Projected Depth Chart: Eagles’ Defense
Chip Kelly has made it clear that he has no interest in setting the depth chart until the pads come on in late July and he can draw some informed conclusions.
While it’s true that players rotated in and out at times during practices, there still were loosely defined first, second and third teams for the most part.
Keeping that in mind, here’s my version of the depth chart, based on what I saw during spring practices. This is the ultimate “take it with a grain of salt” exercise. Spots will be determined this summer, and a lot can change between now and the Week 1 matchup in D.C. against the Redskins.
But this should give you some idea of where things currently stand. We’ll do the defense today and the offense tomorrow. Explanations below.
DE Fletcher Cox Vinny Curry David King
NT Isaac Sopoaga Bennie Logan Antonio Dixon
DE Cedric Thornton Clifton Geathers Joe Kruger
LOLB Connor Barwin Brandon Graham Chris McCoy
ROLB Trent Cole Phillip Hunt Everette Brown
ILB DeMeco Ryans Jason Phillips Casey Matthews
ILB Mychal Kendricks Jamar Chaney Jake Knott
CB Cary Williams Brandon Boykin Brandon Hughes
CB Bradley Fletcher Curtis Marsh Jordan Poyer
S Nate Allen Kurt Coleman Kenny Phillips
S Patrick Chung Earl Wolff Colt Anderson
Defensive line: The first team stayed relatively consistent, other than when one of the players was absent or out due to injury. The Eagles signed Sopoaga to play nose tackle in their base, and Cox is probably the best overall player on this defense. Thornton could see some competition at the other D-Line spot, but he practiced mostly with the first team.
The coaches gave the 6-foot-8 Geathers a lot of opportunities all spring. He filled in at multiple spots on the first team when Sopoaga and/or Thornton were missing. Logan also provides some versatility and is likely the nose tackle of the future. For now, he seems poised to rotate in and provide depth.
Curry has been a bit of a forgotten man. He’s bulked up and has been playing with his hand on the ground at defensive end in three-man fronts, primarily with the second team.
The third-team spots are up for grabs. Kruger and King were seventh-round picks and have good size. King got some second-team looks when the Eagles were missing bodies. Undrafted free agent Damion Square could be in the mix too. Dixon provides an option if Sopoaga or Logan gets injured. But otherwise, he faces an uphill battle.
Note that I did not designate RDE and LDE here. There were a lot of different looks and quite a bit of moving pieces during practice, making those projections especially difficult.
Outside linebacker: It seems safe for now to pencil Barwin in at left outside linebacker. Cole’s role is still to be determined, but he saw a lot of time at right outside linebacker with the first team. Cole did play some defensive end (hand on the ground) in certain three-man fronts and he also lined up there in four-down alignments.
The bulk of Graham’s reps came at left outside linebacker with the second team behind Barwin. But he was the team’s best pass-rusher a year ago, and Billy Davis will have to find a way to get him on the field. That could mean rotating in, taking over for Cole or adjusting the scheme to get all three guys (Barwin, Graham and Cole) on the field together.
Hunt played behind Cole with the second team. McCoy and Brown are the only other two outside linebackers on the roster.
Inside linebacker: I can’t recall a single snap where Ryans and Kendricks were not the two first-team inside linebackers. This is the one area of the defense where the starters are pretty much in place.
We haven’t written much about Jason Phillips. He joined the Eagles from Carolina during the first wave of free agency. A standout special-teams player, he might also be the first backup inside linebacker. Phillips and Chaney were the second-team LBs for much of camp.
Kelly did not play favorites with Matthews, who spent most of the spring with the third team.
Don’t sleep on Knott, an undrafted free agent. He mixed in with the second team (replacing Chaney) and has a chance to earn a roster spot this summer.
Cornerback: The two free agents, Williams and Fletcher, took the field with the first team. When Williams was missing, Marsh took his place.
Boykin’s place on the depth chart is a bit deceiving. He’s the first-team nickel corner, meaning he’s basically a starter 50 percent of the time.
Poyer has missed time because of NCAA graduation rules, but I included him here instead of Trevard Lindley because the rookie has a better chance of making the team.
Safety: I talked to Earl Wolff last week, and he said the coaches have basically told all the safeties that the starting spots are up for grabs. More than any other position on defense, the Eagles rotated safeties a lot all spring long.
Having said that, Chung and Allen probably saw the most reps with the first team. Wolff (a fifth-round pick) and Anderson (a special-teams standout) seem like good bets to make the team.
Phillips was a tough guy to place here. He missed some time because of the knee injury, and as we’ve mentioned several times, his contract contains no guaranteed money. I could have just as easily put him on the second team, but he’ll have to show he’s healthy in camp to earn a roster spot.