Ostman Has Been Eagles Secret Ingredient to Success
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Many Eagles fans had never heard of Treyvon Hester before the big defensive tackle's fingertips saved the team's season in Chicago this past Sunday.
Even fewer know Joe Ostman, Hester's defensive linemate who made an unexpected starring appearance in Doug Pederson's Monday press conference.
A rookie free agent defensive end out of Central Michigan, Ostman is known around the NovaCare Complex for his relentless work ethic, one which produced 13 sacks and a mind-numbing 19 1/2 tackles for loss during his senior season with the Chippewas.
THE WORK ETHIC
Ostman quickly caught the eye of Philadelphia defensive line coach Chris Wilson this summer but DE was probably the deepest position the Eagles had back in training camp with proven veterans Brandon Graham, Michael Bennett, Chris Long, as well as 2017 first-round pick Derek Barnett and 2018 fourth-rounder Josh Sweat.
The Eagles, though, weren't about to give up on Ostman, who landed on the practice squad for the regular season where he has developed into the new scout-team version of Steven Means, the high-energy veteran who was known for pushing the offensive line and a player Lane Johnson has credited with helping turn him into perhaps the best right tackle in the game.
"He works so hard," Wilson told 973espn.com when discussing Ostman earlier this season. "I really think he has a chance to be a good pass rusher in this league. He's just going to outwork a lot of guys."
PLAYING KHALIL MACK
At 6-7 on the season and needing to win out with a murderer's row of pass rushers on the horizon, starting with Aaron Donald in Los Angeles, and moving to Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt with Houston, Ryan Kerrigan in Washington and finally Khalil Mack with Chicago, the probability that the Eagles would even reach New Orleans and the divisional round of the playoffs was so inconsequential even Nate Silver rolled his eyes at crunching the numbers.
But, that's exactly what happened and as the Eagles start preparation for the Saints everyone knows about Nick Foles, the offensive line, Darren Sproles returning to health, the emergence of the young cornerbacks and even Hester now.
What they didn't know about was Ostman, at least until Pederson took an unsolicited timeout to bring up the 23-year-old scout-team sensation when asked about his offensive line.
"I think they rise to the occasion," Pederson said of the big guys up front, who have shut down the game's best pass rushers over the past month. "They rise to the challenge. Every time that -- or any time that we hear a lot about our opponent, especially the guys up front – and listen, you have said it. We have played a lot of really good defensive linemen this year, D-ends, D-tackles and it just seems like our guys have really embraced that opportunity and embraced the challenge and they have a great week of practice and preparation."
Then came the kicker:
"I'm going to tell you, Joe Ostman, he's a practice squad player, he was [Bears LB] Khalil Mack last week, he's been [Rams DT] Aaron Donald, and he gives us great looks and really that's where it starts," the coach said.
This week Ostman has been playing the Saints' Cameron Jordan in practice.
"It's been really helpful to study such great pass rushers," Ostman said. "It makes you work on things that have made them successful in order to give the guys good looks."
When 973espn.com mentioned Ostman to offensive coordinator Mike Groh on Tuesday, the praise was turned up a notch.
I"M GLAD YOU ASKED ME ABOUT JOE
"I'm glad you asked me about Joe," Groh said while smiling. "He has busted his tail all season long. He's a better player because of the way he approaches practice each and every day. Embraces the number or jersey we put on him and like you said, we've played some excellent pass rushers over the stretch of games here. He's usually been that guy, whether it be Aaron Donald or Khalil Mack or Jadeveon Clowney or J.J. Watt, all these really great pass rushers that we've played against.
"Joe has helped prepare the offensive line for that challenge."
And the result?
"I mean, you look at the way we protected the other night, it was outstanding," Groh said.
Ostman intends on making sure the protection remains outstanding in New Orleans.
"I'm happy to help the offensive line and from my standpoint, those guys are so good, it helps me," Ostman said.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen