The fourth defensive tackle job might not sound too important.
After all, the Eagles have one of the best three-man DT rotations in the NFL with Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave and Malik Jackson. Sure, Hassan Ridgeway was playing well before he went down for the season with a torn biceps, but is it that big of a loss?
Well, keep this in mind: The Eagles’ fourth defensive tackle this season has played 147 of 571 snaps (25.7%) through eight games. And the Eagles have gone into every game this season with four.
So, yeah, it’s a pretty important position.
Right now, the Eagles have just three defensive tackles on their active roster but they also have three on their practice squad: T.Y. McGill, Raequan Williams and Treyvon Hester.
Will one of those three have a chance to earn the job full-time and solidify that rotation?
“I think all those guys will be ready to roll,” Cox said. “Even getting Treyvon back, he’s been in the system before, he’s been around here, so he came back in ready to roll, already knowing kind of how things go around here. T.Y.’s been here since training camp, Raequan, he’s been here since … training camp or whatever. And all three of those guys, they’re really good guys. They all compete, but at the end of the day, I don’t make that decision on who plays or not.
“I hope whatever decision they make I know that guy will be ready to go. And, like I said, between those three guys, I don’t think there’ll be any hard feelings on whoever get called up. We’re always happy for the next guy in the room. With those guys, they prepare like they’re playing every single day. They get coached, I get coached, everybody gets (coached) the same way. Whoever gets pulled up, whoever gets called up, they’ll be ready to roll and we’ll go have some fun.”
This season, the NFL allows for teams to elevate two practice squad players per week for game day. But each player can be elevated twice per season. McGill has already been elevated twice and Williams has been elevated once. But there’s always a chance the Eagles simply let one of these guys win a job and sign them to the active roster.
Let’s take a closer look at all three:
Of these three, McGill has the most NFL experience. He turns 28 later this month and has already played in 39 NFL games, including two this year with the Eagles. He played in the opener against Washington when Hargrave wasn’t ready and he played in the last Giants game when Jackson was out. The problem here is that McGill was elevated for both of those games, which means if the Eagles want McGill to play again for them this season, they’ll have to sign him to the active roster. It is interesting, however, that McGill is one of four practice squad players protected this week.
In the opener, McGill played very well. He picked up half a sack, a tackle and two quarterback hits in just 16 snaps. That was his first sack since the 2016 season with the Colts. In 2015-16 with the Colts, McGill had five sacks in two seasons. Since then he has also played for the Browns and Chargers. This is actually his second stint with the Eagles. He played in two games for the Birds back in 2018.
Williams is the least experienced of these three players. The undrafted rookie from Michigan State actually made his NFL debut before the bye week against the Cowboys, playing 16 snaps. He did not record a statistic. That was his first of two possible elevations.
The Eagles clearly liked Williams because after he went undrafted, the Eagles gave him the second-most guaranteed money of all their UDFAs, behind just Luke Juriga. Williams got $100,000 guaranteed with a signing bonus of $15,000. With UDFAs, you can often just follow the money to see what a team thinks of them. That was the case with Williams, who has been on the practice squad all season.
Williams is an easy guy to root for, especially once you know what he’s overcome. A three-year starter at Michigan State, Williams piled up 29 sacks in his career. For a 300-pounder, Williams was pretty agile in college and showed impressive flashes. He was thought to be a late-round pick but ultimately went undrafted.
You’ll remember Hester as the guy who got a fingertip on Cody Parkey’s field goal — the Double Doink — that sent the Eagles through to the next round of the 2018 playoffs. But what I’ll always remember about Hester was that no one really knew he touched the field goal until his teammates started telling everyone. Once the other guys on the DL realized his tipped it, they were all eager to make sure he got credit. That said a lot about what they had seen from Hester. They felt like he deserved his shine.
Hester, 28, is the oldest of the bunch. He was a seventh-round pick by the Raiders out of Toledo back in 2017 but spent just one year in Oakland. In 2018, he was with the Eagles and last year he was in Washington. This season, he signed with the Packers but was waived, reverted to IR and was then released with an injury settlement in September. He never played for them. In 12 games with the Eagles in 2018, Hester started one and had 1 sack, 13 tackles, 2 TFLs and 3 QB hits.
The Eagles just signed Hester to their practice squad this week over Anthony Rush, another DT who has been with them before. Hester needs to get caught up because he hasn’t been here in a while and the Eagles have changed DL coaches twice since he was here last. But it’s worth pointing out that Hester is obviously eligible to be elevated twice in the last eight games.