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January 16, 2020

Eagles stay or go: Defensive tackle

Eagles NFL
62_11032019_EaglesvsBears_Tim_Jernigan_KateFrese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Eagles defensive tackle Tim Jernigan.

The Philadelphia Eagles' 2019 season is over, and there will be a lot of interesting decisions made on the players currently on the roster, more so than in most years. Let's take a position-by-position look at who will likely be back with the team in 2020, and who won't.

Previous stay or go positional analysis

Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | Tackle | Guard/center

Defensive end

Today we'll look at defensive tackle. (All money figures via OverTheCap.)

Fletcher Cox

In 2019, Cox was still recovering from offseason foot surgery throughout most of training camp, and he was not the same elite player we have come to know over his Eagles career. He had his worst numbers in the Jim Schwartz era:

 Fletcher CoxTackles (TFL) Sacks FF-FR QB hits 
 201643 (9) 6.5 1-1 14 
 201726 (5) 5.5 1-2 17 
 201846 (12) 10.5 1-1 34 
 201940 (53.5 3-1 10 

In past seasons, Cox didn't always have great numbers, but you could see on the eye test that he was dominant, and opening up opportunities for his defensive line teammates. While that was still true to some degree in 2019, again, that wasn't quite the same either.

Cox did close the season strongly, wreaking havoc on the Seahawks' interior OL in the playoffs, which is a good sign for the health of his foot, and thus, his 2020 production. As we noted on Wednesday in our look at the defensive ends, Brandon Graham bounced back in 2019 after similar circumstances in 2018. 

#JimmyVerdict: Stay.

Your verdict:

Malik Jackson

Jackson was lost for the season with a Lisfranc injury late in the game in the Eagles' Week 1 win over Washington.

"Malik Jackson was a big loss for us," Howie Roseman said during his season-ending press conference. "This is a guy who didn't miss a game in eight years, and then 30-some-odd plays into his Eagles career was down, and that was a guy we were really excited about."

Jackson was a great player on the Super Bowl-winning Broncos' defensive line in 2015, which caused the Jags to break the bank for him on a 6-year $85 million deal in 2016. In three years in Jacksonville, he has had 18 sacks over three seasons. The Eagles obviously believed he could still be a disruptive interior rusher in the NFL, and in my view, he had a strong camp.

During locker room clean-out day, Jackson said he feels like he’ll been healthy anywhere between April and June, and will be ready to go for the 2020 season. Jackson's cap number in 2020 is a mere $4,556,000 in 2020, but it escalates drastically in 2021. He's not going anywhere for now.

#JimmyVerdict: Stay.

Your verdict:

Timmy Jernigan

Jernigan turned it on late in the season, particularly against the Giants Week 17, but for the better part of the 2019 season he was invisible. Including the playoffs, in 11 games (10 starts) and 313 snaps, he had 12 tackles (3 for loss), 2 sacks, and 3 QB hits.

Schwartz loves Jernigan, often citing the energy that he plays with, but he has not been durable, or productive in 2.5 seasons.

#JimmyVerdict: If it were just a lack of production, and the coach likes his energy, then fine, sign him to another cheap one-year deal. However, when you're relying on him to be a third DT and he is too often unavailable to play, it's time to move on. Unfortunately, we may never uncover the mystery of how Jernigan hurt his back.

Your verdict:

Hassan Ridgeway

The Eagles traded a seventh-round pick for Ridgeway, who was a decent rotational DT who could eat up snaps before he went on IR with an ankle injury. He'll be a free agent this offseason.

At 25 years of age and less concerning ailments, I'd be more inclined to bring him back on a cheap, one-year deal than Jernigan.

#JimmyVerdict: Stay.

Your verdict:

Anthony Rush

Rush is a massive 6'5, 350-pound DT worth trying to develop further. He'll be back in camp in 2020.

#JimmyVerdict: Camp.

Your verdict:

Bruce Hector

The Eagles traded Hector to the Cardinals for STs guy Rudy Ford, and then signed Hector back to the team in October when the Cardinals released him. Boom, two for the price of none. Howie does it again.

#JimmyVerdict: Camp.

Your verdict:

#JimmyVerdict Stay or Go Results

"Stay" means stay (duh), "go" means go (duh, again), while "camp" means that I think they'll be at Eagles training camp this year, but do not yet have a firm grip on a roster spot in 2020.

 QBCarson Wentz (stay) Josh McCown (go) Nate Sudfeld (stay)  
 RBMiles Sanders (stay) Jordan Howard (stay) Darren Sproles (go) Corey Clement (camp) 
 RB (cont.) Boston Scott (stay)Elijah Holyfield (camp)   
 WRAlshon Jeffery (go) DeSean Jackson (stay) Nelson Agholor (go) J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (stay) 
 WR (cont.) Greg Ward (camp)Robert Davis (camp) Deontay Burnett (camp) Shelton Gibson (camp) 
 TEZach Ertz (stay) Dallas Goedert (stay) Josh Perkins (camp) Richard Rodgers (camp) 
 OTJason Peters (go) Lane Johnson (stay) Andre Dillard (stay) Halapoulivaati Vaitai (go) 
 OT (cont.)Jordan Mailata (camp)    
 OGBrandon Brooks (stay) Isaac Seumalo (stay) Matt Pryor (stay) Sua Opeta (camp) 
 CJason Kelce (stay) Nate Herbig (camp)   
 DEBrandon Graham (stay) Derek Barnett (stay) Josh Sweat (stay) Vinny Curry (stay) 
 DE (cont.)Genard Avery (stay) Shareef Miller (camp) Joe Ostman (camp) Daeshon Hall (camp) 
 DTFletcher Cox (stay) Malik Jackson (stay) Timmy Jernigan (go) Hassan Ridgeway (stay) 
 DT (cont.)Anthony Rush (camp) Bruce Hector (camp)   

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