Javon Hargrave and Isaac Seumalo are very good players. They were the Eagles’ two big losses in the trenches in free agency this spring.
And the Eagles haven’t missed them a bit.
That’s certainly not a knock on Hargrave or Seumalo, who moved on in free agency after getting nice contracts on the open market. Hargrave looks like his old disruptive self with the 49ers and Seumalo has been as solid as ever at left guard for the Steelers.
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But the Eagles unapologetically build through the trenches. They invest there over everywhere else. And that’s why they haven’t skipped a beat through three games this season. While the Eagles haven’t been perfect, their lines have led the way to this 3-0 start. The passing games has been wonky, the back seven has seen some injuries, but the two lines keep this thing rolling.
The plan is working.
“I can’t say enough, again, of how good of a job Howie (Roseman) does at bringing depth in there, understanding how important that is to winning football games,” head coach Nick Sirianni said after Monday’s 25-11 win over the Bucs.
“Again, going back to no matter what level you’re at, it comes down to how you play O-line, D-line and so, man, I appreciate you asking me that question because I’m about to brag about these guys because they’re awesome and they come off the field, they want to run it – it just gives you so much confidence that you can do that when they’re coming off the field saying, ‘Let’s go again, let’s go again, let’s go again.’ And Lane (Johnson), seeing Lane come off the field saying that to me like, man, that gives you a lot of confidence.”
Through three games, the Eagles have the No. 1 rushing defense in the NFL, giving up just 48.3 yards per game. They also have the No. 2 rushing offense, putting up 185.7 yards per game. The only other team in the top three in both categories is the 49ers; the NFC’s other undefeated squad is third in both.
How have the Eagles remained so dominant on their offensive and defensive lines? It’s no secret.
In an NFL where we always hear about competitive advantage, the Eagles shout from the rooftops about their biggest roster-building initiative. Build through the trenches!
So when you lose Hargrave in free agency, you have a plan. The Eagles have spent back-to-back top-15 picks on defensive tackles, taking Jordan Davis at No. 13 in 2022 and his Georgia teammate Jalen Carter at No. 9 in 2023. Not only that, but the Eagles traded up to get both of them.
Through three games, the play of those two might be the biggest storyline on the team. The defensive tackle rotation with Davis, Carter, Fletcher Cox, Milton Williams and more has looked deadly.
“You see that confidence,” Brandon Graham said of Carter and Davis. “Like I told those boys, it should be a duo. And, of course, Fletch out there balling too.”
While you might be surprised that the Eagles have just 6 sacks through three games, don’t worry about it. The line has been great against the run and those sacks are going to come. They flood gates opened in Week 3 last year when they had nine sacks against the Commanders.
As the Eagles prepare for their Week 4 game against the Commanders on Sunday, Sam Howell has been sacked a league-high 19 times in three games. There’s a chance the Eagles sack total takes a huge jump on Sunday afternoon.
On offense, the Eagles brought back four of their five starting offensive linemen from the 2022 season. The only difference is that Cam Jurgens has taken over for Seumalo at right guard. Jurgens is coming off the best game of his young NFL career in Tampa and the Eagles have rushed for over 200 yards in back-to-back games without much of it coming from QB scrambles.
D’Andre Swift had some huge holes to run through on Monday night.
“The opportunities were there today,” he said after the win. “The line did a great job, again. They make my job easy.”
In recent years, the Eagles have lost mainstays Brandon Brooks and Seuamalo from their O-line and have replaced them with second-round picks Landon Dickerson and Jurgens, who have slotted in next to Jordan Mailata, Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson to form the best line in football.
This spring, the Eagles drafted Tyler Steen in the third round out of Alabama. Steen has been inactive for his first three NFL games but the Eagles didn’t draft him for this year. They drafted him to keep this thing going strong in the future.
In the last three years, the Eagles have made 10 picks in the top three rounds and seven of them have been offensive or defensive linemen. And they’ve hit. No wonder the trenches are still leading the way. The Eagles expect them to.