By Dave Spadaro
It is clear from the Eagles’ first-week moves in the NFL’s free agency period that the team thinks its ball carriers and ball catchers and ball throwers are very much where the team wants them to be, and that on the other side of the line of scrimmage the cornerbacks and the safeties are right in line with where they need to be.
The line of scrimmage has been the point of emphasis for the Eagles, very obviously so on the defensive side of the ball and in a subtler manner on offense. For the latter, the Eagles did nothing, which signifies how much they think of something. To be specific, the Eagles have left offensive tackle Jason Peters all lined up for a return after his 2017 season ended with a knee injury. The Eagles didn’t look to move Peters. The Eagles didn’t cut his salary. Instead, Peters and his hefty deal are back, as the greatest left tackle in team history looks to make his 10th Pro Bowl (eighth as an Eagle).
That’s a big-time non-move. With Peters are board, the Eagles offensive line has all five starters back along with key reserves Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Chance Warmack and Isaac Seumalo. The best offensive line in the game is better with Peters on the field, and the Eagles offense is in good hands with the guys up front dominating — remember, right tackle Lane Johnson and right guard Brandon Brooks were Pro Bowl players last season and center Jason Kelce was an All-Pro (as was Johnson). This line is as good as it gets.
On the other side of the football, the Eagles added and they subtracted and they think the additions far outweigh the players leaving (tackle Beau Allen in free agency and end Vinny Curry, who was released). Two veterans are coming to town and if things work out the way the team envisions, the Eagles are going to have as great a defensive line as they’ve ever had, going all the way back to the Buddy Ryan days of the late 1980s and the Bud Carson-led defense in 1991 that ranked №1 in the NFL across the board in every key category. Those were the days of Reggie White and Jerome Brown and Clyde Simmons, and while there isn’t necessarily a player at the all-time, Hall of Fame level like the late White was, this group has more depth and just as much top-end talent.
Former Seahawks end Michael Bennett and former Raven/Lion Haloti Ngata joined the Eagles in the last week — Bennett via a trade from Seattle and Ngata on a one-year contract in free agency — and they add tremendous talent, experience and leadership to a locker room hoping to recreate the magic from 2017. Ngata is a massive man at 340 pounds, a legendary run stuffer and a player who occupies blockers. He’s a load to handle at the line of scrimmage.
Bennett is a proven pass rusher both off the edge and inside when the team is in passing situations. Adding those two to the likes of All-Pro Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham and tackle Tim Jernigan, last year’s first-round draft pick Derek Barnett and veteran situational end Chris Long, and the Eagles have options. And depth. And more depth than they’ve ever enjoyed.
I know the focus is on the quarterback picture and the more glamour positions. But the Eagles have the ability to dominate at the line of scrimmage to win games in 2018. They are loaded up front. This team wants to play smash-mouth football in the season ahead. The Broad Street Bullies are back.