How Hargrave is adjusting to more attention from opposing defenses

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Javon Hargrave got off to an incredible start in his 2021 season, registering six sacks in the Eagles’ first five games.

The rest of the NFL took notice.

Because since that hot start, Hargrave doesn’t have a sack in his last five games as Eagles’ opponents have begun to send more help and double teams his way.

“It definitely gets frustrating sometimes,” Hargrave said Wednesday. “But at the same time, I guess it just shows how much respect the other team has for you. I really don’t let it get to me at all.”

It’s only natural that teams were going to eventually key in on Hargrave more. Having that type of production early in the season is hard to hide. But it says something about how well he was playing that his double-teams increased despite the reputation of Fletcher Cox playing next to him.

Early in the season, Hargrave was the beneficiary of Cox getting doubled. Recently, Cox has been the one getting more 1-on-1s because of the attention sent Hargrave’s way.

On Sunday in Denver, Cox didn’t register a sack but did have one his better pass-rushing games of the season. Cox had five total pressures — four hurries and a QB hit — according to ProFootballFocus.

They doubled him a few times and Fletch train-wrecked a game, as you saw,” defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said. “So, it's kind of pick your poison there. But like I said, Graves is doing a good job. He won a lot of those 1-on-1. He split a double one time.

“They doubled him in the run game one time where it's a hard block and he got back in and got back into his gap and had an assist on the ball. So, he's doing a good job. He's playing winning football and his production will continue to come.”

While the main emphasis when a player gets doubled is that the other guys on the line has to win their 1-on-1 matchups, the Eagles do teach technique to their players on how to face doubles. Those rules are obviously different in run and pass situations.

Gannon admitted that it’s tough in the pass game when a player gets doubled because there’s not a lot of space to operate. “Not a whole lot that you can do when that happens,” Gannon said.

And Hargrave also pointed out that he can’t just go rogue and do anything to beat a double team either. That can have negative consequences.

“Yeah, you can’t do too much because you could mess up the whole rush and things,” he said. “It can cause quarterbacks to step up or you could do bad things for the team. Like I said, if I’m getting doubled or getting a slide, Fletch has been killing his dude or (Josh) Sweat or [Derek Barnett] getting the 1-on-1s.”

Early in the season, Hargrave seemed destined to make the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career, but as voting begins this week, that doesn’t seem as definite. Sacks aren’t all that matters, but it’s a tangible way for fans to determine how successful a defensive lineman is.

The Eagles view production differently and they say Hargrave is still playing at a really high level.

Of course, he would like to get a sack too. One more and he’d set a new career high.

“You know, I’m going a little crazy,” Hargrave said with a smile. “But it feels better when you’re winning than when you’re losing. With a win, it makes me feel a lot better.”

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