Roster Analysis: Evaluating the Eagles’ Defense
If you missed the offense, click here.
Now for the position-by-position look at what the Eagles’ defense looks like after initial cuts to 53.
Defensive line (7): Fletcher Cox, Isaac Sopoaga, Cedric Thornton, Bennie Logan, Clifton Geathers, Damion Square, Vinny Curry.
Chip Kelly has indicated that the plan will likely be to keep six defensive linemen active on gamedays and rotate them in. Cox (RDE), Sopoaga (NT) and Thornton (LDE) figure to be the starters. If Logan performs like he did in the preseason, he’ll be pushing for major snaps from the get-go.
Curry might have been the Eagles’ best defensive player in the preseason, but no one in the organization has indicated that he will have a major role in his second season. This is just a situation where we have to wait and see what happens in Week 1. That will tell us what the coaches really think of Curry.
Either Square or Geathers will likely be a gameday inactive. Square, an undrafted free agent, beat out seventh-round pick David King. Both Square and Geathers took snaps at defensive end and nose tackle in the spring.
Outside linebacker (3): Connor Barwin, Trent Cole, Brandon Graham.
Assuming he’s healthy and well-conditioned, Barwin’s not going to get many snaps off this season. He’s the only true 3-4 outside linebacker on the roster.
If the preseason was any indication, Cole will start at ROLB, and Graham will rotate in. The Eagles got rid of every other outside linebacker on the roster, including Chris McCoy, whom many (present company included) thought had a good shot to make it.
Howie Roseman was asked about depth here and said Curry could play outside linebacker in a pinch. He mentioned Casey Matthews’ name too. Obviously, those are not ideal options, so don’t be surprised if the Eagles add a player here in the coming days.
Inside linebacker (5): DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Jake Knott, Emmanuel Acho, Casey Matthews.
Ryans and Kendricks are the unquestioned starters and will rarely come off the field.
It will be interesting to see who’s active on gamedays from this group. Acho might be the best backup option should Ryans or Kendricks go down. Matthews didn’t seem to show much progress defensively in the preseason, but he had 14 special-teams tackles a year ago, second on the team.
And Knott is a bit of a wild card. The coaching staff and organization seem to love the undrafted free agent out of Iowa State. But they’ll have to determine if he’s ready to dress on gamedays from the get-go.
Cornerback (6): Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Hughes, Jordan Poyer.
I guess the Eagles were going for strength in numbers. The secondary is a giant question mark, but the team currently has 11 defensive backs on the roster.
Williams and Fletcher figure to start, with Boykin serving as the nickel. Marsh and Hughes both have hand injuries, but Roseman indicated neither is expected to be out for a considerable amount of time.
Poyer missed much of the spring because of NCAA rules, but came on late in camp, and the Eagles didn’t want to give up on the seventh-round pick.
Don’t be surprised if the team shakes things up here if other cornerback options become available.
Safeties (5): Patrick Chung, Nate Allen, Earl Wolff, Colt Anderson, Kurt Coleman.
Chung has one starting spot locked down. The other will be occupied by either Allen or Wolff.
Anderson is an ace special-teamer and will be active on gamedays. Chip Kelly raved about Coleman after the final preseason game.
Once again, not an ideal set of options, but the Eagles will try to piece something together at safety with these five guys.