Eagles Find Malik Jackson’s Replacement, Sign Former Fourth-Round Pick

Akeem Spence

Getty The Eagles signed Akeem Spence to replace Malik Jackson on their defensive line.

The Eagles long search (read: one day) for a pass-rusher to replace Malik Jackson is over. The Eagles signed defensive tackle Akeem Spence on a one-year deal. Terms were not immediately disclosed.

Spence, who was released by the Dolphins in August, brings a strong pedigree dating back to his days at the University of Illinois. The 6-foot-1, 307-pounder spent last season in Miami where he started all 16 games and recorded two sacks, with nine quarterback hits and six tackles for loss. The Dolphins acquired Spence from the Detroit Lions for a conditional seventh-round pick in 2018.

In Detroit, he racked up three sacks in 11 starts after signing a three-year, $9 million contract. He was dealt mainly because Lions GM Bob Quinn was trying to stockpile draft picks. Originally a fourth-round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2013, the 27-year-old has accumulated 10.5 sacks and 179 total tackles, including 34 quarterback hits in parts of six seasons.

Lukewarm Scouting Report on Spence

Akeem Spence was drafted in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL draft out of Illinois. He was known as a run-stopper in college where he had 186 total tackles in three years. He entered the draft after his junior season and many scouts pegged him as a “flawed prospect.” Still, Tampa Bay thought enough of Spence to trade up two picks to snatch him away from Oakland at 100th overall.

The scouting report on Spence wasn’t exactly kind. He was applauded as being a very good run-stopper, a good guy to plug up the middle, but there wasn’t evidence he could develop into a strong pass-rusher at the next level. The major weakness on Spence was his lack of explosiveness off the line. According to Bleacher Report, he was destined for a “backup role as a long-term NFL player.” They specifically questioned his weak bull-rush.

Spence does not have a quick first step and is not explosive off the line of scrimmage. He can occasionally beat blockers for pressure with a good jump off the line, but he does not have many upper-body pass-rushing moves to work his way around blockers.

But even with his bull-rushing ability, Spence’s limitations as a pass-rusher may limit him to playing on rushing downs at the next level. He was not a very productive at getting to the quarterback in college, with just 3.5 sacks over three seasons.

Spence Plays with ‘Lot of Power’

Akeem Spence has been better than expected in getting to the quarterback, but he isn’t a game-changer. He has 10.5 sacks in 57 career starts, including 34 quarterback hits. It’s something Spence has worked hard to improve on.

“I play with a lot of power, real strong, great first step,” Spence told reporters in 2013. “I make a lot of plays chasing receivers down from behind, knocking the ball out and playing from sideline to sideline. I play hard.”

Off the field, he has no character issues. In fact, Spence was named the Detroit Lions Media-Friendly Good Guy Award in 2017.

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