August 20, 2022
In the sixth and seventh rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles selected a trio of defenders in DT Marlon Tuipulotu, DE Tarron Jackson, and SAM Patrick Johnson. All three made the team, but had limited roles in Jonathan Gannon's defense.
|Player||Games played||Defensive snaps||Tackles||Sacks|
|DE Tarron Jackson||17||253||18||1|
|SAM Patrick Johnson||17||111||17||0|
|DT Marlon Tuipulotu||5||55||5||0|
During the 2021 season, there were times when the first-team defensive line would need to come off the field because they were tired. Those drives typically ended in points for the opposing offense.
In 2022, all three of Tuipulotu, Jackson, and Johnson have been standouts during training camp, and are poised to take on more important roles in their second seasons with the team. They could give the Eagles better depth this season along the defensive front.
Jackson entered camp as the fourth defensive end, likely to make the team because of a lack of competition at his position. However, with his play on the field, Jackson has likely earned a regular role in the defense as opposed to just a spot on the roster. He could take some snaps away from Derek Barnett. His get-off at the line of scrimmage and his speed around the edge appear to be improved from last season.
"That boy look good," said Brandon Graham. When asked to elaborate, Graham said, "Just making sure he's staying on his track. As a rusher, you don't want to have too many false steps and false movements because you only got so much time to get there."
Jackson should be an upgrade on Ryan Kerrigan's 2021 role.
After a good training camp in 2021, Johnson earned a role in the regular defense as a SAM linebacker, playing 48 snaps in the first three games. The meaningless Week 18 game aside, Johnson only played 9 snaps in the regular defense the rest of the season.
I watched his game tape from those first few games, and did not see any glaring reasons why he should have completely lost playing time, especially when Genard Avery, who played the majority of the SAM linebacker snaps ahead of Johnson, was ineffective.
Johnson mainly rushed the passer in his college career at Tulane, but in his rookie season his snap distribution looked like so, according to PFF:
|Run defense snaps||63|
|Pass rush snaps||14|
Only 12.6 percent of his snaps were rushing the passer.
This season, Johnson will back up Haason Reddick. He has been around the ball constantly this summer, whether that be as a pass rusher, against the run, or in coverage.
"He's been violent the last couple weeks with playing in the run game," Gannon said on Thursday. "When those guys get singled, we expect if the ball comes to them, if they’re getting a blocker, they need to hit the ball. He's shown really good rush ability and he's a natural in pass coverage. When we ask him to drop a little bit, he has no issues with dropping."
Tuipulotu had a quiet training camp in 2021 and a rough preseason. During the 2021 regular season, he only appeared in 5 games and made 5 tackles, as shown above. Entering 2022 training camp, Tuipulotu was far from a lock to make the initial 53-man roster, but he has emphatically stamped his ticket, as he has arguably been the most improved player on the team.
"I think he came back with what we asked him to improve his game on, he came back and improved his game on," Gannon said. "I really like where Marlon is at in the run and pass game."
Throughout camp, Tuipulotu has shown quickness that he previously did not appear to possess to go along with his natural power. He will likely be the backup nose tackle behind Jordan Davis, and if he can be a reliable rotational player, that will allow guys like Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, and Milton Williams to not have to play the nose, and will get to rush the passer from alignments that they think are more fun to play.
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