July 3, 2023   3 MIN READ

Monster Of The Middle

2023 Season Preview Series: Carter Poised To Be Birds Top Rookie

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(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first story in a series by Inside The Birds’ Geoff Mosher and Andrew DiCecco previewing the 2023 season. In the first part, Mosher and DiCecco give their selections for most impactful rookie of 2023).

Jalen Carter

GETTY IMAGES: Rookie DT Jalen Carter, the 9th overall pick, can make a major impact early on the inside.

Andrew DiCecco’s pick: Jalen Carter

Given the uninspired collection of talent at safety, a conceivable case could be made for third-rounder Sydney Brown leap-frogging both Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith. Even if Brown doesn’t stake claim to a starting spot entering the season, the likelihood of eventually playing his way into the primary lineup in the early going feels inevitable.

However, taking into account age, mileage – and potential limitations – along the defense’s interior, it will be the first-rounder Jalen Carter remaining at the head of the class.

The Eagles made sure to put more talent around veteran Fletcher Cox, who appears primed for a reduced role after eclipsing over 700 snaps for the ninth time of his accomplished career. To best maximize his skill set, Cox, 32, appears best suited for a prominent rotational role entering Year 12.

Second-year pro Jordan Davis, selected in the first round in 2022, also factors into the equation. While Davis figures to assume the lion’s share of snaps, his usage could be somewhat predicated on the development of his pass rush.

Carter, known for his athleticism and power, represents the team’s most viable option at replacing the interior push lost when Javon Hargrave departed in free agency for San Francisco.

Geoff Mosher’s pick: Jalen Carter

It might seem obvious that Jalen Carter should have the biggest impact among rookies for the Eagles in 2023 given his pedigree and draft selection, but the former Georgia two-time national champion defensive tackle should have some competition despite being the ninth overall pick and widely viewed as the draft’s top defensive prospect.

Nolan Smith, the other first-rounder, has athletic traits comparable to teammate Haason Reddick (and rival Micah Parsons). Third-round offensive lineman Tyler Steen is a candidate to start right guard and third-round safety Sydney Brown could easily elbow his way into the starting lineup with a strong training camp, which means the Eagles could feasibly see major impact from their first three draft picks.

Don’t forget rookie free-agent Tyler Zentner, who has a chance to unseat incumbent Arryn Siposs as the team’s lone punter.

But the Eagles are banking on Carter’s quick development for the team to fill the void left by Javon Hargrave’s departure in free agency. Carter isn’t the pass-rushing specialist that Hargrave is but should be a more well-rounded interior force, someone who can defend the run, offer burst in the pass rush and play multiple spots along the line.

Carter won’t play 100 percent of snaps – no defensive lineman does – so it’s possible he logs less playing time than Steen or Brown, but his contributions in run support and ability to push the pocket will be the most welcome addition to a defensive interior that has some question marks.

The Eagles are lethal on the edges. Carter’s presence on the inside will make them dangerous once again from the inside-out.

– Geoff Mosher (@geoffpmosher) is co-host of the “Inside the Birds” podcast and Senior staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com. Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.

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