The way things are going, Fletcher Cox is going to have more partners this season than Hugh Hefner.
Hassan Ridgeway figures to be the dreaded next man up following the Eagles’ latest loss along the defensive line, but Akeem Spence can expect to see a healthy dose of playing time when the Lions visit on Sunday.
As long as he stays healthy, that is. Not bad for a guy who watched Week 1 from the comfort of his own home.
Either Ridgeway or Spence will become the third tackle to start alongside Cox in three games. It’s a disconcerting trend given that meteorologists remind us each night that it’s still technically summertime.
»READ MORE: What we learned from the loss to Atlanta
Just as surprising has been the Eagles’ inability to generate a consistent pass rush. Some of it might be because Cox still doesn’t look right after having offseason foot surgery, but one sack out of the line in two games is not what was expected.
“You can rush well and still not get there. You can’t judge everything those guys do on the sacks,” countered defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. “You have to just judge it as team defense. ... It’s never one thing.”
Spence, 27, isn’t expected to start filling the sheet with sacks, of course. He signed with the Eagles last Tuesday and five days later got more work than even he could have expected Sunday in the loss to Atlanta.
“Yeah, I got a little winded when I was out there for an extended time, but that’s football,” said Spence, who played 21 of 66 defensive snaps (32 percent). “That just gives me something to work on this week. I might have to go do a couple extra sprints or something just to get my heart rate up and be ready to play extended time.”
That’s life in the NFL
Malik Jackson opened alongside Cox in the Week 1 win over Washington before a Lisfranc injury knocked him out for the season. Tim Jernigan was viewed as a viable replacement, but he reportedly broke a foot Sunday and will miss 4-6 weeks.
>>READ MORE: So what’s up with all of these Eagles foot injuries?
Ridgeway (31 snaps Sunday) and Bruce Hector (practice squad) are the other DTs on the roster. Ridgeway also plays special teams; so does Spence, but to a lesser degree.
“That’s part of the job description for coaches in the NFL. That’s part of the job description for players in the NFL,” Schwartz said. “We preach all the time that if you’re on our 63-man roster, if you’re here, if you have a seat, practice squad, regular, 53, 46, whatever it is, you’re going to have to be counted on at some point during the season, so get yourself ready.”
Spence is a seven-year veteran who played all 16 games each season from 2016-18. He was with Tampa Bay for four seasons, in Detroit in 2017, then traded to Miami in May 2018.
It’s only been two games, but Vegas’ odds on the horrid Dolphins to go 0-16 are around 3-1. He wasn’t so much let go by the Dolphins as he was rescued by the Eagles.
“I was there throughout OTAs, and I saw how hard guys worked to get into shape because that was [coach Brian Flores'] big thing,” Spence said, noting that Miami has been outscored 102-10. “It’s just one of those situations that I’ve never been part of and never seen before. ... That would be hard to come to work to.”
And this comes from a guy who played all 16 games when the Buccaneers went 2-14 in 2014.
But as much empathy as Spence has for his former mates, he flashed a wide smile when he considered his current situation. The Eagles’ odds to reach the Super Bowl are around 5-1. Spence has never played in the postseason.
“It’s the NFL. It throws you curveballs,” Spence said, reflecting. “I was sitting at home. That was my first Sunday being at home watching the opening week and then -- bang! -- I’m back.”