Eagles prove stifling defense is still key for a Super Bowl contender | News, results, highlights, statistics and rumors

haason reddick

haason reddickAP Photo/Matt Slocum

Philadelphia Eagles executive vice president and general manager Howie Roseman apparently believes that a strong defense can still lead a team to a championship.

Known for his aggressive nature in acquiring talent, he dedicated himself to improving the defense and relied on his staff to develop quarterback Jalen Hurts. Teams often do the opposite in a roster building plan for a title run.

General managers typically get praise for their moves to find the quarterback that elevates the franchise. Just last season, the Los Angeles Rams sent Jared Goff, a pair of first-round picks and a third-round pick to the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford and went on to win Super Bowl 56.

Sure, they had stellar defensive players in Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and Von Miller last season, but their unit ranked 15th in scoring for the 2021 campaign.

In last year’s Super Bowl, quarterbacks garnered attention with Stafford’s instant success in a new destination and Joe Burrow’s rise from the No. 1 overall pick in 2020 to stardom with the Cincinnati Bengals. On Sunday, the Eagles will face the Kansas City Chiefs, who were jumped from 27th to 10th overall by Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 draft.

While Hurts has an intriguing history—he went to the Eagles in the second round of the 2020 draft and jumped to a junior—Philadelphia’s defense is Mahomes’ fast break and the No. 1 offense in the league. Roseman bolstered that unit from the offseason through November with several notable acquisitions.

haason reddick

haason reddickAndy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This past March, the Eagles made quite a splash in free agency, signing Haason Reddick to a three-year, $45 million contract, which turned out to be a Grade A signing.

Following consecutive 11-plus sack seasons, he became a Pro Bowler for the first time and earned a second-team All-Pro honor with a career-high 49 tackles, 11 for loss, 16 sacks and tied Pittsburgh Steelers. Alex Highsmith for a league-leading five forced fumbles.

Reddick may have become a household name with his last two playoff outings, recording 3.5 sacks, four quarterback hits, eight tackles, two for loss and one forced fumble with one recovery.

Though Philadelphia faced the limited scoring attack of the 15th-ranked New York Giants and a San Francisco 49ers team that had an injured starter in Brock Purdy and fourth-string quarterback Josh Johnson under center , we can still give credit to their dominating defense, which allowed a total of 14 points, 24 first downs, and 391 combined total yards in those games.

Roseman also made some profitable moves in free agency.

The Eagles released and re-signed Fletcher Cox to save about $4 million. He had 43 tackles, seven for loss, seven sacks and 25 pressures in 17 regular-season games.

Philadelphia signed cornerback James Bradberry to a one-year, $7.3 million deal after the Giants released him. The seventh-year veteran had three interceptions, allowed a 45.3 percent completion rate in coverage and led the Eagles in pass breakups (17) on the season.

On a one-year, $3 million contract, Kyzir White helped solidify the middle of the defense as an all-down linebacker with 110 tackles, three for loss, seven pass breakups and 1.5 sacks.

After free agency, Roseman took a proactive approach in the draft. He moved from No. 15 to No. 13 to select defensive tackle Jordan Davis, who made plays early in the 2022 season before spraining a high ankle. The Eagles also took Georgia teammate linebacker Nakobe Dean in the third round despite widespread concerns about his injury history.

C. J. Gardner Johnson

C. J. Gardner JohnsonKevin Sabitus/Getty Images

A couple of weeks before the start of the 2022 campaign, Roseman looked like a commercial bandit when he acquired CJ Gardner-Johnson along with a 2025 seventh-round pick from the New Orleans Saints in exchange for a fifth-and-sixth pick. round of 2024. rounder

Gardner-Johnson finished the 2022 period with 67 tackles, five for loss, one sack, eight pass breakups and tied with a league-leading six interceptions in 12 games. Wherever he lined up, the versatile defensive back had the opportunity to force a turnover with great closing speed and sticky hands.

Although the Eagles’ rookies had minimal impact, the front office sent a clear message about its focus on defense with premium investments for that side of the ball. Roseman marked that goal with high-profile signings, first-round picks and a trade, but he didn’t stop there.

After the Eagles tasted defeat for the first time in the 2022 season, a 32-21 loss to the Washington Commanders in Week 10, the front office invested even more in defense.

Howie Roseman

Howie RosemanRich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Philadelphia signed defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh to repair an obvious weakness on the inside. Prior to those additions, the Eagles had allowed more than 124 rushing yards in five straight games.

Although opposing teams still had success against Philadelphia’s run defense in terms of yards gained, the Eagles have allowed just five rushing touchdowns since Week 13 (three to quarterbacks).

Roseman didn’t hit a home run with all of his defensive acquisitions, but he made a continued effort to build a strong unit. Overall, the Eagles defense allowed the second fewest yards, ranked eighth in scoring, and fell in nfl history as the only unit to feature four defensemen with double-digit sacks in a single season.

Along with Reddick’s team-leading 16 sacks, Javon Hargrave, Josh Sweat and Brandon Graham each recorded 11 sacks. Philadelphia arguably has one of the best defensive lines in recent history, thanks to the front office’s willingness to spend big on the position.

With cornerback Darius Slay already in the fold, newcomers Bradberry and Gardner-Johnson rounded out the league’s number-one passing defense in yards allowed.

jalen hurts

jalen hurts Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

Of course, we can’t overlook what Hurts has done in his junior year, throwing for 3,701 yards, 22 touchdowns, six interceptions with 760 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns, but he struggled down the stretch in part because of a sprained right shoulder. the shoulder.

In four starts between Week 15 and the NFC Championship Game, Hurts has thrown just two touchdown passes and three interceptions, completing 60 percent or less of his passes in three of those outings.

He’s been more dangerous on foot, rushing for 147 yards and five touchdowns during that stretch. However, the Eagles won all four outings, the last two in landslides, allowing an average of 12.5 points over that span.

In Super Bowl 57, Hurts will need to make a few plays to keep up with the Chiefs’ offense, but the Eagles may not need to score more than 30 points to win the game. Mahomes has to contend with a defense that tied for fourth in interceptions (17) and led the league in sacks (70).

He may face immense pocket pressure on Sunday, which factored in his drop in Super Bowl 55 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It can be argued that Hurts deserves to be mentioned as the most improved player in the entire league, but we must not lose sight of a defense that can take control of a game whether the offense clicks on all cylinders or not. .

Maurice Moton covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @MoeMoton.