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Malik Jackson will help Fletcher Cox, Eagles

Eliot Shorr-Parks
March 12, 2019 - 9:22 am

He wasn’t the most popular Jackson acquired on Monday by the Eagles, but when all is said and done, however, he might end up being the most important. 

The Eagles handed out a three-year, $30 million deal to defensive tackle Malik Jackson on Monday. At 28-years old, Jackson has the chance to turn a major weakness on the Eagles’ roster — defensive tackle — back into one of its biggest strengths. 

Jackson has been extremely productive throughout his career, notching 252 tackles, 55 tackles for loss, 32.5 sacks, six forced fumbles in his seven seasons. He turned the upside he showed in Denver into a massive deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2016, and quickly became one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. His career year came in 2017 when he notched 40 tackles and eight sacks.   

Without question Jackson’s biggest strength is his ability to rush the passer. Since coming to Jacksonville prior to the 2016 season, Jackson has averaged 57 quarterback pressures per season. That number dipped slightly from 64 total pressures to 51 from 2017 to 2018, but part of the reason for that drop was that Jackson played closer to 300 fewer snaps. Still, the 51 pressures Jackson finished with was still ninth best in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus. 

As a pass rusher, Jackson should be a massive upgrade over Timmy Jernigan. When the Eagles acquired Jernigan prior to 2017, they did so to help ease the pressure off of Fletcher Cox and decrease the amount of double teams he was seeing. In 2017, Timmy Jernigan did just that for the most part, but had just 23 pressures — roughly half of the 51 pressures Jackson finished with in a down-year last season. 

Speaking of Jernigan, it is also worth noting that Jackson has played in 16 games in each of the last six seasons, and played in 14 his rookie season. Considering the health issues Jernigan has had, the benefit of both Cox and the coaches being able to count on Jackson each week at defensive tackle should not be overlooked. 

The issue with Jackson could be in the run game. Jackson was average at best against the run throughout his career, and is not the elite run stopper that Jernigan was prior to the injury that essentially cost him his 2018 season. Run defense is something the Eagles are going to have to take into consideration when adding depth to the defensive tackle position. 

The signing fills a massive need. It should make Cox’s life easier. It helps keep the defensive line, which could have taken a serious step back this season, as one of the strengths of the team. 

Overall, it is very easy to understand the Eagles’ decision to bring in Jackson.

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