Philadelphia Eagles midseason defensive positional grades

C.J. Gardner-Johnson #23, Philadelphia Eagles (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
C.J. Gardner-Johnson #23, Philadelphia Eagles (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /

Their defense is allowing a 58.4% completion percentage through eight games. They’ve picked off 12 passes. They’ve racked up 26 sacks. It hasn’t always been perfect. Still, when your defense is as great as that of the Philadelphia Eagles, your team can win a ton of games, and so far, the Birds have won all of theirs.

Philadelphia is one of 15 teams with a pick-six on their defensive resume, and with the way they attack the quarterback and football, no one should be shocked if they stack a few more. Say what you will about Jonathan Gannon, but he’ll be among the hot commodities next offseason when teams are looking to fill some head-coaching vacancies.

There are times when he makes you want to pull your hair out, but he’s better than many of us have given him credit for being.

There isn’t an offensive coordinator in the game that looks forward to battling the Eagles’ defense

There may be questions about their ability to stop the run, but the Eagles defense has enough playmakers to cover for any noticeable deficiencies. If Darius Slay isn’t picking off a pass, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is taking one in the other direction. If Brandon Graham doesn’t reach the quarterback, Haason Reddick will.

This is a fearsome bunch, and there isn’t an opposing offensive coordinator or opposing quarterback that sleeps well on the nights preceding their games versus Philly.

Defense grades

With eight games behind us, we examine the Eagles’ defensive roster from top to bottom.

Defense end: B+

(Brandon Graham, Robert Quinn, Josh Sweat)

They may not have gotten the statistical production that they’ve hoped for from their defensive ends, but their impact is still being felt, both in the locker room and on the playing field. Brandon Graham’s leadership has been invaluable.

Robert Quinn’s production will increase as he gets more comfortable with the scheme, and we know Josh Sweat can show up big in spots.

We’d like to see more from this group. Still, all three of Philly’s defensive ends are worthy of our confidence.

Defensive tackle: B+

(Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Jordan Davis, Milton Williams, Marlon Tuipulotu)

After getting off to a slow start (two sacks in the Eagles’ first six games), Javon Hargrave has come on as of late, stacking five total sacks in Week 8 and Week 9. Let’s hope that continues. Milton Williams and Marlon Tuipulotu appear to be good situational players if allowed time to develop, and when Jordan Davis returns, this unit will be better.

In short, if a future Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee is arguably your third-best player at the position, there’s reason for optimism.

Linebackers: A-

(T.J. Edwards, Kyzir White, Haason Reddick, Nakobe Dean, Kyron Johnson, Patrick Johnson, Shaun Bradley)

The Eagles have seemingly placed minimal value in the linebacker position since Andy Reid was pacing the sidelines. This time around, they’ve turned the unit into a position of strength.

Kyzir White and Haason Reddick were phenomenal offseason additions. T.J. Edwards continues to improve. Patrick Johnson, Kyron Johnson, and Shaun Bradley are key special teams contributors, and the future is bright for Nakobe Dean.

Give the rookie some time. He’ll be okay. That’s a promise.

Cornerbacks: A-

(Darius Slay, James Bradberry, Avonte Maddox, Zech McPhearson, Josiah Scott, Josh Jobe)

There’s always one theory that seems ever-present. As good as Darius Slay and James Bradberry have been, everyone is terrified of what happens if the unthinkable occurs and they’re out of the lineup.

Josiah Scott and Josh Jobe have missed time with injury, but Zech McPhearson, though clearly not on the level of Slay or Bradberry, is relatively serviceable when in the defensive lineup. He’s also a beast on special teams.

Cross your fingers though. Pray that Big Play and James’ good fortune continues because they and Avonte Maddox make up the league’s best starting trio, and if there are any unforeseen injuries, the quality of play will diminish.

Safeties: B+

(Marcus Epps, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Reed Blankenship, K’Von Wallace)

Marcus Epps is a B+ safety. That isn’t a knock on him. He has room to improve, and he’s fearless. Still, at 198 pounds, though it seldomly happens, there are times when he can be run over.

C.J. Gardner-Johnson is an A+ safety. He has already proven that he’s worthy of an extension, but there’s no depth here. Reed Blankenship doesn’t seem to have the full confidence of the coaching staff. K’Von Wallace simply isn’t going to evolve into what we hope he will.

Again, that isn’t a knock on him, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find reasons to be charged up about his potential.

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