Eagles Assistant Coach Shouts Out ‘Unicorn’ on Defensive Line

Javon Hargrave

Getty Eagles pass rushers Javon Hargrave, Fletcher Cox, Josh Sweat celebrate after sacking Matt Ryan.

The unicorn is a mythical beast, one possessing magical abilities in centuries-old fables. These legendary animals don’t exist in real life, although the term gets thrown on athletes with rare talents. Luckily, the Philadelphia Eagles have one of those fairy-tale players.

Javon Hargraves is a football unicorn, according to defensive line coach Tracy Rocker. His quick movements and winning attitude have won over the Eagles’ coaching staff. Not only that, the ex-Steelers defensive tackle has become an invaluable resource in the meeting room when dissecting game tape.

“Hargraves, that man is a unicorn,” Rocker told reporters. “I’m going to tell you, the guy comes out prepared, he’s in great shape, great leader. The thing is, if you guys can ever sit in my meeting room and just hear him coach some of the guys up on some of the techniques — yea, I coach him up but I don’t play anymore, so they’re in there — so that’s the plus side of having him there.”

Hargraves registered a career-high 7.5 sacks in 2021 while earning his first Pro Bowl nod. Credit hard work and smarts for his development into one of the league’s most feared interior pass rushers. He might not be as physically imposing as Fletcher Cox — Hargraves is listed at 6-foot-2, 305 pounds — but don’t be fooled. He’s equally, if not more, disruptive in pads.

“He doesn’t look like Fletch. He’s not the tallest guy and he’s not the biggest, but this guy has quick twitch, great hips, great footwork. And strong, and has a great attitude,” Rocker said. “I think in this game of football we are all enamored by the athlete because to be successful you have to be a great athlete, but also you have to have great people. And that’s one thing that I’m very proud of, we have great people in that [defensive line] room.”

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Holding Up That Tough Philadelphia Reputation

The Eagles have long prided themselves on hard-hitting, no-nonsense defenses. It just makes sense considering Philadelphia’s reputation as a blue-collar town. In fact, the 1991 Eagles’ defense — Buddy Ryan’s blueprint, coached by Bud Carson — was named the greatest of the past 30 years (via Football Outsiders).

So, yes, there is a standard to uphold on that side of the ball. Rocker, entering his second season in charge of Philly’s defensive line, knows the history.

“We know this is a quarterback-driven league and it’s important that you have some rush — and Howie [Roseman], he created it, and we’re glad for it — and we feel good about it,” Rocker said. “But the deal is, you know one thing about the Philadelphia Eagles: it ain’t just happen, it’s always been tough, and that’s one thing about the defense here. They’re tough, and that’s the respect that I had when I got here. And that’s the respect that’s going to be there when I leave. They have a reputation to uphold and that’s what I enjoy about here.”

How good is the 2022 Eagles’ defense? Brandon Graham called it the best unit he’s seen since arriving here in 2010. No pressure, though.

Jordan Davis Working Hard, Turning Heads

Rookie Jordan Davis is hard to miss on the practice field. He’s 6-foot-6 and 340 pounds, more of a freak show than a unicorn. That’s a compliment, by the way. The first-round pick out of Georgia projects to be the starting nose tackle for the Eagles this season, assuming he keeps his head down and learns the system. Which Davis has been doing early on at training camp.

“Typical rookie, learning how to play the game, every day it gets faster and faster,” Rocker said of Davis. “But my thing is, he cares and he wants to get better. I’ve been enjoying coaching him.”

Hargrave added: “He’s just coming along every day. He’s just picking up on the plays and the techniques, the different techniques we play, and he’s keeping his head down and keeps working. Like I say every day, he’s improving.”

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