Confident Qualls Has Opportunity to Impact Eagles’ Defense
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Sixth-round picks aren't guaranteed much in the NFL but Elijah Qualls arrives in Philadelphia with an excellent opportunity to contribute to the interior of Jim Schwartz's defensive line.
The starters are set with trade acquisition Tim Jernigan set to step in for the departed Bennie Logan next to star Fletcher Cox but with Beau Allen on the shelf after tearing his pec in the weight room, the only reserve with any experience is second-year man Destiny Vaeao.
Enter Qualls, the versatile Washington product with the confidence of a premium pick despite possessing the frame of an undrafted free agent, 6-foot-1 with short arms.
"I am stronger than most people, and I have better leverage," the 313-pounder said during his introductory conference call. "(My body) works for me, trust me. I make it work."
There is a little bit of an edge to Qualls and it's understandable because he's very athletic for his size and has also shown the versatility to play on the nose or as a three-technique, the kind of interchangeable skill set Schwartz likes.
"I can play either one, and I am fine with either one," Qualls said when asked which position he prefers. "There are definitely some things I like about one position better than the other, but as far being comfortable with (one over the other), I like them both.”
A willingness to take on any role being asked will go a long way with a taskmaster like Schwartz.
"I'm somebody that is going to do whatever it takes to help my team win," Qualls continued. "But at the same time, being a baller and a competitor, I obviously like making my plays. So being able to get freed up and do what I actually feel like I'm better at is exciting for me."
That's something the Eagles' one-gap attacking scheme provides to its defensive lineman as opposed to the old 3-4 read-and-react system that Chip Kelly and Billy Davis preferred.
Qualls' NFL career really begins on May 12 when the Eagles kick off their rookie minicamp and the California native plans on making his doubters regret their decision to pass on him.
"I knew that whoever picked me up, they were going to get one of the best picks of the draft," Qualls said. "I'm going to prove to them as soon as I get to league why everyone who didn't pick me (made a mistake) and why honestly they should have picked me earlier."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen