Eagles shut down possibility of Chris Long return after Malik Jackson injury: 'We're pretty deep at defensive end right now'
Long retired from the NFL in May, but the door remains closed on Eagles potentially convincing him to return
The Philadelphia Eagles aren't trying to coax Chris Long out of retirement, it's unclear whether Long would have accepted the invitation anyway. Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was asked Wednesday if the Eagles considered bringing back Long in the wake of Malik Jackson's foot injury that required surgery.
The Eagles weren't looking to upgrade Long's position on the defensive line.
"Just specifically D-tackles," Pederson said. "We're pretty deep at D-end right now so just the D-tackle spot."
The Eagles did sign a defensive tackle in the wake of Jackson's injury, adding former Miami Dolphins starter Akeem Spence to the defensive tackle rotation. Spence, who played for Eagles defensive assistant Matt Burke when he was the Dolphins defensive coordinator, started all 16 games for the Dolphins last season, finishing with 42 tackles, nine quarterback hits, two sacks and a fumble recovery.
"He's a big guy. Physical," Pederson said. "He can be disruptive. He definitely fills the need that we have there at that open spot. He will give us some really good minutes as a fourth tackle.
"But we'll get him on the field today, get him caught up, see how he moves around, and fits into the scheme."
So why would the Eagles sign a defensive end to replace a defensive tackle? In past seasons, the Eagles would move defensive end Brandon Graham inside to defensive tackle on pass-rushing downs and play Long on the outside. The Eagles signed Jackson, who was a three-down defensive tackle, which would reduce Long's role in the defense. The reduced role factored into Long's decision to retire in May.
The Eagles can still move Graham inside with Josh Sweat, Daeshon Hall and Shareef Miller as options for the No. 4 defensive end on the roster as all will be in line for more snaps. No. 3 defensive end Vinny Curry could also line up on the outside or inside on pass-rushing downs.
Philadelphia will start Tim Jernigan at defensive tackle while Hassan Ridgeway and Spence will enter the rotation. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz won't shut down the possibility of rotating his ends to tackle and tackles to end like in years past, even though he wanted to keep them at the same position over the summer.
"We can still do that," Schwartz said. "Fletch [Fletcher Cox] can do it, he's done it for us in the past. We have done that before, we can do it in the future. I don't think that takes us out of any packages like that."
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