PHILADELPHIA — Haason Reddick wouldn’t be denied.
No, 60 minutes from a Super Bowl, the Camden, NJ. native and Temple alum, had a chance to reach the pinnacle. He could do so while playing on the same field he donned an Owls uniform in college, after twice being cast off NFL rosters. Reddick was determined to make an impact on the NFC Championship Game.
Boy, did Reddick ever, mere days after not being listed among the finalists for NFL Defensive Player of The Year.
Reddick registered 2.0 sacks, one of which limited Kyle Shanahan’s playbook drastically when San Francisco 49ers QB Brock Purdy left the game due to an elbow injury and was forced back into action late. In the process, Reddick didn’t just pave the way to the Philadelphia Eagles’ 31-7 blowout, but he also set the franchise record for most sacks in a single postseason run.
Now, Reddick is just two sacks shy of tying the NFL single postseason record of 6.0 sacks. He’ll get the chance to tie — or even break it in the Super Bowl.
“He really is an underrated, under-appreciated top-tier pass-rusher,” an NFC Defensive Line coach told Heavy, of Reddick, who now has 20 combined sacks between the regular season and playoffs.
Beyond a player elevating his game into the elite tier of his position in a scheme that emphasizes relentless pressure on the quarterback, Reddick’s success in 2022 is emblematic of how general manager Howie Roseman rebuilt the Eagles into a Super Bowl team for the second time in five seasons.
Philosophically, going back to when Andy Reid held the controls, Roseman and the Eagles have always emphasized dominance along both lines of scrimmage. Signing Reddick to a three-year contract worth $45 million, was just one move, but arguably the most impactful Roseman made to buttress the defense with experienced veterans.
Cornerback James Bradberry was scooped up after the division rival New York Giants cut him as a cap casualty. Roseman traded for veteran safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and added veteran leadership in the heart of the defense with inside linebacker Kyzir White.
“I’ve never played on a team with any individuals who get after the quarterback like these guys,” White told Heavy in the Eagles locker room after the game, pointing in the direction of Reddick and the defensive line. “It’s easy to play linebacker behind them because if they don’t get the ball out in the blink of an eye, sack.”
But, the signing with the most upside, that paid the biggest dividends, was Reddick. Somehow, the Carolina Panthers let Reddick walk after producing 11 sacks and finishing with the No. 4 highest pass-rush win rate in the NFL in 2021. This came after the Arizona Cardinals opted not to sign him to a second contract despite 20 sacks in his first four seasons.
“What’s crazy,” the defensive line coach said. “Is Somehow, Haason was lost in the shuffle due to coaching staff changes in Arizona and Carolina, and poor evaluation of his skill-set.”
The Panthers’ loss, is Roseman and the Eagles’ gain.
“Haason made an absolutely huge impact for them,” an AFC Scouting Director told Heavy. “He’s not just a pass-rusher, he’s a tone-setter. He’s impactful because of his ability to rush on the offensive right side, and in the view of the quarterback, which hurries up his timing, as you saw time and again this postseason.”
According to the scouting director, many inside the league viewed Reddick as an inside linebacker ahead of the 2017 NFL Draft, despite the fact that he produced 17.5 sacks and 47 tackles for loss in three-plus seasons as a starter.
On Super Bowl Sunday, in Glendale, Ariz., the Eagles will face their most daunting task yet; limiting Patrick Mahomes, who appears to be getting healthier and more motivated than ever, after dispatching the Cincinnati Bengals to reach his third Super Bowl.
Reddick has more than proven his value to the Eagles’ defensive dominance. Now, he has the chance to bring home Philadelphia’s second Lombardi, perhaps making some history in the process.
Quote of The Week
“Hey, I’ve got some wise words for that Cincinnati mayor … Know your role and shut your mouth, you jabroni!” – Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, following Sunday’s AFC Championship win.
This really was an unforced error, poking the Kansas City size grizzly bear, by Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval, ahead of the AFC Championship Game:
It’s one thing for fans to label Arrowhead Stadium “Burrowhead,” but this was a ridiculously over-the-top taunt by an elected official, that was undoubtedly used by Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and the Chiefs as bulletin board material.
Sunday evening, with the red and gold confetti swirling in the Missouri air, it was wholly obvious that the Chiefs took Pureval’s proclamation personally.
Pureval’s statement serves as a cautionary tale for Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, who might want to avoid poking the Chiefs’ prolific bear.
Final Thought: Chicago Has Bear of an NFL Draft Dilemma
MOBILE, Ala. — The Senior Bowl boldly proclaims “The Draft starts in Mobile,” but this year’s NFL Draft starts with the Chicago Bears … who face a colossal decision of identity.
Did the Bears, led by second-year general manager Ryan Poles, head coach Matt Eberflus, and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, see enough from Justin Fields — whom neither Poles nor Eberflus drafted, to stick with the 2021 first-round pick as their future?
Or, after watching Fields complete 60.4 percent of his passes in his second NFL season for 2,242 yards with 17 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, while adding 1,143 yards and eight more touchdowns, will the Bears’ brain trust boldly look to build around the quarterback of their choosing; Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud or Alabama’s Bryce Young with the No. 1 overall pick?
“I have great confidence in Justin,” Getsy said, at the Mobile Convention Center, ahead of Senior Bowl practice. “You saw the growth that he had a year ago to where he is now. He still has a long way to go to where we want to be, he knows that. Nobody knows that better than Justin. We’ll see what we can do this upcoming season.”
Fields showed marked improvement as the season wore on, especially as it became apparent Getsy and the staff had tailored a scheme around the best traits of his skill set. The Bears certainly benefited from even the threat of Fields’ mobility in the red zone, where the 23-year-old’s 62.2 completion percentage ranked No. 7 in the NFL.
“I think that’s the biggest question mark, who do we have?” Getsy said, of how the Bears’ scheme was constructed. “It all gets put on Justin, and it involves Justin, but it involves all 11. So we’ve got to figure out who those 11 are going to be.”
The Bears’ dilemma reaches beyond just how committed the organization is to Fields. Poles may consider putting on the rouse that Chicago would take a quarterback in an effort to skyrocket the trade value for the No. 1 selection, but with the Houston Texans drafting at No. 2, the Bears will almost certainly receive plenty of phone calls.
“There are a lot of variables when it comes moving out of the top spot,” an NFC Personnel Director told Heavy. “Especially thinking about how far you’d be willing to trade back, and how many teams are interested in moving up.”
Some league sources here for the Senior Bowl suggest that the Bears could conceivably trade back twice if Poles can manufacture a smokescreen that Chicago is interested in a quarterback that a team such as the Houston Texans are intent on targeting, moving to pick No. 2 — potentially for multiple first-round picks, and sliding down again to either pick No. 4 (the Indianapolis Colts), or No. 5 (Seattle Seahawks) and still happily select a player they’d have been thrilled to choose No. 1 overall.
Likewise, Chicago could stay put, and select the top player on their board; presumably Alabama EDGE Will Anderson, Georgia lineman Jalen Carter, or try to recoup a king’s ransom from a quarterback-needy team.
If that’s the Bears’ strategy, Chicago would effectively be going all-in with Fields as the future. After last season, Getsy believes Fields at least has the temperament to handle that pressure.
“He took command of the team,” Getsy said. “His confidence grew. All that stuff is important when it comes to taking the team where you want to go. He put the team on his back for a few weeks there, showed that he’s able to do it. I think that leadership point is really good for him.”