Tuesday, November 25, 2014
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Breaking down the Eagles' defensive depth chart

I went through the offense on Tuesday, and yesterday I got distracted with: What is DeSean worth?, Finley takes jab at Young and How Steve Smith fits in.

Breaking down the Eagles' defensive depth chart

Casey Matthews has a lot to prove this preseason. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Casey Matthews has a lot to prove this preseason. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

I went through the offense on Tuesday, and yesterday I got distracted with: What is DeSean worth?, Finley takes jab at Young and How Steve Smith fits in.

Check those items out if you haven't had a chance yet.

Tonight, I'll be live at the Linc chatting the game, so be sure to join me at 7:30.

To get you ready, here's the position-by-position breakdown of the Eagles' defense, along with what to watch for against the Ravens.

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DEFENSIVE LINE

Much of what the Eagles did to revamp their defense was based on the addition of new line coach Jim Washburn.

If history is any indication, Washburn will go with an eight-man rotation, but how many defensive linemen will make the team? Ten? Eleven? There are a lot of guys competing.

At defensive end, I expect the four guys to be Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Juqua Parker and Darryl Tapp. Parker and Cole are listed as the starters on the depth chart, but as I've mentioned before, that is a moot point. The defensive ends will likely all play a similar amount of snaps. For what it's worth, at the last practice, Babin mixed in with the ones.

The outlook at defensive tackle is a little cloudier. The depth chart shows Antonio Dixon and Mike Patterson as the starters, but Patterson's future is uncertain after he suffered a seizure earlier in camp.

Cullen Jenkins will likely be the team's best interior pass rusher, and while Trevor Laws won't play tonight, he will be a part of the rotation too. The Eagles also signed defensive tackles Anthony Hargrove and Derek Landri. Hargrove is a high-energy player and has been seeing playing time with the first unit at practice. Landri was a 16-game starter last year with Carolina.

While Patterson's future is uncertain, let's assume here that he will not be ready to start the season. Here are the guys I think absolutely make the roster: Cole, Babin, Parker, Tapp, Jenkins, Dixon and Laws.

If the Eagles keep 10 linemen, that would leave Hargrove, Landri, Cedric Thornton, Phillip Hunt, Brandon Collier, Marlon Favorite, Charles Noonan, Chris Wilson and Daniel Te'o-Nesheim fighting for three spots.

I don't think Collier or Noonan figure in the mix. And I haven't seen Favorite or Wilson practice yet.

The Eagles could be left to choose two of three between Hargrove, Landri and Thornton. And the remaining spot could come down to Hunt or Te'o-Nesheim. I'd say Hargrove is a pretty good bet to make it, but the other spots are certainly up for grabs, so keep an eye on the second- and third-team defensive lines.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the Eagles have some versatile linemen. Jenkins and Hargrove could potentially be used at end. And Tapp played inside quite a bit last year.

This projection is assuming Brandon Graham starts the season on the PUP list.

LINEBACKER

This is the biggest question-mark position on the team, with rookie Casey Matthews in the middle, Moise Fokou at the WILL and Jamar Chaney at the SAM.

Lots of youth. Not a lot of depth or experience.

Don't be surprised if there's a shakeup on the depth chart here between now and Week 1 against the Rams. I think the Eagles want to see what they've got with Matthews. But remember, Chaney played better than any of the Eagles' other options in the middle last season. Don't rule out him moving back to that spot at some point.

Behind the three starters, the Eagles have even more questions. Second-year player Keenan Clayton, who saw some playing time as a rookie, is listed as Fokou's backup, but he could move up with a good preseason. Rookie Greg Lloyd is listed as Matthews' backup, but again, I think there's a better chance they'd go with Chaney if Matthews isn't the guy.

And Akeem Jordan, one of their better special teams players, is listed as Chaney's backup. Don't forget - Jordan has played all three positions. He was probably best at the WILL a couple seasons ago. He has a chance to compete like everyone else.

Guys I haven't mentioned yet: Brian Rolle, Brandon Peguese and Rashad Jeanty. Rolle is small, but has been playing the WILL and nickel at practice. Jeanty was an offseason addition, but has not stood out and is listed as the third-team SAM. Peguese is listed as the third-team middle linebacker.

Again, lots of spots to be won or lost at linebacker. And the Eagles could still add a player or two. Wouldn't surprise me at all.

As the roster currently stands, I'd say Matthews, Fokou, Chaney, Clayton and Jordan are favorites to make it, with one more spot possibly up for grabs.

CORNERBACK

This is the position we've talked about non-stop since the end of last year.

Suddenly, the Eagles are loaded with Asante Samuel, Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. We don't know how they are going to line up exactly, but be sure to check out Domo's column from today, where he argued for Asomugha to play inside. Domo made a great point about trading Samuel. There's no reason to deal him now for draft picks. They can just as easily wait until the season's over to do that. It looks like Samuel is staying. If you've been reading MTC the past few weeks, you know I think that is the right move.

Behind those three, there's a lot of talent: Joselio Hanson, rookie Curtis Marsh, second-year player Trevard Lindley and Brandon Hughes. Hanson is a good nickel back, but assuming the Eagles keep the top three guys, they might look to deal him for a late-round pick, or even release him. Per EaglesCap.com, Hanson's cap hit is about $2.4M for 2011.

The depth chart lists Lindley ahead of Marsh, but practice reps would suggest the opposite. Hughes has been getting quality reps too. If the Eagles keep six cornerbacks and get rid of Hanson, the decisions are easy. If they keep five and get rid of Hanson, or if they keep six and hang on to Hanson, it could come down to Lindley or Hughes.

Don't see Jorrick Calvin, Jamar Wall or Isaiah Trufant making the squad.

But lots to watch at cornerback tonight: Asomugha, Rodgers-Cromartie and Marsh, for starters.

SAFETY

The Eagles are young here, with second-year guys Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman, along with rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett.

The other safeties on the roster are: Jamar Adams, Colt Anderson, Marlin Jackson and Jarrad Page.

The Birds have some decisions to make. Last September, when they cut the roster down to 53, they kept six cornerbacks and three safeties. The way the roster is currently constructed, that could be a possibility again.

But if they go with five cornerbacks and four safeties, it will be a battle for that final spot. Allen, Coleman and Jarrett are locks. Coleman has had a pretty good camp, but Jarrett has a chance to steal that spot with a good preseason.

Beyond those three, it will come down to Anderson and Page. The Eagles have to decide what they want here. Anderson provided a big boost on special teams last year, and Bobby April's unit is an under-the-radar concern with Week 1 just a month away.

But Page is probably a better option on defense, with five years of experience and 63 starts under his belt.

I don't see Jackson or Adams making the roster.


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Sheil Kapadia Philly.com
About this blog
Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for philly.com. His earliest memories as a sports fan include several trips to Veterans Stadium with his Dad. He's not a beat writer or an Insider, but is here to discuss the NFL 365 days a year. E-mail him at skapadia@philly.com or by clicking here

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