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5 questions with Bleeding Green Nation: Are Javon Hargrave’s best days behind him?

Plus, a Hargrave’s nickname

San Francisco 49ers v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

From the outside looking in, it appears as though the 49ers struck gold during free agency by signing one of the most productive defensive tackles in the NFL.

We can sift through as many numbers and film to see what Javon Hargrave brings to the table, but we still wouldn’t get the entire picture. To help us out, Brandon Lee Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation was kind enough to answer five questions about the Niners prize free agent signing.

So, without further ado, here’s Brandon with the assist to tell us more about who Hargrave is as a player, including a nickname that’s new.

1 - How would you recap Hargrave’s time with the Eagles?

Hargrave ended up being a really good free agent signing. The Eagles clearly saw potential in his pass rushing ability, despite the fact he had only 14.5 sacks in 63 games with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Grave Digger ended up logging 23 sacks over 48 games in Philly. Only 20 players have more QB takedowns since the 2020 season. Allowing Hargrave to attack the quarterback more often as opposed to keeping him as a two-gapper paid off.

He notched his first career Pro Bowl berth in 2021, and he was one of the most egregious snubs in 2022. BGN’s Jonny Page wrote a post about Hargrave in late February titled: “Eagles All-22 Film Review: Javon Hargrave will be greatly missed if he’s not back.” I’d recommend 49ers fans check that out.

2 - What was the initial reaction once Philly fans found out Hargrave wasn’t returning?

Definitely a bummer, but not surprising. There was a sense that Hargrave was going to command a lot of money on the open market, especially after seeing Daron Payne get $22.5 million per year.

The Eagles had eleventy billion free agents this offseason, so they were in a position where key losses were inevitable. I think most Eagles fans would say they’re happy that Hargrave was able to get the money he deserved.

If there’s anything bad to say, it’s just annoying that he stayed in the conference, and he went to a team that the Eagles will conceivably once again be competing with to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. But no one should blame him for doing what was in his best interests.

3 - Do you believe his best playing days are behind him?

I don’t know that he’ll definitely reach double-digit sacks again. It’s possible. I do fully expect Hargrave to have at least two more high-quality seasons left in him.

He turned 30 in February, but he also entered the NFL as a 23-year-old, so, 2023 is going to mark his eighth season in the league. He’s been so good in recent years that, even if his best is truly behind him, he still has a lot to offer.

4 - What’s one area you’d call Hargrave’s biggest weakness?

Two things jump to mind here: run defense and consistency. Hargrave graded 100th out of 142 interior defenders in run defense by Pro Football Focus in 2022. He was 124th out of 129 in 2021. He was 107th out of 133 in 2020.

As always, PFF grades must be taken with a grain of salt. And one must consider they graded him as a good run defender when he was more of a two-gapper in Pittsburgh. But it’s not difficult to envision why Hargrave could have issues against the run. Measuring in at 6’1”, 309 pounds (via Mockdraftable), he’s not the biggest interior defender you’ll ever see. Some offensive linemen will be able to control him.

Depending on how he’s utilized, he might be more of a feast or famine run defender in terms of either exploding into the backfield for a TFL or leaving a hole for the runner to go through.

Speaking of inconsistency, it’s always felt like Hargrave’s sacks have come in bunches. He can get red-hot, like he was at the start of the 2021 season, when he had six sacks in the first five games. But then he went cold, with zero in the next six and just 1.5 over the final 11. In 2022, Hargrave had one sack in the first six games before exploding with six in the next three games. He’s hardly the first defender to be streaky in this regard, but it feels like he’s either especially up or down.

5 - Are there any fun stories or anything we should know about him off the field?

The Grave Digger is a cool nickname for almost any NFL player, but especially one who tries to put quarterbacks on the ground. So, there’s that.

As far as his personality goes, he’s a mild-mannered guy. Hargrave seemed to be respected by his teammates and coaches in Philly. I expect him to fit seamlessly in the 49ers’ locker room. He’s used to splitting snaps on a talented defensive line, so such a timeshare won’t be new for him, either.

I believe he’s a big Warriors fan, so that’s another bonus for local fans.