The Eagles announced Tuesday that they've restructured Cullen Jenkins' contract and the defensive tackle will be back with the team in 2012.
That's good news for Jim Washburn, Juan Castillo and the entire defense.
Jenkins finished third on the team with 5.5 sacks and tied for third with 24 hurries, behind only Jason Babin and Trent Cole. Only five defensive tackles league-wide had more sacks than Jenkins.
His seven tackles for loss were tied for second on the Eagles. And according to Yahoo Sports' Doug Farrar, Jenkins led all defensive tackles in run defeats, defined as "the total number of plays that prevent the offense from gaining first down yardage on third or fourth down, stop the offense behind the line of scrimmage, or result in a turnover."
Jenkins also led all defensive tackles in run stop rate. Stops are defined by Football Outsiders as plays that prevent the offense from gaining 45 percent of needed yards on first down, 60 percent of needed yards on second down, and 100 percent of needed yards on third or fourth down.
Even with Jenkins back in the fold, the Eagles face some questions at defensive tackle. Mike Patterson also had a very good year, but he underwent a brain operation earlier this offseason. Assuming he's healthy, the Eagles have their starters in place.
But as we know by now, the backups will see a lot of action too. I looked up defensive tackle snap counts on Pro Football Focus. Keep in mind, these are percentage of snaps played by each guy when active on gameday.
||PCT. OF SNAPS
Juqua Parker also saw some time inside. And Antonio Dixon played in parts of four games.
The point here is that the Eagles must decide on their rotational tackles, who will play a big role in 2012.
Two of them - Trevor Laws and Derek Landri - are unrestricted free agents. Laws has had four years to establish himself since the Eagles drafted him in the second round of the 2008 draft, but hasn't done so. He could get a shot to compete for a roster spot in training camp, but I don't think Laws is someone the Eagles are counting on going forward.
Landri, on the other hand, made the most of his opportunity last season. He led the Eagles with eight tackles for loss to go along with a pair of sacks and 18 hurries. In 2010, Landri played over 70 percent of the Panthers' defensive snaps. Only eight defensive tackles were on the field more than him. But last season, he didn't make the Eagles' roster out of training camp and didn't catch on with another team, allowing the Eagles to re-sign him in Week 5 after Dixon went down. While there apparently wasn't a lot of interest from other teams before last season, things could be different this time around. Landri is a great fit as a rotational defensive tackle here. The Eagles would be wise to bring him back, but we'll have to see how the market plays out.
And finally, Dixon is a restricted free agent. In 2010, he was the Eagles' best run-stuffing defensive tackle and arguably their third-best defensive player overall. He didn't show much in three-plus games last season before going down with an injury. Washburn and the Eagles will have to decide if he fits into the team's plans going forward.
Age is also a factor here. Jenkins turned 31 in January. Patterson and Landri turn 29 in September. The Eagles could stand to get younger at defensive tackle. A high draft pick could join the DT rotation as a rookie and eventually (ideally) move into a starter's role.
One wild card here is Brandon Graham. He played inside at times as a rookie. The Eagles are set with their first-team defensive ends next season in Babin and Cole. Darryl Tapp was productive when healthy. And Phillip Hunt should compete for a roster spot as well. If the Eagles add a defensive end in free agency or high in the draft, perhaps we could see Graham get some snaps inside.
If you missed my What they're saying about the Eagles post earlier, click here.
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