As expected, the Eagles’ defensive end battle has come down to the wire
As cutdown day looms, evaluators are often faced with a plethora of difficult decisions. While many of the roster battles have been decided in the early stages of training camp, the Philadelphia Eagles have a budding pass rush conundrum that appears to be coming down to the wire. With four defensive ends locked into roles for 2020, there are four players likely vying for presumably two spots.
Going into the offseason, Avery seemed like a safe bet to make the roster. After all, the Eagles parted with a fourth-round pick to acquire his services ahead of last year's trade deadline.
While the undersized pass rusher played just 33 defensive snaps and saw most of his time on special teams last season as he attempted to dissect the playbook mid-season, there was a reason for optimism entering his first offseason in Philadelphia.
Avery, measuring six-foot, 250 pounds, projects as a rotational fastball that can impact the pass rush in 10-12 snaps a game. However, the 25-year-old failed to separate from a crowded group and the bone bruise in his knee further complicates his immediate future.
Avery seemingly has a decided advantage over his fellow contenders, as the team made a substantial investment to make a long-term fixture on the defensive line. But, Avery had an uneven summer and now stands to miss the early portion of the season.
When the Eagles selected Miller in the fourth-round last year, they likely envisioned a scenario where he would be poised to assume a prominent role in the pass rush rotation by his second season.
Miller, who appeared in one game in 2019 -- playing just two special teams snaps -- was so much of a project that the team surrendered draft capital to acquire Avery. The 6-foot-4, 254-pound Miller has endured his share of peaks and valleys in his second training camp. He has been overshadowed by the next two hopefuls on this list.
With his second consecutive offseason of inspiring little confidence that he can provide quality snaps in an NFL game, what does the team do with Miller? Will draft pedigree factor into the decision or will his stagnant development be enough to cut ties prematurely?
It feels like Ostman has earned roster consideration each summer since signing as an undrafted free agent in 2018. His effort and relentless motor has drawn effusive praise from teammates over the years, and he was essentially a lock to make the roster before an August ACL injury scrapped those plans.
Ostman doesn't boast prototypical size for the position but gets by on determination and effort. He's added a vast array of pass rush moves to his arsenal from studying various pass rushers as part of his practice squad duties, and he's returned from injury looking much like the player he did last summer when he was primed for a roster spot.
Ostman's skill set translates favorably to how the team would like to deploy him in a joker role, and he also offers special teams upside. Perhaps this is the year that he finally appears in an NFL game.
Toohill was selected with the Eagles' final pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and met with little fanfare. He was billed as an undersized pass rusher that didn't blossom until his last season at Stanford.
Well, the 6-foot-5, 254-pound edge rusher parlayed an eight-sack, 11.5 tackle-for-loss senior campaign into an invite to the East-West Shrine Bowl and wasted little time before making a strong statement on the practice field. Matched up against tackles that outweighed him by upwards of 50 pounds, Toohill showcased a tenacious bullrush, violent hands, and relentless motor, often winning the better part of his 1-on-1 battles.
The same effort and urgency that Toohill demonstrated in his pass rush approach in St. Petersburg has carried over to training camp -- and has him on the doorstep on fulfilling his NFL dream. After a relatively quiet start to camp, Toohill has burst onto the scene like a man possessed in recent weeks, and will likely make the final decision-making process a bit more challenging than initially expected.