I was a little skeptical when the Eagles signed Haloti Ngata this offseason. He's 34 years old, 350 pounds and coming off a season-ending injury.
Then we found out Tim Jernigan needed back surgery and that Ngata would likely need to fill a bigger role. There was plenty of reason to worry.
And then, through the first couple weeks of training camp, Ngata was working with the second team and didn't seem to be having great practices, although it's hard for someone like him to shine in non-contact drills.
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But after watching the last two preseason games, I think the big guy has something left in the tank.
I'm not sure how much he'll be able to play this season without getting worn out and I'm not even sure if he'll be a starter because Destiny Vaeao has played well this summer too. But based on what I've seen against the Patriots and the Browns, Ngata can still play a little. That's great news for the Eagles and their depth on the interior, one of the more troubling spots with depth on the team.
Here are some plays:
Ngata didn't start the game, so he came in with just over five minutes left in the first quarter. This is his second snap. He's actually in there for Fletcher Cox, so he's next to Vaeao.
It looks like Baker Mayfield has a pretty nice pocket. But you see Ngata working 1-on-1 against the OL. At around 350 pounds, Ngata isn't the quickest player in the league, but he is strong. And if he gets a 1-on-1 against just about any OL in the league, he'll eventually overpower him. The question is about when that happens. In this case, he eventually pushes 315-pound Spencer Drango away.
Everything but the finish. Ngata needs to finish this play and get Mayfield to the ground, but you have to give credit to the rookie for not going down. Really, this play is even more impressive on his end.
Here's the full play:
While Mayfield got away, his pass went incomplete. Even though Ngata didn't get the sack, he was disruptive enough to throw the play off schedule. If he's able to do that with how good the Eagles' defensive ends are, just that alone is valuable.
On this next play, the Browns have eight guys on the line of scrimmage. That ought to be enough to stop the Eagles' four linemen. While the second level shows blitz, it backs off.
This is something I saw a couple times last week: Ngata getting doubled. It appears that the big man has some sort of gravitational pull. Because while he's getting doubled at the bottom, Cox is in a 1-on-1 situation at the top. The center tried to help with Cox just after the snap, but Cox tossed him aside.
Good things happen when Cox is in a 1-on-1 situation. So if teams decide to double Ngata this year, the Eagles will happily take that. That's a good rep for the big man.
Ngata isn't known for his pass rush. He's never had more than 5 1/2 sacks in a season and hasn't had more than 2 1/2 in a season since 2012. This defense might actually help him rush, but he's not going to pile up sacks this season. Although, he is about to show off a pretty impressive move.
An offensive lineman going against Ngata has to brace against his power. That's his go-to. But Ngata is about to show how great a little finesse move can work after setting up an offensive lineman with bullrushes all game. Now, Ngata is never going to use a speed rush, but this is some great quickness.
This is the big man spin move into a belly flop onto the quarterback. He actually beat Chris Long to Tyrod Taylor on this play. Party at the QB!
For this one, I want to go back to the New England game just once. This, to me, is the most important play that we've seen from Ngata so far this preseason. Sure, the pass rush is nice, but like I said, that's not why he's here. This is. He's about to completely blow up this running play.
Ngata just overpowers his man and clogs up the hole. The NE running back has nowhere to go. And it happens so fast, he can't even bounce it outside.
This more than anything is a great sign for Ngata. The Eagles brought him here to help stuff the run and it looks like he can still do it. Any big-man pass rush he offers after that is just a little bonus.
We don't really know when Jernigan is going to come back and that's still worrisome. But at least the Eagles seem to have better depth at DT than I thought they did just a few weeks ago.