Eagles 2022 season: Haason Reddick on list of most important players

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Reddick takes premier spot on most important Eagles list originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Over the next few weeks leading up to training camp, we’ll be counting down the top 25 most important Eagles for the 2022 season.

25. Quez Watkins
24. Gardner Minshew
23. T.J. Edwards
22. Marcus Epps
21. Landon Dickerson
20. Jake Elliott
19. Brandon Graham
18. Jordan Davis
17. Kyzir White
16. Avonte Maddox 
15. Nakobe Dean
14. Fletcher Cox
13. James Bradberry
12. Miles Sanders
11. Josh Sweat
10. DeVonta Smith
9. Dallas Goedert
8. Javon Hargrave
7. Jordan Mailata
6. Darius Slay
5. Lane Johnson
4. A.J. Brown
3. Jason Kelce
2. Haason Reddick

The Eagles had just 29 sacks last season.

Even if we allow that sacks aren’t the only measure of pass rush — and they’re not — that’s still a shockingly low number. That was the second-lowest total in the NFL last season and tied for the lowest total in franchise history since sacks became an official stat in 1982.

In the last decade there have been 42 teams with fewer than 30 sacks in a season and just 11 of them (26.2%) have had winning records. The Eagles were one of those 11 last season.

But it was very evident coming out of the 2021 season that the Eagles had a desperate need to improve their pass rush. And when they signed Haason Reddick to a three-year $45 million contract in March they addressed the problem in a big way.

Reddick, 27, has been sort of a late-bloomer in the NFL. The Cardinals drafted the Camden, New Jersey, native and Temple product with the No. 13 overall pick back in 2017 but tried to play him as an inside linebacker. Once they moved him on the edge and let him rush the passer in 2020, he began to thrive. Reddick had 12 1/2 sacks in his last season in Arizona and followed that up with an 11-sack performance in Carolina last season.

So since the beginning of the 2020 season, Reddick has 23 1/2 sacks, ranking him fifth in the NFL during that two-year span:

1. T.J. Watt: 37 1/2
2. Myles Garrett: 28
3. Trey Hendrickson: 27 1/2
4. Aaron Donald: 26
5. Haason Reddick: 23 1/2

There are just two players in the NFL over the last two years with 20+ sacks and 8+ forced fumbles: Reddick and Donald.

And the exciting part about getting Reddick now is that because it took so long for him to get on the edge in the NFL, he still thinks he has room to grow as a pass rusher in this league.

“I definitely do,” Reddick said in March. “Rushing against NFL tackles is different than rushing in college. While I have been able to have success, I’m still growing in this thing. I’m really just getting started. I don’t even think I’ve tapped into a lot of my potential yet. By God’s will, I just hope that I can continue to ascend.”

Reddick is the only significant addition at the edge rusher position this offseason. The Eagles also bring back Josh Sweat and re-signed Derek Barnett at the defensive end position. And they’ll have Brandon Graham coming back from an Achilles recovery. But for this defense to reach its peak in Year 2 under defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, Reddick needs to get after the quarterback.

At 6-foot-1, 240 pounds, the Eagles are listing Reddick as a linebacker. He’ll fill that SAM position that was occupied by Genard Avery in 2021, but it’s fair to assume the role will look different with Reddick than it did Avery.

The addition of Reddick seems to indicate a shift in defensive scheme and philosophy heading into the 2022 season as the Eagles move toward a more hybrid defense. They had elements of multiplicity in 2021, but the additions of Reddick and big nose tackle Jordan Davis indicate that we’ll see more odd-man fronts this upcoming season. A player who indicates a shift in philosophy deserves a pretty high spot on our list of most important players.

While there will be moments when Reddick is asked to drop in coverage, his primary objective will be to hunt quarterbacks. So don’t get too bogged down by the “LB” next to his name.

In fact, on his Twitter bio, Reddick calls himself a weapon for the Eagles.

“A weapon. That's a good quote by him, I think,” Gannon said. “As our overhang players they're going to rush the passer to affect the quarterback, and they're going to be violent in the run game and set edges and then they're going to have to drop a little bit in coverage.

“He's obviously very, very smart, very intelligent, high football character, very good skill set, versatile player, and it's our job to deploy him and to affect the game, to accentuate his skill set.”

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