2017 Eagles breakout candidate: Defensive tackle Elijah Qualls

TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 24: Defensive lineman Elijah Qualls
TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 24: Defensive lineman Elijah Qualls /

Defensive tackle Elijah Qualls could be one of those surprises of the 2017 season.

Here are two things that you may be unaware of that relate to Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Elijah Qualls. Number one, he’s one of the more versatile defensive lineman on the team’s roster. Second, it’s that versatility that may have resulted in the Eagles getting a steal in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Qualls was the Eagles’ eight draft choice in the most recent selection meeting, and he was the 214th selection overall. Originally seen as a someone who could come off of the board somewhere between the third and fourth round, Qualls slid to the sixth. His most valuable asset, his versatility, actually worked against him as the theory became that he was a man without a position. Now, seeing as how he’s behind names like Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan on the depth chart, Qualls sits in a reserve role.

That versatility is, again, one of his strong points, especially with a head coach like Doug Pederson and a defensive coordinator like Jim Schwartz.

Making a name for himself:

Qualls had been causing quite a stir in defensive drills. He escaped some conversation early because NCAA rules prohibited him from participating for most of the spring drills and team activities. As a result, he’s had to catch up quickly. To his credit. That’s exactly what he’s done.

Spending most of his time at the nose tackle position in college has forced the young man to adjust to his new role, being a traditional defensive tackle in the 4-3 scheme. He appears to be up to the challenge.

"It’s about getting better at one little thing everyday — that’s all I can do. You can’t take on everything at the same time, or else you’re not going to get any better…This defense, for us, is so simple it’s complicated. You want to overthink it, but it’s really just the simplest thing, you little just disrupt everything. So not thinking as much is the key."

Schwartz approved:

Qualls’ responsibility will be different in Schwartz’s scheme from what he’s used to. He’ll no longer be asked to occupy space as he did in his time with the Washington Huskies. He’ll be asked to explode up the field and wreak havoc in the offensive backfield of everybody the Eagles face this season. He may not make a huge dent in stat lines, but he’ll definitely make a name for himself. Schwartz says he has “a low center of gravity” and he’s “hard to move”.

Eagles pass rushing coach Chuck Smith said it best. “Watch out for this kid”.