Eagles Make it Official with Malik Jackson
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The Eagles believe in building up the trenches on both sides of the football and want what they had back at the beginning of the 2017 season when Tim Jernigan fit in so nicely on the interior of the defensive line next to All-Pro Fletcher Cox.
What shaped up as a long-term fit after Jernigan was acquired from the Baltimore Ravens, however, quickly eroded due to injuries, a not so serious ankle problem which limited Jernigan in the run toward a Super Bowl LII championship and the far more serious herniated disk after the big game which required surgery and essentially forced Philadelphia to rethink its future at the position.
The plans were unveiled quickly when the Eagles declined Jernigan's high-priced 2019 option and instead earmarked the money toward 2017 Pro Bowl selection Malik Jackson, who found himself on the outs in Jacksonville due to his own pending $15 million salary-cap number.
Jackson didn't waste time in choosing his next destination picking Philadelphia over Green Bay and agreeing to a three-year, $30 million deal with the Eagles, a move which was officially announced Wednesday morning hours before the new league year was set to begin.
About to enter his eighth professional season, Jackson is best known for his ability to collapse the pocket as a pass rusher, something that will be complemented by the presence of Cox, arguably the best defensive tackle on the planet not named Aaron Donald.
"I see myself coming in here and just helping," Jackson said during his introductory press conference at the NovaCare Complex. "It's not like in Jacksonville where I have to be the guy, hoorah and do this and that. I'm coming into a team that already has leaders and with Fletcher Cox next to me it should allow me to open up and have more one on one rushes.
"[Cox is] a force to be reckoned with. He demands double teams so hopefully, I can come in here, do what I'm supposed to do and take the double teams off him."
It will be new defensive line coach Phillip Daniels' responsibility to fit all the pieces together but, on paper at least, Jackson figures to be Jim Schwartz's two-down option inside until Brandon Graham kicks in from left end in obvious passing situations with Chris Long entering on the outside.
Run support, however, has not been the 6-foot-5, 290-pound Jackson's strength and one of the reasons he lost playing time with the Jaguars last season.
"I think I play good against the run to be honest with you," Jackson said. "Like I said, I just play and they [the coaches] make the decisions. It is what it is."
Schwartz is the coach now in charge of the playing time and Jackson is excited about that.
"I've heard a lot about him from players throughout the league. Heard he's a hard-nosed coach," Jackson said of his new boss. "He wants what he wants and he will get it out of you."
For Jackson, the opportunity in Philadelphia is about regaining his standing as one of the more disruptive defensive tackles in the league.
"My main goal is to get back to where I can be," Jackson said. "Last year was very disappointing. I learned a lot about the business of the NFL last year. For me, it's just getting back to where I'm supposed to be, being who I know I am."
For the Eagles, it's about making sure the engine of Schwartz's defense remains humming.
"I want to get back to where I know I can be and to do that I need good D-linemen around me. Come in here with these guys, [Derek] Barnett, Graham, and Fletcher. Hell, I don't think there's a better D-line in the league."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen