Jump to content

Couple of 2nd-year Eagles pass rushers ready to make their mark


Recommended Posts

Couple of 2nd-year Eagles pass rushers ready to make their mark


Patrick Johnson took the news hard.

The entire Eagles team was bummed to hear that Derek Barnett tore his ACL in the season opener but Barnett has been a mentor of sorts to Johnson over the course of his first season in the NFL.

"He’s really important in our room,” Johnson said. "We hate to say next man up, but at the same time there’s opportunities for everyone in that room now to take a step up and try to fill that role.”

Two of the players with the biggest opportunity for more playing time are Johnson and fellow second-year edge rusher Tarron Jackson.

Jackson is listed as a defensive end and Johnson is listed as a linebacker. But their jobs in Year 2 under Jonathan Gannon are pretty similar. They’re both being asked to rush the quarterback. And both showed some pretty impressive improvement this summer after relatively quiet rookie seasons.

"We talk to our guys a lot about that, about their roles and how if you're a backup, you're one snap away from going in,” head coach Nick Sirianni said, "and it's just the way that's going to play out for Tarron.”

The Eagles drafted four players in the last two rounds of the 2021 draft and three of them have growing roles in the defense: Marlon Tuipulotu, Jackson and Johnson.

And all three really showed the necessary improvement this summer. Tuipulotu carried it over in the first game of the season with the best pass rush in the opener against the Lions. Jackson and Johnson hope to follow him soon.

"Second year in the league and we’re blessed enough to have the same coaching staff,” Johnson said. "So we’re starting to understand what the coaches really want. They say from Year 1 to Year 2, if you don’t make that step in a positive direction, you could be out of here quick. It’s a mindset.”

When the Eagles drafted Johnson, they praised his versatility and that helped him make the roster as a rookie. But in that first season, he played a lot of off-ball linebacker, which didn’t give him many opportunities to rush the passer.

This year, Johnson is working way more on the edge and he feels at home.

"I do, 100 percent,” Johnson said. "I think the coaches are starting to see that too. But at the same time, though, man, I enjoy doing coverage. That’s just part of my game where I can do both.”

This year, the Eagles have their "overhang” players in the same room with position coach Jeremiah Washburn. It’s a collection of the defensive ends and SAM linebackers. All guys who rush the passer but with different skillsets. Johnson is happy to get to rush the passer more and Jackson is happy he’s getting to improve his pass rush skills.

In particular, Jackson has really worked on his get-off, one of the key elements for any effective pass rusher in the NFL.

"For me, a struggle I had was being able to get off the ball and actually gain ground so when I’m hitting my pass rush moves, I’m not so far away from the offensive line,” Jackson said. "And that kind of helped me out. And just getting better with my hands in the run game. I feel like I’ve made some good strides.”

The Eagles had just one sack in their season-opening win in Detroit and it came after a bad snap. For a team with just 29 sacks (second-worst in the NFL) in the 2021 season, that wasn’t a promising start.

But the Eagles are still confident their pass rush will get better. They’re really relying on the veterans in that group to get that pressure, but a couple young guys now have a chance to make their mark too.

"I think we’ve all taken that next step,” Johnson said. "But this is just the beginning. This is just Year 2 so we’ve got a lot to improve on.”


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...