In Part V of this series, we'll look at the defensive linemen the Eagles spoke with after Senior Bowl practices. This is the final installment of the series, and apologies for the delay in finishing this series off, as the Super Bowl took precedence last week. In case you missed Parts I, II, III, and IV they can be found here:
• Part I - Cornerbacks (Also, the full list of player the Eagles spoke with can be found here).
The defensive line is probably the Eagles' biggest strength on the defense. Bennie Logan filled in at NT nicely last season, but his value is as a versatile defensive lineman who can play all 3 positions. Watching the Saints move the Eagles' defensive line in the run game reinforced the need to bring in a more traditional big-bodied run stuffer. The Eagles swung and missed with Isaac Sopoaga last offseason. Expect them to try again in 2014.
At DE, the Eagles have a nice mix of young talent. This is a low priority position in terms of "need," however, it's also never a bad idea to load up on players in the trenches. The three below players would all likely project to DE in the Eagles' 3-4 scheme.
• Will Clarke, DE, West Virginia (6'6, 271)
Clarke was late addition to the Senior Bowl roster, after having a good week of practices at the East-West Shrine Game, and is a player who continues to ascend.
When you watch Clarke's games in 2012 and compare them to 2013, there is a noticeable difference in his play both on the field and in the stat sheet. First, the stats:
The number that jumps out is Clarke's 17 tackles for loss last season, a very impressive number.
The other thing that jumps out is Clarke's impressive size, at 6'6, 271. Over the last 2 years, Clarke had 7 batted passes at the line, which is something the Eagles value. Batted passes are more of a product of awareness as opposed to height, but the add height certainly doesn't hurt.
I liked the following consecutive plays at the 8:25 mark below. First, Clarke keeps his eyes on the QB while rushing, reads bubble screen, gets his hands up in the passing lane, makes the QB double pump, which almost leads to an INT by the CB. Then on the next play, TCU tries to block Clarke with a RB (which isn't going to happen), but more impressively, watch the bend and balance to stay up continue to hunt the QB. Nicely done (via draftbreakdown.com):
Clarke is also thought of as a good character guy, who is thought of highly by the West Virginia coaching staff. He expects to pursue his masters in forensics. The Eagles have shown that they are placing a high value on character under Chip Kelly. He is also a player used to playing the read and react style on DL play that the Eagles employ with their 3-4 two-gap scheme.
• DeAndre Coleman, DT, Cal (6'5, 315)
After watching Coleman's games, what you see is a player who does a really good job of engaging the blocker, driving him back while reading the play, and then shedding the block once the play has been diagnosed. He does a great job against the the run, but he's not an impact player as a pass rusher.
Here's a quick 3-minute video of Coleman against Chip Kelly's 2012 Oregon Ducks. Watch Coleman consistently get off blocks, and affect running plays.
The Eagles' run defense was exposed a bit in the playoff game against the Saints, when they were often blown off the ball in short yardage situations. Coleman is big and strong at 6'5, 315, and he has long 34" arms to keep opposing blockers from getting into his body. Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton are both good DEs against the run, but the Eagles don't have much in the way of depth in terms of run-stopping defensive linemen. Coleman could be a legitimate target to fill that kind of role in the mid-late rounds.
• Brent Urban, DE, Virginia (6'7, 298)
Urban has great size at 6'7, 298, and is a batted pass machine. In 2013, he had 9 of them. Batted passes really aren't all that much different from sacks. Let's look at the difference between sacks and batted passes:
• Loss of down
• Potential for forced fumble
• Potential for inflicting some pain on the QB
• Loss of yardage
• Loss of down
• Potential for INT on deflection
With sacks, obviously, you get the loss of yardage, and the hit on the QB, but batted passes can be just as impactful. For example, Connor Barwin's batted pass on 4th down in the 4th quarter against the Cowboys was every bit as big a play as Brandon Boykin's game sealing INT. 9 batted passes by Urban is a huge number, and one that should not be under-appreciated.
However, there is one glaring red flag to Urban's game. In the following game against BYU, Urban had a very good showing. He had 3 batted passes, and a lot of good pressure on the QB. However, throughout the game, you consistently see him jogging and watching when he thinks the play is away from him. A great example is at the 6:36 mark. It looks like the RB is going to be tackled, but he gets free, and because Urban is loafing around behind the play, he's nowhere to be found when he could have made the tackle or even punched the ball free from behind if he had been hustling. This is the opposite of what you would call "having a good motor."
The Eagles will need to determine if Urban's bad motor is a product of fatigue, or just a lack of hustle. If it's the former, you can get a guy into shape. If it's the latter, it's hard to teach desire.
Otherwise, Urban would be a great fit as a DE in the Eagles' 3-4 scheme.
Disclaimer: To note, by the time the Eagles whittle down their draft board to around 150+ players, they will speak with just about every prospect. Still, it is interesting to see who the scouts and assistant coaches spend some extra time with after practices, as it shows at least some level of extra interest.