Philadelphia Eagles: Defensive line looks to have breakout year

(Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)
(Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia Eagles defensive line looks to have a breakout season after a bad year last season.

The Philadelphia Eagles had an interesting draft, to say the least. They focused mainly on speed. They even took a quarterback in Jalen Hurts in the second round.

The Eagles have always been a team that has not let themselves be confined to the status quo.

Years ago, they went to the wide 9. Also, they took a chance on Michael Vick when nobody would. They go for two seemingly more often than any other team. Finally, they called the riskiest trick play on the biggest stage of sports.

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One thing they didn’t do in the draft is acquire a defensive lineman early. That is something they always do. The Eagles have drafted defensive lineman in the fourth round or higher for four straight years.

Now the Eagles are looking for those picks to pan out.

Derek Barnett was their first-round pick in 2017. He had that key fumble recovery in the Super Bowl. That was one of the big plays that won the game.

Barnett hasn’t had a breakout season yet as he has dealt with injuries. Last year he was dealing with a shoulder injury but he still had his best season as a pro with 30 total tackles and 6.5 sacks.

Barnett is a big reason why the Eagles felt comfortable not taking a defensive end early. It is time for Barnett to show what he is made of.

Josh Sweat and Shareef Miller were fourth-round picks in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Sweat was finally able to get on the field in 2019 after only playing in nine games and having one tackle in 2018.

In 2019 he had 21 total tackles and 4.0 sacks. This year the Eagles expect him to have a breakout year and have even more of an impact.

Miller only played in one game and had no stats in his rookie year. He hopes to have the kind of year that Sweat had in 2019.

In his second year, the Eagles will give him more chances to succeed and he will have to show flashes as Sweat did.

Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, and Malik Jackson are the veterans on the line. They have played in big games and will be heavily relied on to win battles on the line.

Malik Jackson missed the whole season last year. He was one of the big free-agent signings the Eagles had in 2019.

He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2017 so combined with the five-time Pro Bowl player and All-Pro Fletcher Cox is the Eagles have to be excited with the talent they have in the middle of their defense.

All three players have something to prove. Even though Cox made it to the Pro Bowl, he only had 3.5 sacks last year. Jackson hasn’t produced in the two years after his Pro Bowl bid. Graham had Pro Bowl-caliber numbers, and again, he didn’t make it.

These three veterans headline the abundance of talent on the defensive line. The Philadelphia Eagles have drafted well on the defensive line as they always do.

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All of the lineman mentioned were drafted by the Eagles except for Jackson. The year 2020 is the time to finally see the vision that the Eagles had for the line realized.