Josh Sweat Has To Produce For The Eagles

The veteran pass rusher is coming off a down year and entering a prove-it environment.
Eagles edge rusher Josh Sweat
Eagles edge rusher Josh Sweat / Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
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PHILADELPHIA - There was a little news on the Josh Sweat front, albeit not of the substantive variety.

The seventh-year pass-rushing star was one of the veterans who skipped a voluntary on-field OTA open to the media last week. Had he been there, about the only intelligence garnered would have involved how he looked as a hook defender dropping into coverage during what was essentially a 70-minure passing camp.

Numerology fans, however, got some gristle for the mill when the Eagles’ official website confirmed that Sweat is shifting numbers from 94 to 19 with third-string quarterback Tanner McKee giving up 19 for 16. Kellen Moore and Doug Nussmeier on-field extension Will Grier, the fourth QB, had been wearing No. 16 and will presumably be choosing something else in the coming days,

Whether it’s 19, 94, or 75, Sweat’s first number as a rookie fourth-round pick out of Florida State in 2018, what the Eagles want to see from the 27-year-old is a return to his 2022 Pro Bowl form when Sweat recorded a career-high 11 sacks vs. the 2023 version who took a step back like most of the Eagles defense.

Sweat played a career-high 828 snaps last season, 173 more than his previous high of 655 in 2021, an average of just over 10 more per game. Add in the playoffs and Sweat’s number was 875 last season, 180 more than the 695 he totaled in the run toward Super Bowl LVII in 2022-23.

The entirety of the Eagles’ key cogs on a talented defensive front seemed to wear down late last season, becoming a little more undisciplined with the charge of freelancing bandied about by multiple team sources.

The Eagles signed edge rusher Bryce Huff to a three-year, $51.1 million contract in free agency, a player the organization believes is ascending. From there the writing was all on the wall and the organization gave both Haason Reddick and Sweat permission to seek trades with the intent of keeping one of the two. 

Sweat ultimately agreed to a restructured contract that kept him in a Philadelphia uniform this season and guaranteed him $10 million with incentives that could kick it up to $13M. Reddick, one of two NFL pass-rushers with double-digit sacks in four consecutive seasons, was dealt to the Jets for future draft capital.

That was a controversial decision because Reddick is the more proven commodity, as a two-time Pro Bowl selection during his two seasons with the Eagles and a 2022 second-team All-Pro, not to mention the spin of being a local product done good after growing up in the Delaware Valley and attending Temple University in Philadelphia.

On a more visceral level, Reddick had 30 ½ sacks in 38 games (including the playoffs) as a member of the Eagles and wrecked the 2023 NFC Championship Game en route to Super Bowl LVII.

And fans don’t care about getting younger (Reddick is set to turn 30 in September) at a more cost-effective rate (Reddick wants to be paid like a top edge rusher) for a longer shelf life.

The Eagles are living on the “edge” so to speak when it comes to their pass-rushers and it will take a village that includes Huff, and the dichotomy of second-year player Nolan Smith and the village elder, 15-year vet Brandon Graham, as well as Sweat.

Sweat and Huff are the ones who have to perform for new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and the former is the one in the prove-it environment was has to produce to stay in Philadelphia.

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John McMullen

JOHN MCMULLEN

John McMullen is a veteran reporter who has covered the NFL for over two decades. The current NFL insider for JAKIB Media, John is the former NFL Editor for The Sports Network where his syndicated column was featured in over 200 outlets including the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and Miami Herald. He was also the national NFL columnist for Today's Pigskin as well as FanRag Sports. McMullen has covered the Eagles on a daily basis since 2016, first for ESPN South Jersey and now for Eagles Today on SI.com's FanNation. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on YouTube.com. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey and part of 6ABC.com's live postgame show after every Eagles game. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen