This is Year 2 of the 3-4. The Eagles DL has undergone quite a change since the days of the Wide 9 (I still miss Derek Landri). This group is young, big and deep.
Fletcher Cox gets a lot of criticism. I’m not sure how much of it is warranted. He played well in 2013, even as he adjusted to a new scheme and new role. Cox has not been dominant this summer, but I prefer to see what he does in real games before making any serious judgments.
Bennie Logan has been hurt for much of the summer, but did play on Friday. He looked okay, but didn’t stand out. I’m sure he was somewhat rusty. This week will be a better indicator of where he is.
Cedric Thornton is Steady Eddie. He is a terrific run defender. Thornton’s goal this year is to be a better pass rusher.
That is a solid group of starters. They function well together and fit the roles of the 3-4. The backup DL is going to be very different this year. Clifton Geathers is gone. Logan was the backup NT last year, but is now starting.
Based on what I’ve seen this summer, Brandon Bair is the #3 DE. But what about Vinny Curry? He is a playmaker and disruptive force, but is more of a role player than a traditional DE. I think Bair is a virtual lock to make the roster. Some people will point out that he’s going to turn 30 in November and has no upside. Why keep this guy?
In 2011 the Eagles signed an older player with limited experience. That was Evan Mathis and he turned out to be one of the great FA signings in Eagles history. Last year the team added Allen Barbre as a backup OL. He became the #6 OL and is now going to start for a month.
You don’t want to build around older guys, but there is nothing wrong with adding an older player to the rotation. Bair had a terrific showing this spring and summer, then looked even better in the preseason games. He has earned a roster spot and playing time.
Damion Square is the incumbent backup NT, but I don’t see how he keeps that job over Beau Allen. Square has been okay, but Allen has been terrific. I think Allen is a lock for the roster and Square is on the outside looking in.
Curry is going to be the other backup DE. Obviously he will be a key part of the Nickel and Dime units, where he plays DE, DT and even some NT. I know many of you want Curry on the field even more, but he’s just not a great fit for the 3-4. He’s getting better, but still likes to shoot gaps more than anchor and 2-gap.
Taylor Hart would be the #7 DL and have the final roster spot. He played well in camp and has looked solid in the games, but I don’t know that he’s a guy you want to rush into the lineup. He might be a year away from being a good backup. Hart is right on schedule. He’s played well enough that you are going to keep him and would like to see what he could do. If this were 2013, he would be a backup for sure. The DL is better this year so I think he’ll be inactive a lot.
Joe Kruger looks like he needs a year on the practice squad. He is bigger and stronger. He flashes good physical ability at times. But he isn’t consistently good and he still struggles with 2-gapping. Kruger is young and has upside so I hope the Eagles can keep him on the PS, but he’s not worth forcing onto the roster. He hasn’t earned that and his potential isn’t special.
The only other player I’m really interested in is backup NT Wade Keliikipi. He flashes. He has a NT body. I just don’t know that you can keep him on the PS with 2 other young NTs already on the roster.
I know the talk of Bair over Curry and Kruger will bother some of you, but he’s been the best 3-4 DE of the group. The coaches are telling you what they think by how much they’ve played him and the fact it has happened against starting competition. Bair has earned a roster spot with his play. I wish he was 25, but the fact he’s 29 doesn’t change his game tape. He’s been very good this summer. You don’t keep potential (Kruger) over production (Bair) when one guy is clearly better.
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I’ll post the DGR tonight.