Wake-Up Call: Logan And the Azzinaro Effect

Eagles DT Bennie Logan on fieldBennie Logan was checking his Twitter feed and kept getting messages that read something to the effect of: “Now is your time.” That’s when he knew something was going on.

Veteran nose guard Isaac Sopoaga had been shipped to New England at the trade deadline, thrusting the third-round pick out of LSU into a starting role.

“It caught me by surprise,” said Logan. “I looked up to Isaac. He was a great influence on me, a great leader. But the next day, once I came here [to the NovaCare facility], I was like, ‘It’s time for me to step up and go forward. Can’t look back. He’s not here anymore. It’s just all on me now.’ “

Sopoaga’s brief stint in Philadelphia was a disappointment. Still, it says something about the organization’s confidence in Logan that it was comfortable removing the safety net and placing the starting tackle job in the hands of a rookie. So far, Logan has rewarded that confidence.

He has 23 tackles, two sacks and three hurries on the year. More important than stats, Logan is at the center of a defensive front that is, as Mychal Kendricks said, “killing it, bro.”

The linebackers have been the biggest beneficiary of the front’s work. The trio of Logan, Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton (along with the rest of the rotation) have been effective at occupying blockers, allowing Kendricks (who is currently sidelined with a knee injury) and DeMeco Ryans to roam free. According to team stats, that duo has 213 tackles between them through 10 games. Billy Davis has said on multiple occasions now that Ryans is having a Pro Bowl year. Ryans consistently credits the d-line for letting him work.

“I think this gets lost in it, but every single practice Azz [d-line coach Jerry Azzinaro] takes those guys on the sled, and they hit the sled, which is really uncommon in the NFL,” said Davis. “The level of fundamental work we do on the defensive line, and we felt that we had to have that happen for us to grow into a two‑gap system, and the young guys by the way they’re playing and the techniques, their footwork, their hand placement, I think it’s a tribute to the coaching they’re getting at the position level and their willingness to dive in and ‑‑ you see that in the run game, and it’s also why DeMeco and Mychal are productive. The front line always has a lot to do with how the inside backers are playing.”

The defensive front is making the job of Ryans — the quarterback of the defense — easier in more ways than one. Under the tutelage of Azzinaro, the defensive line has a sound understanding of concepts beyond their own positional play. They are capable of making their own checks pre-snap, according to Clifton Geathers.

“He got us football smarter,” said Geathers of Azzinaro. “We can look at backfield sets, we can make checks on the d-line. We know what to do and we know where the linebackers are going to be. We can say certain things and we can do certain things and the linebackers understand what we’re doing.”

The Eagles have allowed just one 100-yard rusher this season, and have held opponents to under 100 rushing yards in five of their last six outings. Cox is 22 years old. Thornton, one of the year’s biggest surprises, is 25. Logan, 23, is the greenest of the bunch. Together, they make up a unit that is suddenly gushing with promise.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Sheil uses the All-22 to show how the running game got back on track.

DeSean Jackson expounds on his comments about the hometown fans.

Even after talking to Pat Shurmur about the replay situation in Green Bay, something doesn’t add up.

Three Kelly leftovers, courtesy of Kapadia.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Michael Vick spoke about his situatuion on Tuesday. Does he still think he is the starter? From Jeff McLane:

“I don’t know. That’s not something that I’m thinking about at this point. The last thing I want to be is a distraction to this team. I’m just working hard to get myself healthy…

“I do consider myself a starter, but if coach has a viable explanation or good reason for why it should be anything different, I got to understand that. He’s the coach. I’m the player. One thing about it, I’m confident in my abilities. We all know what I can do when I’m out there. I’m just an asset to this team as long as I’m here.”

ESPN has the Eagles ranked 14th in their latest power rankings.

It is the first time the Eagles have been ranked ahead of the rest of their divisional rivals. Ashley Fox, one of the six panelists, had them at No. 11 on her ballot.

That’s what you get after two weeks of historically excellent quarterback play and six weeks of reliably good defense. The Eagles remain volatile. They dropped seven spots after two weeks without an offensive touchdown, and have jumped six spots — the biggest upward move — in each of the past two weeks. They can continue their climb by ending their 10-game home losing streak Sunday against No. 23 Washington.

COMING UP

We’ll speak to Kelly before practice.

Around The Web


Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.