In the offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles made a low-risk, high-reward trade with the Seattle Seahawks to bolster their already superb and tenacious defensive line.
The defending Super Bowl champs traded a fifth-round pick and backup wide receiver Marcus Johnson to the Seahawks for Michael Bennett and a seventh-round pick. On paper, it was a solid move for the Eagles as they were getting an accomplished defensive player who can play inside and outside on the line.
Shortly after acquiring Bennett, Philly released Vinny Curry, who then signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Eagles would sign a couple of more veteran impact players over the next few weeks, including defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.
However, out of all the players that were picked up, Bennett did not have a clear-cut role. Before the season began, he was projected to be a backup to second-year defensive end Derek Barnett.
This would be considered a step back for Bennett, who played 85 percent of defensive snaps last season in Seattle. From there, questions started to arise early in the season about his unhappiness about being a backup.
But to his credit, the veteran defensive end instead expressed happiness about playing with a good team.
“You always want to play more, but in this situation, you just want to win,” he said (h/t ESPN). “When you have a good quarterback, a good running game, you just want to win the game. We have a great defense, and I think for me it’s just wanting to win a championship.”
Fast-forward weeks later and it appears that the Eagles will not be playing for a Super Bowl. Bennett, however, has become an unstoppable force on a banged up Eagles’ defense.
With Barnett undergoing season-ending shoulder injury and being placed on IR after the team’s Week 7 loss to the Carolina Panthers, it freed up more opportunities for the 32-year-old defensive end.
In Philly’s next six games, Bennett did not disappoint as he racked up 15 total tackles, 12 quarterback hits, seven tackles for loss and five sacks. Along with All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, Bennett’s name is constantly heard on Sundays, applying pressure and terrorizing opposing quarterbacks.
This was the case last Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. Even though the defense as a whole gave up 576 yards of total offense, Bennett found himself constantly in Dallas’ backfield.
In that game alone, he had seven total tackles, five quarterback hits (season-high) and 1.5 sacks. To say that Bennett played an integral role against the Cowboys is a huge understatement as he had a key strip-sack on quarterback Dak Prescott in the third quarter to switch momentum in the Eagles’ momentum.
With that performance in the books, Bennett has now posted back-to-back seasons with at least eight sacks and could finish with 13. If he does get to that milestone, it would be a career-high for a guy, who only made one start in the Eagles’ first seven games.
Despite this season not going to plan for the defending Super Bowl champs due to a myriad of issues including personnel decisions, the Eagles’ front office can hold their head high with the acquisition of Bennett.