Eagles' Defensive Line Gets a Lift From Veteran Haloti Ngata

The Eagles have gotten some help down the stretch from an unexpected source.

A 34-year-old defensive tackle who missed a month of the season with a calf injury and whose playing time had been dwindling until a few weeks ago.

Remember Haloti Ngata?

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He's actually been showing up.

I think you're right," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said when asked if Ngata had indeed been playing better. "He went through a span in the middle of the season where he was injured, missed a couple games with that calf muscle. Even when he came back, he wasn't moving quite the way he can. He battled through that, and I think you're seeing him get out on the other side of that.

Ngata is in his 13th NFL season, his first with the Eagles. And after a lackluster preseason and an uneventful first few games, he sat out the Vikings, Giants and Panthers games with that calf injury.

When he returned, he wasn't effective.

With Tim Jernigan out and Ngata sidelined, the Eagles used two practice squad defensive tackles, Treyvon Hester and Bruce Hector, opposite Fletcher Cox.

There are a lot of reasons the Eagles surged at the end of the season to make the playoffs, and Ngata's resurgence is one of them.

It took most of the season, but we can finally see why the Eagles acquired Ngata this offseason. 

Schwartz thinks it's nothing more than Ngata just finally getting healthy.

"I don't know that it's been a big change or resurgence for him," he said. "He's just back healthy. It's hard for anybody to do anything when they're (hurt). I mean, he was trying his very best, but if your calf is not firing it's hard to move. Defensive tackles in this day and age need to move. They just can't be statues."

The Eagles could sure use a disruptive Ngata in the playoffs. He's a playoff-savvy guy with a Super Bowl ring from the 2012 season with the Ravens and eight trips to the postseason in all in his first 12 pro seasons.

No active NFL defensive lineman has played as many postseason games as Ngata:

         17 … Haloti Ngata

         13 … Ricky Jean-Francois

         12 … Calais Campbell

         11 … Brandon Mebane

         11 … Julius Peppers

         10 … Michael Bennett

         10 … Mike Daniels

         10 … Malik Jackson

His increased production the last few weeks is one of the reasons the Eagles have been so much better against the run.

They're allowing 89 yards per game during the 5-1 stretch after giving up 136 per game the previous five.

Whether it's been a tackle for a loss or pressure, the last couple weeks he's made a couple plays for us that have had a big impact on the game," Schwartz said.

The Eagles will need the 340-pound Ngata Sunday against a Bears team that loves to run the football - 29 ½ times per game.

Jernigan is finally back playing, too, so Schwartz actually has a nice interior rotation, with Cox, Ngata, Jernigan and Hester, who has been playing well in limited reps.

"He's also a little bit like Haloti," Schwartz said of Jernigan. "He's shown us flashes of the old Timmy. As he gets a little bit more practice and gets a little bit more reps, we look forward to more of that."

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