At defensive end, 8 definitely is a crowd
PHILADELPHIA — Daeshon Hall is a monster now. So is Josh Sweat. And Shareef Miller seems to flash in the biggest moments, according to defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
Problem is, only one is likely to start the season in Schwartz’s four-man defensive end rotation, and there might not even be room for all on the roster after it gets trimmed to 53 players.
This is because starters Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett are firmly in place and Vinny Curry seems set as a rotational lock as well.
As the Eagles head toward their third preseason game, which will be played against the Baltimore Ravens at Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday night, a closer look at this intriguing position battle re
veals how it could have an impact on the ability of this year’s squad to consistently pressure quarterbacks and set the edge in run defense.
With eight on the roster and likely room for no more than five after the final cuts, there could be some hard decisions ahead.
The eight are Graham, Barnett, Curry, Hall, Sweat, Miller, Eli Harold and Kasim Edebali. Of those, Edebali looks to have the longest odds. But these third and fourth preseason games could change the landscape.
Starting with the premise that Graham, Barnett, Curry and Miller, who was drafted in the fourth round out of Penn State this year and has had a productive training camp and preseason, are not going anywhere, that leaves Sweat battling a number of teammates with a little more experience (and a chance to have figured some things out) for perhaps one spot.
Edebali, with eight career sacks, including five with New Orleans in 2015, and Harold (nine career sacks, 64 games played, 24 starts) actually are the most accomplished.
But Hall, acquired last season, has flashed the most since having a chance to go through the offseason program and get his body to the specifications needed to play end in a 4-3. He’s around 270 pounds now, after arriving at below 250 last season, the result of having bounced around in different schemes as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
The former third-round pick of the Carolina Panthers contributed two sacks, including one in which he knocked the ball loose, in last Thursday’s 24-10 win at Jacksonville. And at 6-foot-5, he just really looks the part more than Harold and Edebali, who have shorter wingspans.
“I feel good right now,” Hall said. “Being more comfortable in the system always helps.”
Also in the Jacksonville game, Miller finished with a sack, two tackles for a loss and two quarterback hits.
Though far from a finished product, he has a ton of innate ability that the Eagles are counting on being able to harness for the better part of this next
One of the other things I like about Shareef is that he’s shown the most when it’s been sort of elevated. — Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz
What Schwartz said about him on Monday was interesting.
“It’s not always perfect right away, but you want guys that are showing steady improvement,” Schwartz said. “I think that’s him.
“And then one of the other things I like about Shareef is that he’s shown the most when it’s been sort of elevated. Like in the beginning, he wasn’t really standing out when he was practicing, then we had a light practice and he stood out a little bit more. And then we had a preseason game and he stood out a little bit more.
“So I think those are all good signs for him too.”
Still, the position group as a whole is odd because no one player stands out as an accomplished sack master. The most any have had in any season is 9 1⁄2. That was by Graham in 2017.
That’s led to trade rumors involving Houston Texans OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney, who’s disgruntled at being franchise-tagged as a linebacker instead of an end — the franchise salary for an end is considerably more than a linebacker — and not being given any long-term security by the Texans.
Yet there are so many good players here.
With or without Clowney, the Eagles are staring down the barrel of conundrum as it stands now.
Lots can change over these next two weeks, but the Eagles need to be careful in making the right calls when it comes to their final choices.
Eagles DE Daeshon Hall strip-sacks Jacksonville Jaguars QB Gardner Minshew during last Thursday’s preseason game.