Eagles’ Javon Hargrave knows he’s playing better than ever before

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Hargrave: I’m playing best football of my career originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Javon Hargrave entered the NFL back in 2016 and is now in his sixth professional season.

He’s never played better.

And he knows it.

“Yeah, I feel like I’m at my best that I’ve ever been in my career,” Hargrave said. “But I just want to keep rolling and focus on this week and see what I got.”

Through two games, the 28-year-old Hargrave has arguably been the Eagles’ best player. Period. After a tremendous training camp, the 2020 free agent pickup is off to the type of start that might put him in the Pro Bowl and possibly make him an All-Pro.

It’s obviously still very early in this 2021 season, but Hargrave has been one of the best defensive tackles in the league in the early going. His PFF rating is 89.9, which ranks him third among all interior defensive linemen this season, behind just Cameron Heyward (93.3) and Aaron Donald (91.3). That’s good company.

Through two games, Hargrave has 12 tackles, 4 quarterback hits, 2 sacks and 4 tackles for loss.

In 2020, Hargrave didn’t have 12 tackles until his eighth game.

He didn’t have four quarterback hits until his 10th game.

He didn’t have two sacks until his 11th game.

And he didn’t have four tackles for loss until his 12th game.

So he’s already done more in two weeks in 2021 than he did most of last year. The Eagles gave Hargrave a three-year, $39 million contract last season but it was a disappointing 2020 season for him. Not only was he learning a new defensive scheme and style, but he got hurt in training camp and missed a ton of time. He came back for Week 2 but wasn’t himself and didn’t start to flash until much later in the season.

Hargrave has looked like a completely different player in 2021.

But his teammates are not surprised about his success.

“Not at all,” Fletcher Cox said. “I think the biggest thing is it’s his second year being here and that’s the reason we brought him in, to be disruptive. That’s what he’s doing right now. And he’s healthy. I think that’s playing a big part. I think last year, he had a few things, had a few setbacks. He’s healthy now and I couldn’t be more happy for him.”

Of course, the presence of Cox helps. Because of his reputation, Cox sees a ton of double teams as offenses slide protection his way. That leaves Hargrave with 1-on-1 matchups and he’s shown he can beat a 1-on-1 matchup.

The Eagles have tried for years to find the right complementary player for Cox. They went through Bennie Logan, Tim Jernigan, Malik Jackson. But Hargrave might end up being the best player to ever line up next to Cox.

Hargrave is playing so well right now it makes you wonder if offenses might think twice about their game plans.

“I hope they keep doubling [Cox],” Hargrave said with a smile. “… You just have to pick your poison.”

With Cox mostly playing the 3-technique, it means Hargrave gets snaps over the center as the Eagles’ 1-technique or nose tackle. Hargrave said he likes this role because it puts him closest to the quarterback every snap and he knows quarterbacks don’t like the pressure up the gut.

Even after the loss of Brandon Graham for the season to an Achilles tear, the Eagles’ biggest strength on defensive is still their defensive line. Hargrave is going to continue to be a big part of that.

And along the way, he might turn some heads around the league.

“I think we all play this game to try be one of the best in it,” Hargrave said. “The respect in the league and the respect of other teams is definitely something that I aim for.”

He’s off to a good start.

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