Eagles Depth Chart Outlook: Defensive Line

This is the fifth in a series. Throughout the next week or two, we’ll take a position-by-position look at the Eagles’ roster. What you’ve missed so far:

Take a look at the defensive linemen who took the field for the Eagles in Week 1 of the 2012 season: Jason Babin, Cullen JenkinsTrent Cole, Fletcher Cox, Derek Landri, Cedric Thornton, Phillip Hunt and Brandon Graham.

Of that group, three (Babin, Jenkins, Landri) are gone, along with Mike Patterson. Three are expected to make the switch to outside linebacker (Cole, Hunt and Graham). And two (Cox and Thornton) remain on the defensive line.

Vinny Curry, who was inactive for the first 10 games last season, will also stay at defensive line (for now).

In the offseason, the Eagles added veteran nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga from the 49ers. Ronnie Cameron was added to the practice squad at the end of last season. And the team acquired Clifton Geathers via trade with the Colts. Veteran Antonio Dixon is back with the Birds as well.

The Eagles added competition in the draft, selecting LSU’s Bennie Logan in the third round, along with Utah’s Joe Kruger and Oklahoma’s David King in the seventh.

Meanwhile, Alabama’s Damion Square and Oregon’s Isaac Remington joined the team as undrafted free agents.

A lot of bodies, but few proven commodities.

Among the 14 teams that ran a 3-4 or some kind of hybrid last year, the average number of defensive linemen kept on the 53-man roster was 6.9.

Here’s a look at the players on the roster:

Ronnie Cameron6-2295231/0
Fletcher Cox6-4300221/9
Vinny Curry6-3279241/0
Antonio Dixon6-3325274/10
Clifton Geathers6-8340252/0
David King6-4281230/0
Joe Kruger6-6269200/0
Bennie Logan6-2309230/0
Isaac Remington6-6305230/0
Isaac Sopoaga6-2330318/80
Damion Square6-3286240/0
Cedric Thornton6-4309242/0

Pencil ’em in: Cox, Logan, Sopoaga.

It flew under the radar because of the 4-12 record, but Cox had a really good rookie season. He had seven tackles for loss and was the Eagles’ best defensive tackle against the run. He improved as a pass-rusher, finishing with 5.5 sacks to go along with 24 hurries. It seems clear that he has a Pro Bowl ceiling, but Cox is already on his third defensive line coach.

As for fit, Cox’s versatility is part of what the Eagles found attractive when they traded up to get him in last year’s draft. He can line up at the 5-technique (defensive end) in a 3-4, and he can be an interior pass-rusher in four-man fronts.

Meanwhile, Logan, a third-round pick, is a lock to make the roster. He’s only 6-2, but has long arms (34 inches). In four-man fronts, Logan is a defensive tackle. In three-man fronts, it remains to be seen where he lines up. At 309 pounds, Logan can play nose tackle, and he could probably line up at the 5-tech too.

One thing that stands out from the table above is that the Eagles only have one defensive lineman with more than 10 career starts, and that’s Sopoaga. He’s not a three-down player, but is probably the favorite to line up at nose tackle. Sopoaga will also be expected to fill the leader/veteran presence role with this group.

Fighting for spots: Curry, Thornton, Kruger, Cameron, Dixon, Geathers, King, Remington, Square.

There are clear favorites in this group: Thornton, Kruger and Curry.

Curry saw limited action last year and didn’t show much as a pass-rusher. A 2012 second-round pick, he’ll get every opportunity to make the roster and should stick. But there’s not an obvious fit for him. It’s possible he could move over to outside linebacker at some point.

Thornton showed last year that he can be an effective rotational player, and he will likely make the team too. But I wasn’t ready to mark him down as a lock. He has good length and fits as a 5-tech in 3-4 fronts and a defensive tackle in four-man fronts.

Kruger is a developmental player. He’s 6-6 and only 20-years-old. It would be a surprise if he didn’t make the team.

Assuming those three stick, that will likely only leave a spot or two for Cameron, Dixon, Geathers, Remington and Square. Dixon does not present much versatility. He could be a nose tackle in a 3-4 or a run-stopping DT in a 4-3, but he doesn’t offer much as a pass-rusher.

Geathers (6-8) takes over for King Dunlap as the team’s tallest player, but has played very little since entering the league in 2010. King was a seventh-round pick out of Oklahoma. Remington (Oregon) and Square (Alabama) are undrafted free agents.

Again, lots of bodies, but not a lot of known quantities. It’s not out of the question that the Eagles add a piece or two between now and the start of the season.

UPDATE: After this was posted, the Eagles signed DE Daryell Walker (Hampton) and released Cameron.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles DT Cameron Puts Off-Field Skills To Use

Ronnie Cameron did not major in football.

The 23-year-old defensive tackle spent the last three weeks of the 2012 season on the Eagles’ practice squad and is hoping to make an impression on Chip Kelly and the new coaching staff in the coming months.

But it’s what Cameron is doing away from the field that sets him apart. Athletes are often asked what they’d be doing if they weren’t playing sports for a living. For Cameron, answering that question is no problem at all.

The son of two immigrants – his Mom came to America from Haiti when she was 16, his Dad from Trinidad when he was 17 – Cameron was constantly reminded about the importance of a good education, growing up in Westbury, N.Y. So when it came time to go to college, Cameron decided simply graduating would not be enough.

He wasn’t leaving school until he got his MBA as well.

“I took an extremely heavy workload, but it was one of those things where that was my goal going into college – to get both degrees done while I was still playing ball,” Cameron said. “I had to take a hit in terms of a social life, but I vowed to make that happen.”

His college career started at nearby Hofstra, but after the school dropped its football program, Cameron was forced to transfer to Old Dominion, where he earned his MBA with a concentration in Information Technology.

And now, Cameron is putting that degree to use, having launched a Web site called Bonfire Impact that he describes as a network of activism, awareness and good works.

“The mission is to reach out to people of all different walks of life and have them come together in one place and learn and become more aware, so they can have the knowledge and the information they need to help other people who are in need of help,” Cameron explained.

The idea for the site came to Cameron when he was with the Browns last season. Cameron spent eight weeks on the practice squad before getting moved up to the active roster. In his spare time, he did work in the Cleveland community and met people who were trying to make the city a better place and help young people.

Yet as a consumer of media, all Cameron read about were negative stories.

“I felt like there was another platform that was necessary for people who were doing the right things,” Cameron said. “I actually read the news a lot, and it’s always negative coverage – whether it be politics or crime.

“I first-hand got to hear from a lot of great people, and I feel like that needed more media attention. I took it upon myself to just start the company myself.”

Cameron now has a staff of 24 volunteers – comprised of interns and recent graduates. Log on to the site, and you might read about an art auction at the Super Bowl that benefited young New Orleans jazz musicians. Or about what’s being done worldwide to help Syrian refugees.

The site just underwent a re-design, and Cameron is thinking big. Ask him what causes are important to him, and he’ll talk about helping his Mom’s native country, Haiti, recover from recent natural disasters. Or empowering nations in Africa so they don’t have to depend on outside help.

Given Cameron’s background, it should come as no surprise that education is the focus of many his efforts.

“I try to go to different schools and talk to kids as much as I possibly can to let them know to fulfill their potential,” he said. “Whatever their potential may be, it might be one day to be in the NFL or to be a CEO, or even if their potential is to be a janitor – be the best at whatever you can be in life and make the most of it. Those are some of the things that definitely stick with me.”

On the field, Cameron was originally signed by the Bears as an undrafted free agent, before catching on with the Browns. He’s already talked to Kelly and defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro. New defensive coordinator Billy Davis is familiar with Cameron, having spent last season as the Browns’ linebackers coach.

Asked to give a self scouting report, Cameron said, “Being versatile, and being able to move for someone my size, are my two biggest strengths.”

Now with his third team in two years, Cameron is hoping to make a lasting impression on the field and find new opportunities off of it.

“It’s just a new area to hopefully work with different non-profits, different organizations and different people,” he said.

“It’s kind of been a blessing to jump around the NFL a little bit because you meet so many great people who all stand for the same things. And now, through this Web site, giving them a venue to learn more, or even express their own words.”

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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