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July 14, 2019

Eagles training camp preview: Defensive end

Eagles NFL
071419BrandonGraham Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Graham should have a bounce-back year in 2019.

Leading up to training camp, we'll take a look at every player on the Philadelphia Eagles' roster, and how they fit with the team. In case you've missed any of them, you can catch up here.


TRAINING CAMP PREVIEWS:

 QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | iOL


Today we'll look at the defensive ends.

 LDEBrandon Graham Josh Sweat Shareef Miller (R) 
 RDEDerek Barnett Vinny Curry Daeshon Hall Joe Ostman


Brandon Graham

In a follow-up to his 2017 season, in which he had the best statistical season of his career and became a Super Bowl hero, Graham had something of a down year in 2018. Last year, he had offseason surgery on his ankle and missed the first three weeks of training camp, including the first two preseason games. The ankle likely affected his play early in the season, and he wasn't quite the same.

In 2018, Graham had 39 tackles (9 for loss), 4 sacks, and 11 QB hits, all career lows since he became a full-time starter. Still, the team rewarded him with a new three-year contract in March worth $40 million.

While he will turn 31 in April, Graham doesn't have the same wear and tear on his body that other defensive ends his age do, because he played far fewer than 50 percent of the team's snaps for the first five years of his career, and as part of a rotation for the last four.

The belief here is that Graham, who has always taken pride in his work ethic, will respond with a season that more closely resembles his production in 2017 than 2018.

Derek Barnett

Barnett is still recovering from surgery to repair a rotator cuff injury he suffered early in the season in 2018. Barring setbacks, the timeline for recovery from his surgery should put him on a path to be ready for the start of training camp.

As we noted in detail earlier this offseason, Barnett was very good in 2018 before he got hurt. Howie Roseman, Doug Pederson, and defensive line coach Phillip Daniels have all had the same take on Barnett, which is that they too believe he is already a good player, and have no doubt that he will continue to be just that in 2019.

Vinny Curry

Last offseason, the Eagles made the no-brainer decision to release Curry, who was set to count for $11 million (!) on the cap in 2018. The Eagles would have liked to have kept Curry, but the two sides could not agree on a pay cut. Curry was open to shedding some salary, but the Eagles wanted him to take a bigger cut than Curry was willing to take, as is my understanding, so the two sides parted ways.

The Eagles later traded for Michael Bennett, who produced 9 sacks and 30 QB hits in 2018. Meanwhile, Curry got a nice deal on the open market from the moronic Buccaneers, who gave him a three-year deal worth $23 million. Curry played in 12 games (7 starts) for the Bucs in 2018. He had 21 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Tampa then made an obvious decision of their own to release him after one lackluster season.

Curry turned 31 in June. When he last played for the Eagles, he wasn't much of a pass rushing threat (3 sacks as a 16-game starter), but he was a good run defender. He brings familiarity to the table, but likely not much in the way of impact.


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Josh Sweat

The Eagles drafted Sweat in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, as an athletic freak of nature with injury concerns. An ankle injury suffered in December was serious enough to land Sweat on injured reserve, when the Eagles were already light on defensive end depth. That injury did nothing to quell his pre-existing injury concerns.

During spring practices, Sweat looked good, as he showed an unmistakable burst, and plenty of hustle. Of course, we need to attach the following two disclaimers to that statement:

  1. There are no pads, so evaluating offensive and defensive line play is somewhat pointless.
  2. Sweat was mostly working against Jordan Mailata, who is learning a new position at RT, as well as some second- and third-team tomato cans.

Still, while Chris Long's shoes will be difficult to fill, Sweat did show something, and it appears that he is the front-runner for the fourth DE spot, assuming the Eagles don't add a veteran edge rusher from outside the organization. 

Shareef Miller

Miller is a tall, fast edge rusher prospect that the Eagles took in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. However, he needs to add strength. The Eagles think he can be a good all-around player if he puts in the time in the weight room, and takes coaching on his technique, but it is unlikely he sees the field much as a rookie. Miller will almost certainly make the roster, but my bet would be that he'll typically be inactive on game day.

Daeshon Hall

Hall was added to the roster after Sweat went on IR, and in very limited action, he actually made a few plays, both with the regular defense and on special teams. He was quiet during the spring.

Joe Ostman

The Eagles' coaching staff hypes up Ostman every chance they get. While I am sure the Eagles are appreciative of the effort Ostman gives in practice every day, he has a high number of defensive ends above to pass in order to make the roster. Pencil him in as a high-motor practice squad guy.


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