Young DL

Posted: December 20th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 23 Comments »

One of the things that Howie Roseman, Chip Kelly and the Eagles have gotten right this year is the defensive line. The Eagles have a lot of young, talented players. They look great at times, but still have lots of room for growth.

Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton and Bennie Logan can become one of the premiere DL’s in the league if they continue to develop. All 3 of them can play the run well. All 3 are athletic enough to get after the QB. They have a good combination of size, strength and movement skills. Backups Vinny Curry, Clifton Geathers and Damion Square are a notch below. Curry is a potentially great role player. I don’t know if he can ever start in the 3-4, but there are enough sub-packages played these days that he can be an impact player even off the bench. Geathers is a project that may never pay off. He flashes at times, but isn’t consistently good. Square is undersized, but plays like a veteran and is a polished 3-4 player. He can handle NT or DE.

Right now the DL is better at stopping the run than rushing the passer. I think a big part of that is adjusting to the 3-4. That means playing a variety of roles. As a 4-3 DE or DT, you are going to have a more defined situation. Davis has these guys lining up all over, which is part of the charm of the 3-4 scheme. You move players around to make life hard on the offense. It can also take time for young DL to figure out rush angles and how to beat certain blocks.

Look at some of the best 3-4 DL in the league. Calais Campbell didn’t even start as a rookie, let alone offer impact. He took off once he adjusted to the scheme. Cam Jordan of the Saints is having a breakout season this year in a hybrid 3-4/4-3 role. Muhammed Wilkerson of the Jets is in Year 3 and has 10 sacks. Even the great JJ Watt didn’t explode until Year 2 and he’s clearly a physical freak. It takes time.

Cox, Thornton and Logan have the potential to be big time players. They need to continue developing the skill set needed to play in the 3-4. They need to hone their technique. They’ll also get stronger and tougher as they get older.

Cox is the one player who has a chance to become a dominant force. He has special potential because of his athletic ability. And he’s still young. Fletcher just turned 23 last week. Watt will turn 25 in March. Campbell is 27. Jordan will turn 25 in July. Fletch is still just a pup. The sky really is the ceiling for him.

Curry is an interesting player and situation. If he can stay focused and really work hard in the offseason, he could take a big step forward next year. Right now Curry is making plays with his quick burst and relentless motor. As he gets stronger and learns how to play with better technique, he’ll become even more disruptive. The Eagles do face the question of what to do with him. Do they trade Curry to a 4-3 team if a good offer comes through? Or do the Eagles see the value in his skills and keep him around even though he may never project to being a full-time starter. Could he be the DL version of Brandon Boykin?

I think they would be foolish to deal him. If a player proves he can get to the QB, I want him on my team. That may change when he hits free agency and money becomes an issue, but he’s signed for 2 more years. Curry is a player I’m keeping and creatively using.

The Eagles can upgrade on Geathers and Square if they want, but there is something to be said for keeping the whole unit together and seeing how the players develop in a stable setting. DE Joe Kruger will be part of the mix next year and he could challenge Geathers for a spot. I think the Eagles would be smart to see if they could find a natural NT type who has some bulk. Square is undersized. He’s tough, but that’s only going to carry you so far when a G and C double-team you.

The other consideration is that the DL has stayed healthy this year. How would the backups do if forced to start? That’s the one concern that may have the Eagles still looking for players in the upcoming draft, even though the team feels somewhat set up front. Curry is the biggest X-factor in this regard. If the Eagles think he could be an effective starter, that would make them more comfortable with DL depth.

I’m excited to see what Jerry Azzinaro can do with this bunch. He had made great progress with Thornton, Logan and Curry in less than a full year. Kruger isn’t practicing since he’s on IR, but he’s allowed to do the classroom stuff and that should help him to be ready for the offseason. Imagine what can happen next year, when these guys actually know what they are doing and Azz can shift from teaching them technique to improving their technique. Year One is about learning. 2014 will be about improving.

The Eagles need a better pass rush in 2014. I think they can expect a step forward from the young DL already in place. Things will really be good if Cox can make the jump to being a consistent impact player. He’s got that kind of potential. Exciting times up front.

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  • Anders

    A true NT type to back up Logan would be nice to draft later

    • the midatlantic

      I saw Chris Brown of Smart Football saying on Twitter that the Eagles “made chicken salad out of chicken scraps” with the DL, suggested Logan was not the long-term future. Where does he go if not at NT?

      • ICDogg

        Here’s where that conversation began. (Click on the Dec 17 timestamp to view the whole thread).

        https://twitter.com/igglesblog/status/413011169226399744

      • ICDogg

        I think it’s possible that he’s not. He’s doing a great job but they might try to find a dominant nose tackle for what they want to do.

      • Anders

        Logan is the long term future, but nobody thought Logan could play NT, but Logan fits with what Davis wants (mobility)

        Logan could also be a good DE for us if we found a great NT, but there is no high NT type worth drafting, but a Ryan Carrethers might be a good low round NT prospect.

        • theycallmerob

          what if Hageman is available towards end of 1st? 4″ and 10 lbs bigger than Logan, with room to put on more (true for Logan as well, but obviously smaller frame)

      • anon

        Fair point. I wouldn’t be surprised if we try to get a NT that’s NT size.

        • Anders

          I know they want Logan to get to around 320 up from 305. If Logan can keep his mobility while gaining 15 lbs, that would be perfect

  • GENETiC-FREAK

    Joe Kruger must be hitting the Gym n shakes hes up to 280ish last time i read

    • A_T_G

      Is that him in your avatar photo?

      • GENETiC-FREAK

        haha nah thats the one n only Flex Wheeler

        • A_T_G

          I just did a Google image search. That is an actual photograph?! All this time I just assumed it was humorous photoshop job in which they tripled all of the muscles. His lats look like they each have their own PEDs supplier.

  • ICDogg

    Weather could once again be a big factor this week. Wind, rain, and unusually high temperatures for this time of year.

    http://www.weather.com/weather/5-day/Philadelphia+PA+19147:4:US

  • anon

    Nick foles fined 10k for peel back block

  • Weapon Y

    I could definitely see Cox emerging as an explosive player and household name on par with Justin Smith. Could is the key word, I’m not guaranteeing it. I still believe Curry is such a gifted pass rusher and hope that, as Davis has more time to implement the defensive scheme, that he can create more unique packages to find ways to get Curry on the field. I see the value of a 2-gap, 3-4 defense in stopping the run. It’s really the pass defense that needs work this offseason. I think OLBs are probably the group that needs to make the biggest jump in this scheme. It would be nice if Cox or another DL got double-digit sacks, but it is probably unrealistic to ask them to match JJ Watt’s numbers. To compensate for current weaknesses, I’m still a big fan of Under looks to make a guard deal with Cox one-on-one and to let a LEO (Cole or Graham) charge upfield. I’m mostly pleased with what I’ve seen so far, but I can’t wait to see a formidable DL if one truly is about to emerge.

  • ICDogg

    Chip Kelly, on the Eagles’ controlling their own playoff destiny:

    “You know you can’t control destiny? Destiny is a predetermined set of events, therefore if it’s predetermined, you can’t control it.”

    • A_T_G

      That’s awesome.

    • Always Hopeful

      Saw that AND loved that!

  • ICDogg
  • BlindChow
    • theycallmerob

      …..andre johnson? was he playing DB for a game?

  • Kevin_aka_RC

    I wonder whether the lack of DL production is a function of poor OLB pass-rush. Fletcher often gets doubled and matched up with opposing OTs while Cole has seen many 1 on 1 matchups with TEs and RBs. To his credit, Cole often takes advantage of those, but he’s also been stone-walled. Getting an impact OLB to give the DL more 1 on 1 opportunities and weaker OL would tremendously help the defense.

  • mattwill

    It is quite possible that the Best Player on the Board when the Eagles pick in the 1st Round may be the University of Minnesota DT, Ra’Sheed Hageman. Having a first-5 D-Line rotation of Cox, Logan, Thornton, Curry and Hageman (with the possibility of Kruger as the 6th man) would be a sight to behold for quite a few years.