Philadelphia Eagles: Malik Jackson could be 2020’s biggest addition

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

After landing on IR after Week 1 of the 2019 season, Malik Jackson could pay massive dividends for the Philadelphia Eagles as a redshirt defensive tackle.

Week 1 was the high watermark of the Philadelphia Eagles‘ 2019 season.

Hopes were high, DeSean Jackson led the league in receiving was 154 yards and two touchdowns on eight catches, and the Eagles’ defense looked downright dominant.

If Week 1 would have carried over the entire season, the Eagles may have won it all for the second time in three seasons and kept Big Red forever cast to the side as the NFL’s perpetual bridesmaid, but alas that simply was not meant to be.

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No, what Week 1 really gave us a glimpse of was the prevailing narrative of the 2019 season: Injuries.

Oh. So. Many. Injuries.

In 2019, the Eagles added 15 players to their injured reserve list over the 16-game regular season. That would almost be funny if it wasn’t so tragic. And in a cruel twist of fate, quite possibly the most significant loss of the season, on the defensive side of the ball at least, happened in Week 1: A lisfranc foot injury that landed Malik Jackson on IR 32 snaps into his eight NFL season.

Signed to a three-year, $30 million deal after being released by the Jacksonville Jaguars just prior to free agency, Jackson came to South Philly as a potential long-term partner for Fletcher Cox in the trenches. Measuring in at a near-prototypical 6-foot-5, 290 pounds, Jackson’s attacking style looked tailor-made for the way Jim Schwartz likes to penetrate with his defensive lineman from a wide nine front. Jackson’s addition also effectively ushered out Timmy Jernigan as a long-term fit in Philly, a move the team foreshadowed when they reworked his contract to remove any guaranteed money.

Ironically, it was Jernigan who eventually found the most success filling Jackson’s shoes down the stretch, but that’s a different story for another day.

Without Jackson, the Eagles cycled through a half-dozen other options, in addition to Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry moonlighting on the interior. Still, none of the team’s options ever rose to the level of Jackson’s disruptive Week 1 pocket presence, let alone the above-average play Philly got from Jernigan in their 2017 Super Bowl run.

Fortunately, Jackson should be back and ready to go for the 2020 season and could elevate the Eagles’ play considerably as an effective redshirt free-agent addition.

And why not, right? Despite boasting one of the best defensive lineman classes in recent memory, the Eagles bypassed DT entirely in the 2019 NFL Draft because they believed so very strongly in Jackson’s potential – investing only a sixth-round pick to acquire underachieving defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway from the Indianapolis Colts.

Bringing back Jackson is like adding, by my estimation, the fourth-best defensive tackle on the free-agent market without having to worry about some other team bidding up the price; a defensive tackle who already has a year of experience in the Eagles’ scheme and an innate knowledge of what Schwartz wants from his defensive tackles.

Jackson’s healthy presence should once again allow the Eagles to focus their draft capital, and $40-plus million in cap space to invest in corners, safeties, edge rushers, and maybe a wide receiver or two for good measure.

With Jackson in the fold, Fletcher Cox could be in line for the best season of his career at the tender age of 30, serving as the Schofield to M-Jax’s Blake for fans of Sam Mendes’ 1917, if you will.

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In 2019, the Philadelphia Eagles lost a player named Jackson in each of their first two games, and their offense and defense was never the same. With both DeSean and Malik set to return in 2020, it’s safe to say Doug Pederson and company need to protect The Jacksons at all costs, as the duo could elevate the Eagles to new heights over a full 16 (or 17) game season.