When the Eagles drafted Fletcher Cox 12th overall in 2012, they hoped to lock down one of the defensive tackle spots for the foreseeable future, and this season will mark a decade of Cox doing exactly that. While he’s been more than stellar holding down the interior of the Eagles defense, his running mate at the position has been a real mixed bag over the years—ranging from bad to above-average at best.
However, with a healthy Javon Hargrave in the fold, the Eagles could very well have the best tackle tandem of Cox’s career. His performance in Thursday’s preseason opener served as a reminder of this duo’s potential if they can remain healthy.
In just two series against the Steelers, Hargrave totaled 4 tackles, 1 QB hit, and a partial sack; pushing the pocket on nearly every snap. After last season’s injury-plagued campaign left more to be desired from someone with a newly-inked $39 million contract, it’s clear Hargrave is poised to rewrite that narrative in year two.
There aren’t many defensive tackles who are as effective rushing the passer as they are stopping the run, but Hargrave—similar to Cox—fits that description. He’ll never log high sack totals, but his ability to disrupt the pocket is as undeniable as his ability to eat blockers against the run. That skillset was on full display against the Steelers, and has reportedly flashed all throughout training camp.
An elite defensive line was arguably the defining characteristic of the Eagles Super Bowl roster in 2017, and recapturing that level of play in the trenches would be a strong step toward returning this franchise to contention. For what it’s worth, Hargrave presents higher upside than Cox’s running mate at tackle from that season, Timmy Jernigan; and if he (and Cox) are able to stay healthy they’ll serve as the keystone for what could be one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL in 2021.