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July 29, 2017

What they’re saying: The Eagles’ pass rush ‘has a chance to take over the NFL’

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The strength of the 2017 Eagles roster on both sides of the ball is on each of the lines. And on defense, Jim Schwartz’s scheme is reliant on getting pressure with four defensive linemen. The Eagles rushed four more than any other team in the NFL last season.

The Eagles essentially traded Bennie Logan for Timmy Jernigan, and they believe that the latter will be able to take advantage of single coverage when fellow defensive tackle Fletcher Cox received a ton of attention from opposing offenses.

The Eagles defense was pretty good for most of 2016, finishing a solid fourth overall according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA. And writing for The Ringer, Robert Mays believes the Eagles front four is only going to get better:

The hope in bringing Jernigan, Long, and Barnett aboard is that a few key additions will unlock Philly’s massive defensive upside. The group has the potential to make a similar leap to the one the Falcons’ offense did last year, when an Atlanta unit that showed inconsistent flashes of brilliance under a new coordinator in the 2015 campaign used a handful of key signings (such as center Alex Mack and speed-demon wide receiver Taylor Gabriel) to ascend to higher plane and earn a Super Bowl berth last season. With a line that can go five, six, even seven deep, the Eagles believe they can terrorize opposing offensive lines, an ability that should help a team that went 7–9 in 2016 reach a new dimension.

The Eagles bolstered their defensive line via free agency (Chris Long), trade (Jernigan) and the draft (Derek Barnett). We’ll see if they can generate even more pressure on opposing quarterbacks this season.

Schwartz was asked about his new defensive ends on Friday.

Eagles news and coverage at PhillyVoice

1.    Practice notes: As the Eagles finally put on the pads, Torrey Smith had a standout day. As for Nick Foles, not so much.

2.    Cutting the cord: The other reason that Marcus Smith is no longer on the Eagles roster (besides him being, um, bad).

3.    Change of scenery: Like we saw in Mays’ piece, Jernigan could see an uptick in his stats playing under Schwartz in the Eagles’ scheme.

4.    The other side: Mychal Kendricks gave credence to the trade rumors, saying that he pulled a Kyrie Irving and requested the Eagles for a trade back in January. Unlike the defensive linemen, Schwartz’s scheme doesn’t particularly fit Kendricks’ strengths.

Other Eagles news, notes and analysis from around the web

NFL's most impactful offseason moves for 2017: Dan Graziano, ESPN

Jeffery, the Eagles’ major free-agent signing (who has looked good in training camp, by the way), was able to crack the list:

One thing missing from QB Carson Wentz's promising rookie year was a true No. 1 wide receiver. Jeffrey -- when he has been able to stay healthy -- has shown the ability to be one of those. The Bears had enough, and he ended up in Philly on a one-year, prove-it deal. If he can stay on the field and produce the way he did in Chicago, Jeffery will help the Eagles evaluate Wentz and how much further he still needs to go.

Fantasy Football 2017: Players Who Should Thrive in New Roles: Gary Davenport, Bleacher Report

From looking at some early fantasy projections, I do think Jeffery is being undervalued. He’s a risky choice, but the upside here is pretty high:

Jeffery will serve as the No. 1 receiver for the Eagles in 2017, a role he thrived in back in 2013 and 2014 with the Chicago Bears. There's that word again.

Now, it may be a stretch to say Jeffery will rank in the top 11 in the NFL in targets this year, as he did in those seasons. Philly's not exactly an air-it-out offense, and there are other options in the passing game. But 125 targets is a reasonable expectation. Assuming a catch rate of 59 percent (his average in 2013 and 2014) and his career average of 15 yards per reception, that's 74 catches for 1,110 yards.

Rugby star Zaruba faces a steep learning curve with Eagles: Les Bowen, Philadelphia Daily News

Meet the new guy, rugby star Adam Zaruba:

Zaruba balked at a reporter’s suggestion of “overwhelming” as an apt description for his situation.

“Not so overwhelming. It’s just like it’s new. It’s going to take a little bit to get used to the techniques and the systems and stuff, but they’re coaching me real good out there,” he said.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann

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