One week down, with a long way to go in the NFL’s roster-building portion of the offseason, the Eagles have done what they set out to do. They’ve added impact players from the outside and they’ve kept players to extend continuity and, in the long-range picture, they’ve created flexibility within the current salary cap and, looking down the line, have added draft picks in trades and potential compensatory picks in NFL Drafts to come.
I know most fans want to know what’s next – and this is a particularly juicy week as some of the best finds in free agency happen after the first week with players’ prices falling – but before the Eagles march forward, it’s important to understand the scope of what they’ve done to date.
The Eagles tried all kinds of things up front defensively to give All-Pro tackle Fletcher Cox some breathing room. He moved spots, the Eagles brought Brandon Graham and Michael Bennett inside in pass-rushing situations, and a host of tackles had reps – Destiny Vaeao, Haloti Ngata, Treyvon Hester, Bruce Hector, Tim Jernigan, even T.Y. McGill.
Cox, because he’s so dominating, still had a terrific season, but the goal entering the offseason was to bring in somebody who would take some of the pressure away from Cox. Enter Malik Jackson, a veteran released by the Jacksonville Jaguars who is at this best as a penetrating, one-on-one tackle. The Eagles needed somebody who will win against single-man blocking and Jackson certainly fits that profile. Jackson is going to have to be physical and strong against the run and he’s going to have to play with an edge.
Jackson is an impact addition for the defensive line. Judge him by the way the entire defensive line plays, not necessarily by his individual numbers. Jackson needs to be durable and energetic and physical and nasty and he’ll be a great contributor to the Eagles’ defense.
On the offensive side of the ball, DeSean Jackson brings impact. His numbers – 60 touchdown receptions of 40-plus yards, an NFL best – speak for themselves and Jackson clearly has the speed. He’s going to be part of a very strong corps of pass catchers and Jackson’s speed and the way defenses respect it will affect what quarterback Carson Wentz sees when he looks over the defensive alignment prior to taking a snap. Can defenses double-team wide receiver Alshon Jeffery or tight end Zach Ertz? Does having the deep secondary showing respect to Jackson’s speed give the Eagles more options for the running game? Stay tuned for the ripple impact with Jackson’s presence on the field.
Jackson understands his role here. He’s not the savior for the offense. He’s a salivating complementary piece who gives Wentz the chance to air it out and let Jackson chase down deep throws. The Eagles have a legitimate vertical passing game with Jackson on the field, and concurrently are going to see how much of the middle of the field opens with so much attention directed toward Jackson.