Film Review: Javon Hargrave continues to be the Eagles best kept secret weapon
Javon Hargrave is silently accumulating career numbers in the shadows of a loaded Eagles’ defensive line. His pass rush and ability to take on multiple blockers to free up his teammates do not get the national recognition he deserves since joining the Eagles.
Mostly playing nose tackle for the Steelers, Hargrave’s versatility allowed Jonathan Gannon to utilize him over the center or guard on his talented defensive line unit. With a new role and untapped pass-rushing skills, Hargrave set a career-high in sacks (7.5), total tackles (63), and QB Hits (18) in his second season with Philadelphia. It took him six years of clogging gaps and letting others shine in Pittsburgh before the South Carolina State product made his first NFL Pro Bowl as an alternate.
Hargrave did not stop his ascension to dominance after 2021. He topped that year with another monstrous campaign by totaling a new career-high in sacks (11.0), solo tackles (37), and tackles-for-loss (10). His double-digit sack total made him one of four Eagles to do so this season and put them in the NFL record books as the only team ever accomplish that feat.
Surely the accolades would follow, but as eight Eagles saw their names on the Pro Bowl list, Javon Hargrave again was an alternate. Instead, two other NFC East defensive tackles made it over him: Washington’s Jonathan Allen and New York’s Dexter Lawrence. Then the PFF All-NFL team came out, and Hargrave’s dominant season went unnoticed. Finally, the Associated Press named their All-Pro teams last week. Six Eagles earned first or second-team All-Pro in 2022, but not Javon Hargrave, who just enjoyed, statistically, the best football year of his NFL career.
I have nothing against Jonathan Allen or Dexter Lawrence’s Pro-Bowl seasons, but Javon Hargrave combines their playstyles into one of the most dominant interior defensive linemen in the NFL who no one seems to talk about. Jonathan Allen is a run-stopping monster with 16 TFLs and 32 run defense stops for the Commanders. Hargrave had 10 TFLs and 15 defensive stops comparatively. However, Allen’s ability to get to the quarterback is not his greatest strengths, with 47 total pressures and 7.5 sacks to Javon’s 57 pressures and 11 sacks in 2022.
Javon Hargrave is the Eagles defensive line’s point guard
I know the body type comparison does not work, but Hargrave’s willingness to take on multiple blockers and allow his teammates to thrive is like Chris Paul dishing out assists. He’ll put up points whenever he wants but is a pass-first “point god.” Javon’s presence on the field lets others get buckets or run stops if we go back to football terminology.
As the “point guard” in any sport, your job is to selflessly set your teammates up for success. Even though he had 11 sacks, Javon Hargrave demanded multiple blockers so that Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, or Fletcher Cox could obliterate their one-on-one matchups and easily get to quarterbacks.
In the “Sacks Created” stat via Seth Walder, Hargrave finished 5th in the NFL with 14.0, meaning he had the first pass rush win on a sack play rather than the player who finished it off, but can obviously can be the same guy. Hargrave’s 14 sacks created put him over players like Nick Bosa (12.0), Micah Parsons (11.0), Myles Garrett (10.5), and Jonathan Allen (9.5). Dexter Lawrence did not make the Top 16 for the 2022 season.
Javon Hargrave is a better run defender than PFF suggests
Despite grading as a bottom-tier run defender, Javon Hargrave’s gap discipline and power to fight through double teams are everywhere on tape this season. In the first video against New Orleans, he sets the edge, so Kamara has nowhere to run except back inside, where three Eagles are waiting to bring him down. There’s a reason he set a career-high for solo tackles and TFLs with his strength to push guards off him and the frame to jam up running lanes.
Not only does the six-foot-two, 305-pound wrecking ball control his gap assignments and use that frame to hold his ground, but he also has that down-the-line speed to create tackles for loss or minimal gains.
Quarterback pressures directly led to four interceptions
Despite having fewer quarterback pressures than last year, Hargrave directly influenced four (arguably five) of the Eagles’ 17 interceptions. Two came against Kirk Cousins in the Vikings blowout win, one against Cooper Rush, and lastly against the legendary quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. We’ll credit the other Cooper Rush interception to Brandon Graham, even though both players were right in his grill.
Javon Hargrave, Certified Sack Artist
In these clips, Javon Hargrave is generating pressure from a nose tackle and defensive tackle position, a rare combination in the NFL. The former Steeler does not have to get to the quarterback to cause havoc in his pass rush. Teams have to double someone on Jonathan Gannon’s defensive line, so it’s usually not fair when Javon is left one-on-one in a pass-rush situation. You don’t expect an interior defensive lineman to have the finesse moves or speed off stunts that Hargrave possesses.
Setting a career-high in sacks in consecutive years is a substantial accomplishment for any NFL player, let alone a defensive tackle. Hargrave’s bull rush is his bread and butter for bringing pressure up the heart of an offense. His 17.4% win rate ranked 5th among all interior defensive linemen, and PFF gave him respect with the 3rd highest pass-rush grade among interior defensive linemen (90.8).
According to PFF, the only three interior defensive linemen to finish in the top five over the last two seasons are Chris Jones, Aaron Donald, and Javon Hargrave. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Hargrave is an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Spotrac currently approximates his market value at around 3-years $60.5 million, so maybe he won’t stay out of the national spotlight for much longer. It would be a miracle if Howie pulled off his annual salary cap magic and somehow re-signed a top interior defensive lineman entering his prime.
Featured Image Credit: Sports Illustrated