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May 26, 2024

Where are the Eagles deep, and not so deep, after the 2024 NFL Draft: Defense edition

Are the Eagles built to withstand injuries on the defensive side of the football this year?

Eagles NFL
2018_09142023_Eagles_Vikings_Nolan-Smith.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Eagles edge rusher Nolan Smith

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

Edge defenders

53-man roster projection: Bryce Huff, Josh Sweat, Brandon Graham, Nolan Smith, Jalyx Hunt.

Others: Patrick Johnson, Julian Okwara, Tarron Jackson, Terrell Lewis.

A year ago, the Eagles had three edge rushers — Sweat, Graham, and Haason Reddick — who were all coming off of double-digit sack seasons (combining for 38 sacks) in 2022. In 2023, that trio of edge rushers combined for 20.5 sacks.

Reddick more or less got swapped out for Huff, Sweat got shopped in the trade market before taking a pay cut, and Graham announced that he will be playing his final season in 2024.

One of the things the Eagles did a poor job of in 2023 was getting their young players involved throughout the season. A prime example of that was Smith, who averaged just 11.3 snaps per game as a rookie, despite the defense often playing an abnormally high number of snaps. 

He avoided high expectations as a rookie because the Eagles employed Reddick, Sweat, and Graham on the edge. He was not expected to have a major role in the defense, and sure enough, he didn't, but he also played considerably less than is ideal for a player drafted so highly. Still, when Smith got his opportunities, he didn't often capitalize on them, making more mistakes than impact plays. The Eagles will play Smith more in 2024 and they need him to perform well.

Hunt is a third-round developmental selection who is not expected to contribute much in the regular defense as a rookie.

Are the Eagles in good shape here relative to the rest of the league? That depends. Can Nolan Smith play? I don't think anyone really knows after his mostly inactive rookie season. If so, then the Eagles should have good depth. If not, they won't.

Defensive tackle

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

Others: P.J. Mustipher, Thomas Booker, Gabe Hall.

The Eagles have selected five defensive tackles in the last 4 drafts:

• Jalen Carter: Round 1, 2023
• Moro Ojomo: Round 7, 2023
• Jordan Davis: Round 1, 2022
• Milton Williams: Round 3, 2021
• Marlon Tuipulotu: Round 6, 2021

Carter, Davis, and Williams will have major roles, and the Eagles need all three of those guys to step up in 2024, particularly Davis. Tuipulotu is a body for depth, and Ojomo is still something of an unknown. This offseason the team added Mustipher, who appeared in four games as a rookie last season.

Are the Eagles in good shape here relative to the rest of the league? For a team that likely intends on often playing three interior linemen in games, the Eagles are really thin on depth, even after drafting so many interior linemen in recent years.

Off-ball linebacker

53-man roster projection: Nakobe Dean, Devin White, Zack Baun, Oren Burks, Jeremiah Trotter.

Others: Ben VanSumeren, Brandon Smith.

Dean will be back as a starting linebacker after an injury-riddled 2023 season. After Dean, there are four newcomers in White, Baun, Burks, and Trotter. Smith and VanSumeren are both very athletic players, but probably can't be counted on to have a role that goes beyond special teams.

Are the Eagles in good shape here relative to the rest of the league? The Eagles' depth at linebacker actually seems fine! It's their starters that they need to worry about.


53-man roster projection: Darius Slay, Quinyon Mitchell, Cooper DeJean, Avonte Maddox, Kelee Ringo, Isaiah Rodgers, Josh Jobe.

Others: James Bradberry, Eli Ricks, Zech McPhearson, Tyler Hall, Mario Goodrich.

The Eagles made cornerback a priority this offseason, using their first two picks in the 2024 draft on Mitchell and DeJean. They also have Rodgers back from suspension, and Ringo now has an NFL season under his belt. Slay remains a mainstay at CB1, and Maddox is returning on a cheap one-year deal.

Are the Eagles in good shape here relative to the rest of the league? Yes, and they are very likely to keep a high number of corners at 53-man cutdowns.


53-man roster projection: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Reed Blankenship, Sydney Brown

Others: Tristan McCollum, Mekhi Garner, Andre' Sam.

As the roster currently stands, it's hard to project the Eagles keeping more than the three safeties listed above, though it should be noted that Maddox played some safety in OTAs.

Still, they'll probably add another safety. There are a lot of old safeties with recognizable names available on the open market, like Justin Simmons, Eddie Jackson, Quandre Diggs, Micah Hyde, Marcus Maye, Jayron Kearse, etc. Safeties are heavy on supply and seemingly light on demand, so the Eagles should be able to bring in one of those guys on a team-friendly deal.

Are the Eagles in good shape here relative to the rest of the league? Talk to me after they add another vet.

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