Eagles Outlook: Ranking the importance of each Georgia Bulldog entering 2023
Over the past two years, the Eagles have collected several notable players from Georgia’s program.
GM Howie Roseman has made a concerted effort to acquire as many Bulldogs as possible; mostly through the NFL Draft, but he’s done so through free agency as well.
Entering the 2023 season, the Eagles will be relying on six former Bulldogs to make impacts. We have three rookies (Jalen Carter, Nolan Smith, and Kelee Ringo), two second-year players (Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean), and one veteran (D’Andre Swift). All of them will play a role on the team this year, but the importance of each player varies.
Let’s take a look at each former Bulldog and assess how big of an impact each will have this season, ranked from least important to most.
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6. CB Kelee Ringo
The Eagles selected Kelee Ringo in the fourth-round of this year’s draft and he’s the only player the team hasn’t signed from their draft class.
He joins a loaded cornerback room where each of the three starters are already in place. Darius Slay and James Bradberry will man the outside, with Avonte Maddox hunkering down in the nickel. Barring any major injuries, this won’t change at all during the season.
While Ringo brings a lot of athleticism to the position, he’s still pretty raw from a technical standpoint. Learning behind vets like Slay and Bradberry will probably give Ringo the best chance at NFL success. Thrusting him into action would only expose some of his underlying weaknesses.
Even if the Eagles suffer an injury to the cornerback position, there are a handful of other players ahead of Ringo on the proverbial depth chart. Zech McPhearson or Greedy Williams will probably be the first guys off the bench.
At the very least, Ringo’s athletic ability lends itself to being a solid contributor on special teams. That’s where he’ll see the most action in year one.
5. RB D’Andre Swift
Swift was acquired ahead of day two of this year’s NFL Draft. He comes to Philadelphia with just one year remaining on his rookie deal. There’s been some speculation that he could be more than just a one-year rental, but Howie’s track record with running backs tells us that’s probably not true. It’s not an indictment on Swift’s abilities, it’s just how Howie operates.
Regardless of what happens next offseason, Swift will add some much needed versatility to the Eagles running back room in 2023. He’s a great receiver out of the backfield, hauling in 156 receptions for 1,198 yards and seven touchdowns during his three-year career. He’s a tough runner between the tackles, and his open field burst leaves defenders in the dust more often than not.
Even with Swift’s potential, it’s not clear if he’ll be the bonafide RB1 just yet. He’ll have to beat out Penny during camp, and who’s to say Gainwell doesn’t give both of them a run for their money. We know Sirianni likes to ride the hot hand in his running back rotation.
Swift will obviously contribute, but with the amount of playmakers the Eagles have at the position, it lessens his importance. If he goes down, they have three other backs they can comfortably roll with.
4. EDGE Nolan Smith
Somehow, someway, the Eagles managed to snag Nolan Smith at the end of the first-round this year, after already securing his teammate, Jalen Carter, at ninth overall.
Smith should have a role in the Eagles pass rushing rotation from day one. His archetype is damn near identical to Haason Reddick, making him an obvious choice to backup the Eagles’ leading sack getter.
If I had to guess, I’d say Smith probably plays around 30 percent of the team’s defensive snaps this season. If he reaches 5-6 sacks, that would be ideal. However, he won’t technically be a starter and will probably be the second guy off the bench, behind Brandon Graham, which lowers his potential to make an impact.
The Eagles have a wealth of pass rushing prowess entering 2023. Seeing Smith put together an outstanding rookie season would be great, but it’s not necessary for the team’s success. As long as he’s a constant presence who can get home from time to time, the Eagles pass rush won’t miss a beat.
3. LB Nakobe Dean
Even with the NFL devaluing the linebacker position in recent years, the Eagles have managed to take it a step further and essentially disregard the position. Now, it’s important to note that there’s a chance Roseman acquires another backer before the start of training camp. But until then, we have to assume it’ll be Nakobe Dean running the show.
Simply put, the Eagles need Dean to have a positive impact this season. It’s tough even speculating who else will make the roster at the LB position, let alone start alongside Dean. Philadelphia has a whole lot of nothing at linebacker, making Dean’s development that much more important.
If he fails to step to the plate, the Eagles are back at square one next offseason searching for a suitable starter. His importance to the success of the Eagles defense this season cannot be overstated, even if he plays a position the team doesn’t necessarily value.
2. DT Jalen Carter
Regardless of his slight fall in the NFL Draft this year, no one would deny the football talent Jalen Carter brings to the table. He enters an Eagles DT room with one proven starter, Fletcher Cox, and a bunch of unknowns. He’ll certainly have an opportunity to showcase his talents during his rookie campaign.
There’s a ton of potential with the Eagles DT group, but they need someone to come in and grab the bull by the borns, so to speak. That’s where Carter comes in. I know, Jordan Davis is there as well (more on him in a bit), but Carter is the better overall prospect at the position.
He can do it all. From clogging up rushing lanes to getting after quarterbacks, he has the potential to be the true successor to Cox, based on their similar skill sets. By the end of the 2023 season, we’ll ideally know if Carter has what it takes to be the next face of the Eagles defensive front.
1. DT Jordan Davis
This top spot could belong to Davis and Carter, based on the value the organization places on the interior of their d-line. The only reason Davis is “more important” than Carter this year is because, frankly, Davis’ rookie outing was a bit underwhelming and we need to see more out of him this year.
In 13 games last season, Davis logged just 18 total tackles and didn’t record a single sack. His production really feel off in the second half of the season after he returned from injury.
His lackluster production in 2022 certainly does not mean Davis isn’t good. He was a rookie after all. Still, his leash will be that long this season. If Davis fails to show any signs of improvement this season, the ‘draft bust’ birdies are going to start chirping. And above all else, it could force the Eagles to reassess their future plans at the position and potentially spend more luxury resources at DT – despite using their last two first-round picks to shore up the position.
Davis’ success this season, or lack thereof, will drastically impact the Eagles defensive success in 2023.