Over the next three weeks leading up to training camp, we’ll be counting down the top 20 most important Eagles for the 2021 season.
12. Javon Hargrave
The Eagles last offseason signed Javon Hargrave to a three-year deal worth $39 million.
For a guy getting paid $13 million per year, Hargrave is really flying under the radar heading into this season. He shouldn’t be.
Hargrave was a huge free agent signing last year but his time in Philly got off to a slow start. He got hurt during the summer and even missed the season opener. On top of that, he was going from Pittsburgh’s passive 3-4 two-gapping front to the Eagles’ super aggressive 4-3. We always knew it was going to take time for him to break those habits and then he lost time because of injury. It was a perfect storm in a lot of ways.
Heck, in three of his first five games with the Eagles, Hargrave didn’t record a single defensive statistic. In Weeks 2, 3 and 6, Hargrave played a total of 99 defensive snaps and didn’t have even a half tackle.
But eventually, Hargrave began to flash more and was much better in the second half of the season than he was in the first. He had just two half sacks in the first half of the season last year but had 3 1/2 in the final eight games of the season.
All five of Hargrave’s highest single-game grades from ProFootballFocus came after the Eagles’ Week 9 bye week.
Of course, there is the worry that all the progress Hargrave made last season will be lost as the Eagles transition into another defense. But I wouldn’t worry too much about that. If anything, this new front will be something between what Hargrave did in Pittsburgh and what he did last season in Philadelphia. So while the Eagles signed Hargrave to a deal because they projected what he would be able to do in their aggressive 4-3 front, he might feel a little more at home in Jonathan Gannon’s defense.
And there’s no question the Eagles will be relying on Hargrave in 2021. Sure, Fletcher Cox is still the Eagles’ best defensive player and still one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL. But that also means he sees a ton of double teams. So if Hargrave is able to beat 1-on-1 blocks just a couple of times at key moments, he could be ready to have a monster second season with the Eagles.
The Eagles have serious question marks at the linebacker positions and in their secondary heading into the 2021 season. But unquestioned strength of their defense — by design — is the defensive line. And in the modern NFL, getting push up the gut from interior pass rushers is key. The Eagles have a defensive tackle rotation of Cox, Hargrave, Milton Williams, Hassan Ridgeway and Marlon Tuipulotu.
While this is a clear strength of the team, Cox is the only sure thing. We know he’s going to be disruptive. Ridgeway, meanwhile, has struggled to stay healthy and the other two are rookies, so expectations need to be tempered.
Sure, Hargrave is somewhat of a question mark too. But he clearly has the talent to excel and if you were putting together a short list of Eagles candidates to make their first Pro Bowl in 2021, Hargrave would be a nice bet near the top of that list.
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