and even less time to get a player up to speed, Howie Roseman and the Philadelphia Eagles found a player with wide-nine experience who can clog up multiple blockers to free up one-on-one opportunities for Cox, Jernigan, Hassan Ridgeway, and Vinny Curry, and that should be lauded. Good luck Akeem Spence, maybe this will be the season where you finally make your postseason debut.