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  • Brian Baldinger


Brian Baldinger - On the Eagles

It was April 27, 2017. A Thursday night. On JFK Parkway in Center City Philadelphia the annual NFL Draft was taking place and it was straight pandemonium in and around the Parkway leading up to the now famous steps that Rocky Balboa climbed over 40 years ago in the first “Rocky” film.

Myles Garret was the unanimous first selection that night to the Cleveland Browns.

It was almost without fanfare. But as the night entered the second hour of selections the Eagles selection drew nearer.

And with it the anticipation of what the Birds would do with their No.14 pick in the first round became unhinged.

Excitement unmatched until 10 months later when the Birds would claim their first ever Super Bowl Title and the whole city and their forefathers was officially unhinged.

But on April 27 the Arizona Cardinals had the No.13 pick and they selected, from Temple University, Haason Reddick.

It was a huge moment for Reddick and the University just up North Broad Street where he made a real name for himself under the leadership of Matt Rhule.

The selection was drowned out by the announcement that the Eagles were now, "on the clock" With the No.14 pick the Birds would take Tennessee's Derek Barnett.

He just happened to break all of the Eagles all-time greatest player, Reggie White, sack record at Tennessee. Philadelphia for that weekend seemed to be the center of the universe.

Today, both Reddick and Barnett are teammates after the Birds inked Reddick to a free agent contract while they also brought Barnett back on a one year deal.

Haason Reddick coming out of the tunnel in Charlotte, NC last season, playing for the Carolina Panthers against the Eagles. Reddick performed like he was auditioning for the Birds. It worked. He recently signed a three-year deal with the Eagles worth $45 million. Photo by Andy Lewis

Reddick is a local hero straight outta Camden, NJ. He attended nearby Haddon Heights High School where he played running back and safety. Four games into his senior season he fractured his leg and his high school career ended rather unceremoniously.

Without many college offers to choose from, Temple seemed like a logical choice. Rhule was taking two-star and three-star players who were overlooked and training them hard. The hashtag #templetough was a mantra that many players wore with a badge of honor.

The key to his NFL stardom would be how would teams view him? More inside linebacker or outside edge pass rusher.

He was best at Temple when he could use his exceptional quickness off the edge and chase quarterbacks. But the Cardinals didn’t see it that way. They had Chandler Jones and others who were adept at rushing the quarterback.

They wanted an off-the-ball inside linebacker who could use his speed to chase running backs and help shut down plays before they got started.

The experiment was not successful. Playing the "money linebacker" position behind incumbent Deonne Buchanen. In his first three seasons in the desert Reddick combined for 7.5 sacks.

They declined his fifth-year option.

But in his fourth season they moved Reddick permanently to rushing off the edge and he produced 12.5 sacks and six forced fumbles.

He single handedly beat the New York Giants with five sacks of Daniel Jones and three forced fumbles. The Cardinals let him test free agency and sure enough; Matt Rhule entering his second campaign with the Panthers scooped Reddick up.

Haason Reddick earned every bit of his "Temple Tough" No. 7 while playing for the Owls. Photo by Jesse Garber.

Rhule and defensive coordinator Phil Snow knew exactly how to use Reddick. It didn’t hurt that when the Birds came to Charlotte in week 4 of the 2021 season,

Reddick sacked Jalen Hurts 2X and harassed him throughout the afternoon.

When the Birds won the Super Bowl in 2017, part of their success was an eight-deep rotation on the defensive line. Chis Long became a situational pass rusher and enjoyed some of the biggest moments of his career in that role.

The Birds have struggled to put an eight-man rotation together since that glorious run five years ago.

With the addition of Reddick and Barnett to go with Josh Sweat and Tarron Jackson and possibly a return of Brandon Graham, they could really be in good shape to hunt QB's into the postseason while staying fresh throughout.

It is considered a deep draft in edge rushers so more fresh young reinforcements could be on its way.

Haason is more than capable of playing a 4-3 defensive end with his hand in the dirt, or in a two-point stance.

He also can be a standup 3-4 OLB and do all the things necessary from that position. But ideally you want Reddick rushing off the edge as much as possible. He plays with great leverage and has acquired a variety of moves to beat tackles and combination protections designed to mitigate the talents of Reddick.

It is a great story of a local kid with family still in the area and coming to play for the team he grew up watching.

But it’s a better story because he immediately is the Birds best rusher accumulating 23.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles over the past two seasons.

It took a few missed steps and a couple of unproductive seasons before teams began to understand the talents of Haason Reddick. He is still only 27 years old with a lot of good football left to play in front of him.

The only difference now is he will be doing it in a mean Eagle green uniform. *

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