Eagles hoping new addition will shore up leaky run defense


As news broke on Wednesday that the Eagles were signing veteran nose tackle Linval Joseph, his new teammates were in the locker room getting ready for walkthrough.

They seemed pretty excited about the addition.

“I don’t really know too much about him other than he’s a big human being and he knows how to play the run,” Milton Williams said.

That’s a good start.

You could argue that the Eagles needed to add a nose tackle after Jordan Davis went down with a high ankle sprain in the Steelers game on Oct. 30 but they tried to get by with what they had. But now that Marlon Tuipulotu is joining Davis on IR with a knee injury, the Eagles finally pulled the trigger to add some depth.

Joseph, 34, was a second-round pick back in 2010 the 6-foot-4, 329-pound defensive tackle has had a long and successful career. He’s played in 171 NFL games and was a two-time Pro Bowler with the Vikings while Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon was on the staff.

The Eagles got an up-close look at Joseph last season when he was with the Chargers. Joseph had a great game against the Eagles last November, helping the Chargers hand them a 27-24 loss. Joseph played 45 snaps and had 9 tackles. According to ProFootballFocus, that was Joseph’s best game in his 12th NFL season.

If Joseph can play like that for the Eagles down the stretch, he’ll definitely be able to help.

And he’ll probably help in one specific area.

“I know what y’all want to say. The run game,” Javon Hargrave said. “You can’t really teach that (size). He’s a big body, big dude. He’s been playing ball for a long time so he really knows the ins and outs. He probably knows where they’re running the ball at times before they even run the ball.”

The Eagles have been getting run on quite a bit this season as the NFL goes through a cycle where it seems like more and more teams are electing to stick with the run. Through Week 10, the Eagles have the NFL’s 20th-ranked rush defense and are 25th in yards per carry allowed at 4.7.

They gave up just 3.1 yards per attempt against the Commanders on Monday but still surrendered 152 rushing yards as they struggled to get off the field on third downs.

The Eagles have given up 140+ rushing yards in each of their last three games. That’s the first time they’ve done that since the 2011 season.

“We’ll be alright,” Fletcher Cox said. “If we were stressing out, everybody would be in a panic. We need to correct our own problems and go out and do what we did earlier in the season. It’s going to get cold and teams are going to start to run the ball and let’s just face it: The last few weeks we gave up 100+ yards on the ground and we know that’s not us. We’ll be better as a group.”

The earliest Davis is eligible to return is Week 13 against the Titans. So at the very least the Eagles have two more games without him. But even when Davis was healthy, he was averaging just 22 snaps per game. So the addition of Joseph should help even after Davis returns.

Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon seems devoted to using that five-man front so once Davis returns, he’ll have two legitimate nose tackles to rotate. This would also mean fewer snaps at that position for Hargrave.

It might also help the Eagles’ defensive linemen stay a little fresher. Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave played 70 and 66 snaps, respectively, against the Commanders on Monday night. Part of the problem was that the Eagles had 83 snaps on defense in that game, but as Cox said, “70 snaps is 70 snaps” and he felt like “s—“ on Wednesday.

We’ll see how quickly Joseph is able to catch up once he arrives in Philly but it seems possible he’ll be able to play on Sunday in Indianapolis. After all he’s a veteran. Heck, he played against Colts interim coach Jeff Saturday.

“We got a lot of people banged up,” Cox said. “[Joseph] brings depth and I’m really looking forward to him coming here. He’ll be a really good addition for us.”

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