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May 22, 2023

Where are the Eagles deep, and not so deep, after the 2023 NFL Draft: Defense edition

Eagles NFL
Milton_Williams_Eagles_Giants_1226211_Kate_Frese44.jpg Kate Frese/For PhillyVoice

Eagles DT Milton Williams

While the Philadelphia Eagles could still add a veteran here or there to their roster before the start of the season, it is still probably somewhere around 90-to-95 percent set. Here we'll take a look at each of their positions, and determine where they are strong, and where they still need help.

On Sunday we started with the offense. Today we'll look at the defense.

Edge defenders

53-man roster projection: Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, Brandon Graham, Nolan Smith, Derek Barnett, Patrick Johnson

Others: Janarius Robinson, Tarron Jackson, Kyron Johnson, Matt Leo

Reddick (16), Sweat (11), and Graham (11) combined for 38 sacks in 2022, and the Eagles added to that impressive trio by stealing Smith with the 30th overall pick in the draft. Barnett's return for the 2023 season remains in question (more on him soon), while the two young Johnsons will compete with guys like Jackson and Robinson for spots on the back of the roster.

Are the Eagles in good shape here relative to the rest of the league? The Eagles have great mix on the edge. They have two players in their prime who are still under contract for at least two more years in Reddick and Sweat, a veteran leader in Graham, and a young athletic specimen in Smith who can learn from the rest of the group. 👍

Defensive tackle

53-man roster projection: Fletcher Cox, Jordan Davis, Jalen Carter, Milton Williams, Marlon Tuipulotu, Moro Ojomo

Others: Kentavius Street, Noah Elliss

The Eagles may have overpaid a bit to retain Cox, but now that we can see how the roster is shaping up, it's understandable why they did. He is the only seasoned veteran among a group of young pups along the interior of the D-line. The ages of the rest of the group:

• Milton Williams: 24
• Marlon Tuipulotu: 23
• Jordan Davis: 23
• Jalen Carter: 22
• Moro Ojomo: 21

The Eagles have pumped heavy resources into their defensive line, spending two first-round picks, a third-round pick, a sixth-round pick, and a seventh-round pick on the position in the last three drafts. They are banking on players like Williams and Davis to break out in 2023, and they'll hope to get immediate contributions from Carter, who was widely thought to be the most talented player in the draft.

Are the Eagles in good shape here relative to the rest of the league? With so many young players along the interior of the defensive line, the Eagles have to feel good about their long-term future at the position, but it's hard to project how they'll play this season. If the Eagles aren't loving what they see from the vast majority of the young guys after the first few weeks of training camp, they can always give Ndamukong Suh and/or Linval Joseph a call. 😐

Off-ball linebacker

53-man roster projection: Nakobe Dean, Nicholas Morrow, Christian Elliss, Shaun Bradley

Others: Davion Taylor, Ben VanSumeren

It is expected that Dean will start after understudying behind T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White last season. Morrow, for now, is the other projected starter, but it should be noted that he signed a one-year contract worth just $1.09 million, hardly starter money.

Otherwise, they have Elliss, who actually looked pretty good in some blowouts last season but has limited experience, and Bradley, who didn't play a single snap in the regular defense in 2022.

The lightbulb has not yet gone on for Taylor, who has athleticism but lacks instincts.

Are the Eagles in good shape here relative to the rest of the league? Linebacker is a rare position on the roster where the Eagles have significant questions both at their starting spots and their depth. It feels like a lock that the front office will add a linebacker at some point after they didn't draft one. 👎


53-man roster projection: Darius Slay, James Bradberry, Avonte Maddox, Zech McPhearson, Kelee Ringo

Others: Josh Jobe, Josiah Scott, Greedy Williams, Eli Ricks, Mekhi Garner, Mario Goodrich, Tristin McCollum

Slay, Bradberry, and Maddox make up one of the best cornerback trios in the NFL, at least on paper. To be determined if Slay and Bradberry are able to maintain their high level of play as they continue to age, and whether or not Maddox can stay on the field.

Ringo will have time to develop in the background as an outside corner after the Eagles traded a 2024 third-round pick to draft him.

McPhearson has been developing behind the scenes as a backup outside corner, and has been a good special teams player, but hasn't been needed in the regular defense because Slay and Bradberry have been able to stay healthy. With the addition of Ringo, who is an outside corner only, it will be interesting to see if the Eagles add backup slot corner duties to McPhearson's plate this offseason.

The Eagles like Jobe and he could push for a roster spot again in 2023 after making the team in 2022 as an undrafted rookie. Scott had a rough season in 2022 when called on to fill in for Maddox, and he got pushed down the defensive back totem pole as the season progressed. Williams will have a chance to impress in training camp, but he is a veteran lottery ticket.

Ricks was at one time a highly thought of prospect in his time at LSU and Alabama. He and Garner will try to make some noise as undrafted rookies.

Are the Eagles in good shape here relative to the rest of the league? Yes! They have five clear keepers for their 53, and a bunch of extra roster-worthy players beyond the top five. It wouldn't be surprising if Howie Roseman tried to work a corner-for-linebacker trade. 👍


53-man roster projection: Reed Blankenship, Terrell Edmunds, Sydney Brown, Justin Evans, K'Von Wallace

Others: None

Edmunds is an athletic vet with good size who has five years of starting experience. Blankenship is a promising second-year player who was forced into action in 2022 and handled himself well. Brown is a rookie with some intriguing traits that the Eagles are excited about. 

Beyond the top three, Evans had a nice season for the Saints last season after having the earlier part of his career wrecked by a long list of injuries. Wallace hasn't been able to show that he is worthy of starting consideration, but he had his best season in 2022 and at this point has become a solid enough depth player and special teamer.

Are the Eagles in good shape here relative to the rest of the league? The Eagles could add another body or two just to get them through camp, but when projecting the initial 53-man roster it feels like they're set. There are no stars here like there are at other positions up and down the Eagles' roster, but it feels like a steady group with some upside. 👍

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