Fletcher Cox had a succinct way to describe the difference between Javon Hargrave this year compared to last.
“He’s healthy,” Cox said.
And it shows.
The Eagles just wrapped up their 17th and final practice of training camp on Wednesday against the Jets in Florham Park, New Jersey, and while plenty of players on the team had good summers, none performed better than Hargrave.
The 28-year-old defensive tackle, who signed a three-year, $39 million contract last offseason, looks poised for a breakout season.
His impressive training camp was even more notable because this time last year, he was dealing with a pectoral injury that forced him to miss a considerable portion of training camp and kept him off the field for the Eagles’ opener.
“I couldn’t do nothing,” Hargrave said about last year. “I was just sitting and watching and gaining weight. It feels pretty good to be out here running around and having fun with some of my teammates.”
After that pec injury last August, Hargrave made his Eagles debut in Week 2, which was the first time he put on pads, he said. And it showed.
In Hargrave’s first two games last season, he played 57 combined defensive snaps and failed to record a single statistic. But eventually as the season went on, he began to get in shape and grasp the Eagles’ defense. There were times late in the season where we all really began to see his potential and why the Eagles signed him to a $13 million-per-year contract.
Those glimpses have become his standard this summer.
That’s huge news for the Eagles. Because if this defense is going to be successful this season, the engine that needs to power it — as always — is going to be the defensive line.
“We know that this team goes how the D-line goes,” Cox said. “We say that every day in our room.”
With how much attention Cox gets (and deserves) from offensive lines, that means Hargrave will see a ton of 1-on-1s this year. And he has the ability to beat them.
“I feel like we’re going to wreck things this year,” Hargrave said.
Aside from the injury last season, another possible reason for Hargrave’s slow start was his acclimation period to a new defense. After playing in a 3-4, two-gapping system in Pittsburgh, he was thrust into Jim Schwartz’s ultra aggressive 4-3 front. That takes some getting used to.
But you shouldn’t worry too much about his acclimation period to Jonathan Gannon’s scheme. Because this defense will likely fall somewhere in between for Hargrave. He’ll be able to use his pass rush ability to get after the quarterback but he’ll sometimes be asked to be more reactionary at times. It’s almost like a blend of the two schemes.
And Hargrave feel like he’s versatile enough to play in any defense.
He also thinks his career-high sack total of 6 1/2 back in 2018 is an attainable mark.
“Of course,” Hargrave said. “I feel like it’s attainable in any defense. I’m just working to have one of my best years this year.”
During this summer, Hargrave did suffer a minor ankle injury but he barely missed any time. And once he returned, he was right back to being his normal dominant self.
Hargrave’s training camp ended in a very fitting way. He and Josh Sweat collapsed the pocket as the Eagles “sacked” Jets quarterback Zach Wilson in the final competitive period of camp. It was hard to see who deserved credit for the sack, but Hargrave was happy to raise his hand.
“Nah, that’s mine,” he said. “[Sweat] might say it’s his but I believe it’s mine.”
After what we saw the last few weeks, that’s hard to argue.
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