Eagles Wake-Up Call: DL Depth Chart Analysis
We started the series off by looking at the linebacking corps. Let’s move onto the defensive front:
DE — Connor Barwin/Vinny Curry/Brandon Graham
DT — Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan
DE — Bryan Braman, Alex McCalister, Steven Means, Marcus Smith
DT — Mike Martin, Beau Allen, Taylor Hart, Derrick Lott, Aziz Shittu, Destiny Vaeao, Connor Wujciak
If the Eagles end up reaching higher heights than forecasted, it will likely be on the back of this group.
Cox has emerged as one of the best defensive players in football. He posted 9.5 sacks, 32 hurries and 16.5 tackles for a loss last season in a two-gap 3-4 system(!). Scary to think what he might be able to do with the restrictor plate removed under Jim Schwartz. He’ll be paired with Bennie Logan, who was a force in his own right last season before being slowed down by injury. Interestingly, Howie Roseman‘s spending spree this offseason did not include Logan, a free-agent to be at the end of the year. Maybe the Eagles are leery about committing too much money to the DT position considering the mega-deal they gave Cox; maybe they have concerns about how Logan will transition to the 4-3; maybe it’s simply a matter of, well, you can’t pay everybody in a calendar year. Either way, they’ll have a motivated player on their hands.
On the outside, the Eagles have three starting-caliber players that will share the d-end positions. During the spring, it was Curry and Barwin getting the most reps with the first team in the practices we had access to. Graham could claim one of the gigs come September, but will get plenty of playing time regardless. Curry seems like a perfect fit for what Schwartz likes to do. His ultra-quick first step off the (far) edge in this green-light system could be devastating. The main question surrounding Curry is how he’ll handle the increased role after being a situational player to this point. As for Barwin, he’ll have to prove that his game still translates to a 4-3.
It’s last call for Marcus Smith. He needs to start moving the needle if he wants to extend his stay in Philly. If he can’t thrive in this defense, he can’t thrive.
What I think will happen
In my first 53-man roster projection, I have the Eagles keeping Curry, Cox, Logan, Barwin, Graham, Hart, Martin, Smith and Braman. That leaves out McCalister, Beau Allen and a couple of the promising UDFAs.
Allen was drafted to be a 3-4 nose and is probably still best suited for that job, though I’m not ruling him out. Hart still has some upside in my view, at least enough to hang onto him. Martin adds experience to the group, appearing in 46 games over four seasons with the Titans.
I’m assuming here that the Eagles feel like they can safely stash McCalister on the practice squad. If they believe he’s vulnerable, they’ll probably have to find a spot for him. And it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on rookies like Vaeao and Shittu. The DT draft class was a strong one, meaning there was some value to be had on the free agent market. Vaeao, for instance, was listed as a fourth-round projection by NFL.com and could have very well been drafted under different circumstances. It’s tough to evaluate linemen in the spring when the pads aren’t on. We’ll have a better feel for some of the younger guys after a couple weeks of camp.
WHAT YOU MISSED
“The Eagles need to appreciate [Jason] Peters while they have him because he’s truly one of the best players on the roster.” What They’re Saying.
“As currently constructed, things would have to break just about perfectly for this to be a high-end unit.” What the current linebacker situation looks like.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
With a set over/under line of 8.5 wins this year, Dave Zangaro from CSNPhilly.com gives his predictions for the season.
If this is the over/under number, I’ll take the under. Could the Eagles win nine games, maybe 10? Sure, I guess. But I have them with seven or eight wins in Doug Pederson‘s first season as head coach.
Here’s a look at a game-by-game prediction, which would have the Eagles with an 8-8 record.
vs. Browns: Win
at Bears: Win
vs. Steelers: Loss
at Lions: Win
at Redskins: Loss
vs. Vikings: Win
at Cowboys: Win
at Giants: Loss
vs. Falcons: Win
at Seahawks: Loss
vs. Packers: Loss
at Bengals: Loss
vs. Redskins: Win
at Ravens: Loss
vs. Giants: Loss
vs. Cowboys: Win
The Eagles better get off to a pretty good start like this, because that’s a buzzsaw in late November, against the Seahawks, Packers and Bengals in back-to-back-to-back weeks.
Mike Kern from the Inquirer writes about how the Eagles will dominate the Philly sports scene for the rest of 2016, beginning in a couple of weeks.
Last year, most everyone thought the Birds were going to be really good, especially after Sam Bradford looked like Joe Montana in an exhibition game at Green Bay, where the Packers didn’t seem to be trying very hard. Then the Birds went 7-9. And Chip Kelly and the grand experiment with the offensive college guru who thought outside the box and somehow managed to get all the power was history. Enter Doug Pederson, whose last claim to fame as Andy Reid’s offensive coordinator at Kansas City was taking seven minutes to put together a touchdown in a playoff loss to the Patriots when the Chiefs needed to score in more like half that time. So where did we see that before? And by the way, welcome back. Now if only Carson Wentz can turn into the next Donovan McNabb, even if No. 5 never quite won a Super Bowl. Just saying.I can’t wait for the first tweet about the first pass Wentz throws to a third-string receiver. Sure hope it spirals the right way. Or the first time Bradford does something, well, wrong. Will Eagles Nation remember that Wentz isn’t supposed to do much this year? Kind of like a redshirt. My money’s on no. Patience has rarely been a strength when it comes to the passion. All they want to do is win. And is that asking too much, from a team that hasn’t lifted a trophy since six years before the first Super? But chances are it won’t be happening this February, either. Which should only make the coming ride that much more enthralling.
And then we can get caught back up with everything else that’s going on around here. Just hope we don’t miss out on anything too relevant.
Eighteen days until training camp. Twenty-four more days of Evil Cliff.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.