Philadelphia Eagles: Hassan Ridgeway is now the defensive lynchpin

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

After an unceremonious arrival to the City of Brotherly Love, Hassan Ridgeway has become a make or break piece of the Philadelphia Eagles defensive front.

Is there any player who’s had their situation more dramatically transformed in 2019 than Hassan Ridgeway?

A fourth-round draft pick out of Texas in 2016, Ridgeway started the calendar year off as a bubble rotational tackle in the Indiana Colts‘ 4-3 defense, at least until he was traded on draft night the Philadelphia Eagles for a sixth-rounder.

On paper, this was kind of a non-move move, as there really weren’t that many good tackles left on the board and clearly Howie Roseman and company viewed Ridgway as an upgrade over the likes of Treyvon Hester and Bruce Hector, but after signing Timmy Jernigan and Malik Jackson in free agency it seemed almost impossible to imagine Hassan being more than a fourth tackle in a stacked rotation.

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What a difference a few months can make.

After losing Jackson for the season with a Lisfranc injury in Week 1, and Jernigan to a foot injury in Week 2, Ridgeway meteorically rose up the Birds’ depth chart to his current role as the team’s second starting defensive tackle next to Fletcher Cox – a role he hasn’t been asked to fill since playing next to Malcolm Brown on the Longhorns line.

But just because Ridgeway’s first three years in the NFL haven’t gone as planned doesn’t mean he can’t be a productive player in Jim Schwartz‘s attacking 4-3 front – far from it.

Ove his three-year tenure in Texas, Ridgeway logged 108 total tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, and 9.5 sacks as the team’s left defensive tackle. He also forced two fumbles as a junior – including one he returned for a touchdown against Oklahoma State.

While Ridgeway may not have been known as an athletic freak of nature, and reportedly struggled to maintain a healthy weight over his college career, that didn’t keep scouts like’s Lance Zierlein from giving the 6-foot-3, a second-round grade, with the potential to become a Kawann Short-level performer for some lucky club.

The Colts weren’t that team.

Initially slotted in as a 3-4 defensive end, Ridgeway largely played out of position as a rookie and was forced into a less active role clogging up passing lanes for attacking linebackers. From there, the Colts eventually transitioned into a 4-3 under Frank Reich‘s new defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, but it was too little too late for Ridgeway, as he fell firmly behind Denico Autry and Al Woods on the depth chart. In large part, this lack of a defined role, when coupled with only five appearances in 2018 made Ridgeway expendable going into the draft.

But now, barring a trade for an established starter like, say, Leonard Williams (more on that here) Ridgeway will have his first true chance to showcase what he’s made of over an extended starting role.

Who knows, maybe with some extended snaps and a more expansive role, Ridgeway could elevate his play considerably and become a legitimate partner for Cox in the trenches? I mean Ridgeway has already logged almost as many snaps in 2019 (54) as he did in 2018 (65), so anything is possible, right?

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But regardless of how things go down over the next two months, its abundantly clear that if the Philadelphia Eagles defensive line is going to remain among the most dominant units in the league, they’ll need some seriously elevated play from Hassan Ridgeway – the unlikely lynchpin of Jim Schwartz‘s front.