Winning in the trenches: Defensive line

14 May 2017 Eagles News

Since the 2000 season, the Eagles have drafted a defensive lineman in the first round of the NFL Draft 9 out of the past 17 years.

DE Derek Barnett
DE Marcus Smith
DT Fletcher Cox
DE Brandon Graham
DT Trevor Laws
DT Brodrick Bunkley
DT Mike Patterson
DE Jermone McDougle
DT Corey Simon

This off season the front office not only took a defensive lineman in the first round and 6th round, but also traded for one beforehand.


Marcus Smith has yet to start and barely contributed along the line as he heads into his 4th year with the Eagles. Enter Barnett as a top push rushing draft option in the 2017 class.

Having a guy like Barnett on one end and Brandon Graham on the other will be fun to watch. Barnett and Graham accelerate so quickly at the line and really wreak havoc on quarterbacks who prefer to work in the pocket. Barnett’s bend is all people ever want to talk about and for good reason.. It is very impressive to move like he does at his size. He can make an offensive tackle miss and get to the quarterback. There were other options like Jonathan Allen and Reuben Foster still on the board when Barnett was selected but DE was one of the most pressing positional needs and Barnett was the highest guy on the board for the Eagles front office.

Barnett will come in and contribute immediately. Some even say the addition of Barnett with Cox, Graham and Jernigan should carry a lot of high expectations.


Elijah Qualls was a force on the line of a very strong defense at Washington University. He is a big man who can do some very athletic things– including backflips (no, I am not kidding).

Losing Beau Allen for the beginning of the season, the Eagles needed depth at the DT position. The Eagles rotate the defensive line more than most teams. Jim Schwartz rushes that line at the quarterback all day and needs his guys fresh. Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan are likely starters and Qualls may not even make the 53 man roster but his production during college makes me think he has a shot.

Qualls is a solid run stuffing defensive tackle. PFF calculated 20 run stops during his 2016 season.

He won’t be an immediate impact player but how many 6th round picks are?


Eagles turned their 3rd round pick into two players: Rasul Douglas and Timmy Jernigan in a pick-swap trade with the Ravens. Bennie Logan moved on from the Eagles in free agency and left a gaping hole on the interior of the line that needed to be filled.

Jernigan posted his best stats in 2016 on a strong Ravens line. Joining the likes of Cox and Graham during his contract year should be fun to watch.

Oh, you thought the Eagles were done trying to win in the trenches during the 2017 off season? Nope. The team went on to signed two UDFA defensive tackles.


Not going to lie, I know very little about Winston Craig. He is a small school prospect from the University of Richmond. He appears to be a solid practice squad project for the Eagles to develop. Looking briefly at his highlights (I realize that does not show the bad plays) you can really see why the Eagles would want to bring him in:


Charles Walker is a VERY intriguing UDFA pick up for the birds. He just recently publicly admitted to his struggle with depression, which explains largely why he decided not to return to play his 2016 season at Oklahoma in November.

According to ESPN, draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranked Walker as the No. 6 defensive tackle eligible for the draft before leaving school to prepare for the draft.

If his depression is properly managed and he is truly committed to football and the Eagles, he has a real shot at making the 53-man roster. However, it certainly will not be handed to him considering the competition at the line.

Eagles went heavy and hard along the offensive and defensive lines this off season, let’s see if it pays off this upcoming season.

, , , , , , , , , ,