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July 19, 2017

Eagles training camp preview: Defensive tackle

Next Monday, there will be football again, as quarterbacks, rookies, and select veterans will report for training camp. Leading up to camp, we'll be taking a look at each positional group. Today we'll preview the defensive tackles.


First, here's a look at the depth chart at defensive tackle:

Eagles DTs
 DTFletcher Cox Destiny Vaeao Elijah Qualls (R) Justin Hamilton 
 DT Tim Jernigan Beau Allen (injured)Gabe Wright Winston Craig (R) 

Fletcher Cox was a dominant defensive tackle last season. Opposing offenses often identified him as the player they could not let beat them, and he still posted decent numbers. On the season, he had 43 tackles, 6.5 sacks, and one forced fumble.

Still, the Eagles need more from him.

Considering the new six-year, $103 million contract extension he signed last offseason, Cox is expected to play at an elite level, not "just" a great one. Cox also missed a portion of OTAs, for which he was rightfully criticized (though some of it was a little over-the top). I can say with some level of confidence that Cox's three-day absence from OTAs probably won't cost the Eagles any games this season. However, you'd prefer that one of your self-described "leaders" of the team just show up for everything.

The defense will go as Cox goes. If he can be the elite play-making force the Eagles paid him to be, the effect of his play will trickle down to the edge rushers outside, as well the linebackers and defensive backs behind him.

At the other starting DT spot, the Eagles traded draft positioning for Timmy Jernigan, who will replace free agency departure Bennie Logan. Jernigan has been a solid player for the Ravens, posting good numbers from his defensive tackle position, shown here:

Timmy Jernigan Tackles Sacks FF FR 
 TOTAL91 13 

Jernigan is in the final year of his rookie contract, and will be a free agent after this season. While his current price tag may be low now (a smidgen over a million on the 2017 cap), the Eagles may be in a similar situation next offseason with Jernigan that they were in this offseason with Logan.

During spring practices, Jernigan showed the ability to penetrate through the line, although as we always note, line play is very difficult to evaluate when players are not going full contact in pads.

As for the rest:

Beau Allen suffered a serious pectoral injury in April. It is unknown when he'll be fully recovered.

• Destiny Vaeao returns after making the team a year ago as an undrafted free agent. He's just a guy, and will have to earn a roster spot once again.

Elijah Qualls was picked in the sixth round, much later than draft experts had him slated. He missed most of the spring because his college (Washington) is on the quarters system. Qualls will have some catching up to do.

Gabe Wright got a lot of playing time during the spring after signing with the team this offseason, even getting some first-team reps, but that was mainly because Jernigan, Vaeao, and Allen have all missed varying amounts of time during the spring with injuries.

Winston Craig is something of a dark horse to make the roster, in my opinion, as the Eagles lack quality depth at DT.

• As for Justin Hamilton, uh, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

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