Projecting the New-Look Eagles Defense

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Trent ColeNow that the Eagles have all these new pieces on the defensive side of the ball, the question becomes: how does it all fit?

It is important to remember that the offseason makeover is not yet complete. Free-agent signings and trades are still possible. The draft is more than a month away. But here is our best crack at how the defense would look with the roster in its current form.

Defensive line: Isaac Sopoaga is your nose tackle and Fletcher Cox is one of your ends in a base 3-4 alignment. It gets a little fuzzy from there. Right now you would have to project Cedric Thornton as the other end, though that could very well change by opening day. Ricky Jean-Francois would have been a decent solution but the Eagles couldn’t agree to terms with the former 49er. Look for the Birds to address this position in the coming weeks.

Linebacker: This one is a little tricky. Right now it looks like DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks would be on the inside. In play for the starting outside linebacker roles are Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and new addition Connor Barwin.  Barwin has experience in both outside linebacker roles. He racked up 11.5 sacks in 2011 when playing the open side but is really the only one out of the group that has real experience dropping into coverage on this level. Chances are, he will see time at both spots.

I have heard a lot of people talk about the possibility of Cole being traded. I don’t see it. The Eagles view him as a valuable player and one of the key character guys that can help set the culture they are looking for. Right now, I would pencil him in as a starter alongside Barwin.

That doesn’t mean Graham or Curry will be buried necessarily.

“In any defense, especially with the way the game is going now, you need to be able to rotate at the defensive line and linebacker position to keep things fresh,” said Barwin. “I don’t exactly how it’s going to work out but I know you need a lot more than two guys to do it.”

Cornerback: With Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie out of the picture, there are two spots up for grabs. Free-agent signings Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher look like the favorites to grab those jobs, but don’t use permanent marker for this one. The Eagles have always put a very high value on their corners and will likely try to bolster the position more before the offseason is through. Whether it is Dee Milliner at No. 4 or later in the draft, it is a good bet that they will select a corner or two come April.

Brandon Boykin‘s goal is to start on the outside, though the guess here is that Bill Davis will try to keep him in the slot.

Safety: There very well could be four new starters in the secondary this year. It would be no surprise to see Kenny Phillips and Patrick Chung atop of the depth chart when the season starts. It will be interesting to see how Nate Allen responds to the competition assuming the Eagles keep him around. Both new safeties have an injury history, so depth at the position will be key.

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