Philadelphia Eagles defensive line correctly gets recognized as a top-five unit

Fletcher Cox (Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Fletcher Cox (Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /

If you’re a Philadelphia Eagles fan, you may have noticed something. If you’re like so many others, every time you wake up these days, you don’t feel that same sick feeling that you’ve had for the better part of the last nine months.

When the 2020-2021 season wrapped, you probably felt like your team was pretty pathetic, like you were a fan of the worst team in the NFL’s worst division. It doesn’t feel that way now. Now, following the most recent free-agency period and the most recent NFL Draft, you’re probably feeling like this team will be better than you thought and better than some people are saying.

There’s nothing wrong with that. There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic. One of which is this. Philly’s got one of the best defensive lines in all of football, and the experts are in agreement.54

The Philadelphia Eagles have a top-five defensive line per Pro Football Focus.

Recently, Pro Football Focus ranked all 32 defensive lines. The Philadelphia Eagles landed at number five. Finishing ahead of them were the top-ranked Pittsburgh Steelers who were followed by the Washington Football Team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Los Angeles Rams.

Here’s what Ben Linsey, the writer of this one, had to say.

"Philadelphia’s defensive line has consistently been one of the NFL’s best at generating pressure without blitzing. That was the case again last season, as the Eagles were one of just two teams with a pressure rate above 40 percent without the aid of the blitz.The Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham pairing have been at the core of the unit for nearly a decade, but Javon Hargrave’s addition in free agency last offseason gives Philadelphia another player on the interior who offenses must contend with on passing downs. Hargrave ranks in the 91st percentile of qualifying interior defenders in pass-rushing grade since 2019."

Rounding out the top ten are five very impressive units in the Chicago Bears, New York Jets, New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers, and Denver Broncos. Just knowing that Philly ranks among those four units is very comforting. Knowing they’re ranked ahead of them might help Birds fans sleep a little better at night, even though Pro Football Focus rankings have no bearing on the outcome of games.

Here’s a little something for those of you who need a little more ‘meat’. Fletcher Cox is still one of the top four players at his position. Brandon Graham has gotten better with age. Josh Sweat is progressing nicely, and Philly just added a nice chess piece in Ryan Kerrigan.

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Throw in Javon Hargrave, nice rotational players like Hassan Ridgeway, Derek Barnett, and a few rookies (Tarron Jackson, Hassan Ridgeway, and Milton Williams), and you can see where PFF is coming from. There’s still a lot to iron out with this team, but things are looking up along the defensive line. This is a unit that has come together nicely.