Leading up to training camp on July 25, we’ll have a position-by-position preview of the Eagles’ roster. We start with the defensive line.
The pressing question: Can Fletcher Cox make the leap?
Cox has been a productive player and shown off his unique blend of power and athleticism on several occasions. But he’s yet to put it all together. The third-year player has had three different defensive coordinators and three different defensive line coaches in his first two seasons. Now he gets some continuity under position coach Jerry Azzinaro. Cox demonstrated in 2013 that he could indeed play defensive end in a two-gap 3-4 after firing off the ball as a defensive tackle in a 4-3 as a rookie.
Now, he needs to prove he can be a game-plan player. What do I mean by that? When opposing offensive coordinators install their game plans, they should be thinking: How the *&^% are we going to block No. 91? The key with Cox is the pass-rush. He had just three sacks, but led the Eagles with 21 hurries (per team stats) in 2013.
Many are wondering whether the outside linebackers can do more to get to the quarterback, but Cox could provide answers by consistently getting pressure up the middle. Given that he’s able to renegotiate his deal after the season, Cox could have a nice payday waiting for him if he can make the leap in 2014.
The starters are set at this spot with Cox and Cedric Thornton at the end spots, along with Bennie Logan at nose tackle. Vinny Curry should make the squad as a rotational player, and it would be a surprise if the Eagles didn’t keep rookie Taylor Hart. That potentially leaves two roster spots open.
One of them will go to a nose tackle: either second-year player Damion Square or seventh-round pick Beau Allen. Square practiced with the second team in the spring, but Allen has a good chance to steal this spot. Expect the coaches to go with whichever guy performs better in the preseason.
If the Eagles keep seven defensive linemen, second-year player Joe Kruger is the favorite to snatch one of the final spots. If Kruger plays well, he could earn some playing time. Others on the roster, including feel-good story Alejandro Villanueva, will have to open some eyes this summer to make the final 53.
One thing I think
The football-watching public will become more familiar with the name Cedric Thornton. Last year, Thornton was the Eagles’ most productive lineman against the run. He plays with great effort, great technique and consistently gets to the ball-carrier in the defense’s two-gap scheme.
With the Eagles getting a lot of national TV love in 2014, don’t be surprised to see Thornton’s name on some most underrated lists in the coming months.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Sizing up the talent on the Cowboys’ roster and notes on the Giants and Redskins in Josh’s weekly NFC East roundup.
“This looks like a team on the rise.” T-Mac catches you up on some weekend reading.
“Chip Kelly did a great job of getting people wide open.” Jaws talks Eagles, Nick Foles and more.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Earl Wolff wants six or more interceptions in 2014, writes Philly.com’s Jimmy Kempski:
“This year, my goal is to have six or more,” said Wolff, who attended, but did not play in LeSean McCoy’s “Shades of Greatness” celebrity basketball game Saturday afternoon.
Wolff had a target number of interceptions picked out, but still has to determine his other individual goals. “I haven’t sat down and (figured out my season goals) yet. I plan on doing that next week before we start camp, but I’m going to build on my goals from last year.”
Jackson was the game’s star, scoring 45 points. The star receiver declined to speak before the game.
“He’s not an Eagle anymore, but the friendship and bond is still there. He supports me in everything I have and vice-versa I do the same. I’m happy to have him,” McCoy said.
I’m back from vacation and have the football itch. Training camp is right around the corner, and there are rumors of an All-22 post later this afternoon.