After spending a considerable amount of time on the Eagles offensive pieces (sorry offensive line), it is time that we turn our attention to the defense.
In the fifth installment of our training camp preview, we will look at a new addition on the Eagles’ defensive line, a second-year player who may be ready to have a breakout year, and a potential replacement for the injured Tim Jernigan.
1. Michael Bennett – The Eagles acquired Michael Bennett earlier in the offseason in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks, who are going through a lifestyle change on defense, only wanted fifth-string wide receiver Marcus Johnson and a draft pick in exchange for Bennett.
The polarizing defensive end had an excellent 2017 season, racking up 40 total tackles and 8.5 sacks. He also played 84.7 percent of defensive snaps last season, which led all of Seattle’s linemen.
With that being known, it was puzzling to see Bennett traded. But when you have a 32-year-old defensive end, owed a total of $13 million in the 2019 and 2020 seasons, it was a no-brainer for the Seahawks to move him.
Heading into training camp, Bennett will be ‘competing’ with second-year defensive lineman Derek Barnett for the starting right defensive end spot. Vinny Curry occupied that spot, but was released by the Eagles in the offseason.
Bennett does have a small chance to win the job, but more than likely will be a backup.
2. Derek Barnett – Last year’s first-round pick, Derek Barnett had a fantastic rookie season. Even though he was not starting, Barnett still found a multitude of ways to make plays and get to the opposing team’s quarterback.
The 6-foot-3 defensive end had 21 total tackles, five sacks, two fumble recoveries, and a forced fumble last season.
He made key plays in the playoffs for the Eagles and recovered the strip sack fumble of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, caused by Brandon Graham in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl 52.
Aforementioned with Curry out of the door, Barnett will get a chance to win the starting job, opposite of Graham. Many analysts are already pegging Barnett to be the starting right end when the team opens up the regular season in September.
If that is the outcome, then he should be in line to have a breakout sophomore campaign.
3. Haloti Ngata – With Tim Jernigan possibly on the shelf until November due to a non-football related injury that he suffered in the offseason, Haloti Ngata could be the other starting defensive tackle next to All-Pro Fletcher Cox.
However, Ngata is recovering from a torn biceps injury that he suffered last season. The Eagles signed Ngata to a one-year deal to improve the defensive line depth with Beau Allen leaving for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency.
The former first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens spent the last three seasons with the Detroit Lions. With Detroit, Ngata was an anchor in the middle of their defensive line.
Over that three-year span, Ngata racked up 53 total tackles, seven pass deflections, and six sacks. Earlier in his career, Ngata had the physicality and strength to put immense pressure on opposing quarterbacks to create opportunities for sacks.
Now 34-years-old, the Eagles will be looking for Ngata to help them become the number one ranked rushing defense in the NFL once again this season.
Other defensive lineman to watch out for: Destiny Vaeao, Elijah Qualls, Josh Sweat