By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor
A group of Eagles players has earned yet another honor. The latest honors involve four Eagles being named to Pro Football Focus’ top 101 players of 2018.
It should be known that these rankings only took into account performances during the 2018 season. Previous seasons have no bearing on this list, but the playoffs did.
Coming in at number 91 was Eagles tight end Zach Ertz.
While fans may argue that he belongs higher on the list, it should be known that PFF takes blocking into account for tight ends. Ertz absolutely had a season for the ages, setting a NFL record for most receptions by a tight end in a single season with 116. He also went for 1163 yards and eight touchdowns. He added 10 catches for 102 yards in the playoffs.
He has not previously made these rankings.
Ertz got off to a slow start in terms of both blocking and receiving. His blocking really improved down the stretch and he suffered from multiple drops during the first four games of the season which ultimately brought his overall grade down. If he is able to continue to improve his blocking abilities, there is no reason he won’t be climbing lists like these in the coming years.
Listed at number 64 is Eagles center Jason Kelce.
Kelce was once again the best center in the league according to Pro Football Focus. In fact, he is the only center to appear on the entire list. While he was not ranked as the top lineman overall this season, the veteran continued his dominance on the inside with guard Shaq Mason of the Patriots the only interior offensive lineman to rank higher.
Kelce played 95% of offensive snaps for the Eagles this season. The only player to play more of the offensive snaps during the 2018 season than him was Brandon Brooks.
It is Kelce’s improvement in pass blocking that has landed him on this list three times, but he fell from his rank of 25 last season.
Just breaking the top half of the list was defensive end Brandon Graham.
Doing things a bit different today, releasing all top 50 one-by-one from now through Friday, starting with No. 50 on the #PFFTop101:— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) February 6, 2019
Philadelphia @Eagles edge defender Brandon Graham pic.twitter.com/efBESzFRyw
A return to the Eagles seems highly unlikely at this point, but Graham overcame a high-ankle sprain that limited him early in the season to have another successful season for the Birds. He certainly was at his best when the must-win games came around.
Graham appeared in all 18 games this season and registered two defensed passes, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery to go with his 44 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 12 quarterback hits.
Graham makes the list for the fifth time in his career, but is trending downward. He ranked sixth in 2016 and twenty-sixth in 2017.
Coming in as the top Eagles player is defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. He is behind only the Defensive Player of the Year, Aaron Donald, the two MVP finalists, Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes and the ever-amazing DeAndre Hopkins for fifth overall.
Cox is an absolute force and is continually proving he was worth the massive contract that the Eagles signed him to a few seasons ago.
The undisputed leader of the front seven is Fletcher Cox. Cox was named NFC Defensive player of the week in week 17, was selected to the Pro Bowl and made PFF’s All-Pro team. He is the second best defensive lineman in the league behind only Aaron Donald. This season, he registered an absurd 95 pressures, which is more than any defensive tackle has ever registered other than the aforementioned Donald. He really broke out in weeks 14-17 when he led the league in pressures thanks to the return of Tim Jernigan and Schwartz placing Bennett inside at times. His season totals came out to 46 tackles, 34 QB hits, 10.5 sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a defended pass. While he only gets official credit for three tackles and a quarterback hit in the playoffs, he regularly beat his man, or in some cases men, and was in the backfield all night forcing Trubisky and Brees to hurry their passes.
Cox is an elite defensive tackle that would be the talk of the league and likely already be in Hall of Fame discussions if he were not playing at the same time as Aaron Donald. Cox blows out any other defensive tackle with his incredible play.
2018 was Cox’s seventh season in the league and his fifth appearance on the list. While he fell from 28 to 55 from the 2015 to 2016 season, but has been rising since then. He came in at 19 in 2017. If he can do better than five next season, Eagles fans have a lot to look forward to.