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July 15, 2019

Eagles training camp preview: Defensive tackle

Eagles NFL
071519FletcherCox Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports

Fletcher Cox shows Timmy Jernigan how he caught the zucchini in his mouth at the hibachi restaurant.

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 the previous positional groups, you can catch up here:


 QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | iOLDE

Today we'll look at the defensive tackles.

 DTFletcher Cox Treyvon HesterHassan RidgewayAnthony Rush (R)
 DT Malik Jackson Timmy JerniganBruce Hector Kevin Wilkins (R)

Fletcher Cox

Cox had the best season of his career in 2018, collecting 46 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 34 QB hits, and a forced fumble, all while (a) being the primary focus of opposing offensive game plans, and (b) not having the benefit of a disruptive defensive tackle teammate paired with him for most of the season. There's a good argument for Cox as the Eagles' MVP last season, alongside Malcolm Jenkins. In 2019, Cox should get more help from his interior linemen teammates.

Malik Jackson

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. Since then, he has had 18 sacks over three seasons in Jacksonville, though it's noteworthy that he was benched in 2018 in favor of some younger players once the Jaguars' season began to spiral out of control. The reason for his benching? Per Jackson, the Jags' coaching staff didn't like the way he was playing the run.

In March, the Jags released Jackson as a cap casualty, and the Eagles quickly snapped him up.

It is debatable whether there's merit to Jacksonville's run game gripes, and it is to be determined whether run game issues will surface in Philadelphia. At a minimum, however, Jackson will give the interior of the line a pass rush boost, and he'll be set up with plenty of favorable one-on-one opportunities playing next to Cox.

Timmy Jernigan

In something of a surprise development less than eight hours before the start of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Eagles agreed to a one-year contract with Jernigan after they made the no-brainer decision not to pick up a $13 million option on him earlier in the offseason.

Jernigan missed 13 games in 2018 as a result of a mysterious non-football back injury. However, Jim Schwartz has repeatedly stated that he loves the energy Jernigan brings to the defense.

The thinking on Jernigan is that he's fully healthy now. We'll see. Back issues don't tend to just go away completely with 300-plus pound linemen. If Jernigan can play anywhere near the level he did in the first half of the Eagles' 2017 Super Bowl season, they will have themselves an awesome rotational DT. 

Treyvon Hester

Hester proved to be a great in-season addition in 2018, as he played very good run defense, and deflected Cody Parkey's game-winning field goal attempt, which double-doinked off the post and crossbar before falling harmlessly to the Soldier Field turf in the wildcard round of the playoffs. He should be in a good position to earn a roster spot in 2019 as a rotational DT.

Hassan Ridgeway

The Eagles acquired Ridgeway, a former fourth-round pick in 2016, from the Colts during the 2019 NFL Draft for a seventh-round pick. In three seasons in the NFL, he has appeared in 34 games, starting six. He has 41 career tackles, 4.5 sacks, 6 tackles for loss, and 10 hits on the quarterback. In 2018, he only played in five games, and was a mainstay on the inactive list.

During spring practices, Ridgeway impressed Schwartz.

"I think one guy that's really made a lot of strides since we got him, because we got him right at the draft, has been Ridgeway, defensive lineman," Schwartz said in May. "We play a different style up front and sometimes players don't look good right away, but he made a quick transition to what we do, and he's been impressive out here."

Bruce Hector

Hector had a good training camp last year and he made the initial 53-man roster, but he struggled when he played in regular season games. He'll have a new defensive line coach in Phillip Daniels to try to impress in camp in 2019.

Anthony Rush

Rush is the heaviest player on the team, at 350 pounds. That's all the #analysis I have for him.

Kevin Wilkins

Wilkins is an undrafted rookie from Rutgers, with two career sacks in college. He's probably just a camp body.

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