Eagles DL Training Camp Preview

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Leading up to training camp on August 2, we’ll have a position-by-position preview of the Eagles’ roster. We’ve covered the quarterbacksrunning backswide receivers, tight ends and the offensive line so far. Today, we’ll take a look at the defensive line.

The pressing question: Will Vinny Curry play more snaps?

Last year, Curry was on the field for 32 percent of the Eagles’ defensive plays, yet he still managed to total nine sacks.

Digging deeper, Billy DavisChip Kelly and company clearly viewed Curry as a pass-rush specialist. Per Pro Football Focus, on the snaps he played, Curry rushed the passer 80.9 percent of the time. The Eagles like to stay in base quite a bit, and they want their three main defensive linemen to be two-gappers. In other words, Curry is not going to challenge for a starting spot.

But the Eagles should still be able to find ways to expand his role. For example, Brandon Boykin only came in when the defense moved to nickel or dime, yet he played 43 percent of the defensive snaps. There’s no reason Curry shouldn’t see a bump to a similar number, given his ability to get after the quarterback.

Roster battles

There doesn’t figure to be a ton of competition here. Fletcher CoxBennie LoganCedric ThorntonVinny Curry and Beau Allen seem like locks.

The favorites for the final two spots (assuming they keep seven) are Brandon Bair and Taylor Hart. One of the two will be counted on to serve a rotational role. Last year, it was Bair. This year, Hart will have a chance to earn playing time. He was inactive every week in 2014.

There could be a surprise with someone like seventh-round pick Brian Mihalik or undrafted free agent Travis Raciti making a splash during the preseason. But that seems unlikely at this point.

One thing I think

Cox makes his first Pro Bowl.

It’s not easy for a 3-4 defensive end to stand out, but Cox had a legitimate case to earn a spot last season. Sometimes, guys get chosen the year after they break out.

I expect the Eagles to have one of the best front sevens in the NFL, and Cox is the best player in that group. Last year, he totaled four sacks, but Cox’s disruption inside led to sacks for teammates like Curry and Connor Barwin.

One thing that’s easy to forget is that Cox is only 24. He will continue to get better. Sometimes, sacks come down to luck, and I think Cox will see his number rise in 2015, leading to increased national recognition.