PHILADELPHIA — Sunday’s performance by the Philadelphia Eagles’ newest defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh in a 17-16 win over the Indianapolis Colts felt like make-believe.
Joseph was signed on Wednesday and Suh on Thursday of last week. Neither had been with an NFL team since last season. They both had just a few days to acclimate to a new defense in a new town with new teammates. It seemed far-fetched that they’d be able to contribute in a meaningful way on such short notice, but that’s what they did: Joseph played 40 percent of the defensive snaps and Suh 26 percent, and combined for seven tackles, two quarterback hits and a combo sack.
“I promise you, I’ve been dreaming about this moment: getting an opportunity, coming on a team, being a spark plug, helping a team win,” Joseph said. “Everything that happened [Sunday]I promise you I had a dream about it.”
They helped plug an injury-hit defensive front that had sprung some leaks of late, particularly against the run game. Colts standout back Jonathan Taylor was held to 35 yards on 15 carries after racking up 49 yards on seven carries on the opening possession. It’s not a leap to suggest the Eagles would have lost such a tight game without their contributions.
• What do the Giants need to see from Daniel Jones?
• Definitive oral history of the Butt Fumble
• Adams a ‘different’ WR during tear
• Lions’ Williams taking lead role in streak
• Suh, Joseph signings paying off for Eagles
• Bengals offense thriving without key stars
• Defense a new concern for the Broncos
It took a full organizational effort to turn it into reality, according to coach Nick Sirianni. It started with general manager Howie Roseman working his “magic” and getting them signed on consecutive days to matching, incentive-laden one-year contracts. Then it went to football operations director Katie David and director of team travel and team logistics Dan Ryan to quickly get them into the building. From there, they were handed over to the trainers to get their physicals knocked out.
Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon designed specific packages to build Suh and Joseph into the existing defensive structure. Defensive line coach Tracy Rocker had to get them familiar with technique, verbiage and assignments lightning-quick. It took Joseph and Suh studying night and day to make sure they had it down pat.
“It’s a full-blown process, which is why this is a great team sport and why this is a great organization led by Mr. [Jeffrey] Lurie,” Sirianni said. “Unbelievable job by the entire building.”
Joseph is 34 years old and Suh 35. Both 13-year vets, there isn’t a defensive system or call they haven’t played in, which helped with the transition. Each stayed in shape while waiting for the right opportunity to chase another Super Bowl ring. Suh’s mom is mad at him for deciding to play again — she’s never been happy about him playing football, Suh said, concerned about his health — and he has 19-month-old twin boys that he knows will miss him while he’s away . But he said the relationships he has in the building with guys like cornerback Darius Slay and vice president of player performance Ted Rath helped tip the scales towards joining the Eagles.
“It’s good to be back [in the league],” Suh said. “Happy we got the win most importantly. I just want to continue to add value and be one of the guys to help this team get into the playoffs and hopefully reach a championship.”
Philadelphia had yielded 150-plus rushing yards each of the previous two weeks to the Houston Texans and Washington Commanders. The loss of rookie defensive tackle Jordan Davis to a high ankle sprain in Week 8 played a big part in that. The defensive tackle depth behind Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave was further diminished when Marlon Tuipulotu was put on injured reserve last week with a knee injury.
Joseph and Suh, both former Pro Bowlers, stepped right into the vacancy and made an immediate impact. Joseph started the game and tackled Taylor on the first play from scrimmage. Suh and Joseph often shared the field and made their presence felt throughout, including when they clobbered quarterback Matt Ryan simultaneously midway through the third quarter for a combined sack.
“Man, them boys looked like they were ready to go, like they’ve been here for a while,” said defensive end Brandon Graham. “I am thankful for them because they kept us up all throughout the game. They had a great attitude throughout the game. It was cool to play with Suh and LJ.”
When asked about what they were able to accomplish with such a short turnaround, center Jason Kelce joked:
“Well, they’re fresh. They haven’t been doing anything for months since last season. They should have some fresh legs.”
There’s some truth in that. Joseph remarked earlier in the week that he was more concerned about his second game than the first as he works himself back into football shape and tries to recover from the aches and pains his body hasn’t had to deal with in months.
Even if there is a dip in production against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night (8:20 pm ET, NBC), their debuts showed that Suh and Joseph have something left in the tank, which bodes well for the 9-1 Eagles’ chances of sustaining success down the home stretch.
“Suh and Linval, they both played really outstanding games. It was great to get them going,” Sirianni said. “It speaks to the types of players they are, the types of pros they are, the types of teammates they are, and look forward to continuing to mixing them in to an already outstanding defensive line that I think a lot of teams in this league would be salivating to have.”