Javon Hargrave: Over or underrated?
During the 2020 season, one of the more controversial topics was the signing of nose tackle Javon Hargrave. Last offseason, Howie brought him to the Eagles on a 3 year $39 million contract with $26 million guaranteed. Philadelphia was short on salary to begin with and needed to bring in key pieces in several other places, so the signing was met with criticism immediately.
In the modern day NFL, nose tackles are a dying breed. While they are effective, their lack of versatility between switching techniques like some defensive tackles can hurt their value. Javon Hargrave was the best pure nose tackle in 2019 and his signing looked to solidify the Eagles defensive line as one of the best in the NFL.
Eagles fans and Hargrave definitely did not get off on the right foot. Javon missed the first week of the season and several in training camp due to a pectoral injury that led to a slow start. While he was getting acclimated to the brand new system, his numbers didn’t look to be what was expected of him. By season’s end, Hargrave was really hitting his stride and performed a lot better than what was expected by fans after his rough start.
Looking at the numbers, the major reason Javon didn’t perform as well statistically was his number of snaps. In 2019, Hargrave played 63% of the defensive snaps in Pittsburgh and played all 16 games. In 2020, he played only in 58% of the snaps and one game less.
While it might seem close at first glance, Hargrave had 7 games where he played over 70% of the snaps in Pittsburgh in 2019. During his time in Philadelphia, he only eclipsed 70% twice. Pittsburgh also uses a system that relies on linebackers far more so it allowed him some more tackles on easy plays upfront. In Philadelphia, with all of the talent next to him, those numbers in terms of tackles weren’t there
The rest of the numbers aren’t that bad though. In 2020, Javon tied his career-high for QB hits with 8. During the 4 previous years, Hargrave averaged 5.5 tackles for loss and he finished with 5 in 2020. Even in sacks, his career average was 3.6 and Javon finished with 4.5, which is the second-most in his career.
As a nose tackle, the job isn’t always done on the stat sheet. Often it is about filling your gap and getting pressure on both the center and guards and letting those around you get the job done. There is no coincidence that this occurred while Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, and the entire Eagles defensive line had career seasons alongside Hargrave.
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