In a special edition of this grocery shopping series, we'll look solely at edge rushers, which is perhaps the Eagles' biggest need this offseason. As long as you're sitting around watching college football today, here are 5 players to keep an eye on who could be of interest to the Eagles next May.
Trevor Reilly, OLB, Utah: Utah at Oregon
A couple weeks ago when doling out grades for the Eagles defense at the halfway point in the season, I wrote about the OLBs, and will re-hash what I wrote then.
Connor Barwin is the most complete player of the Eagles' outside linebackers, as he can rush the passer, play the run, and cover. He's not stellar at any one of those things, but he's solid enough across the board to be a legitimate productive 3-4 OLB in the NFL. Barwin seems to be the perfect compliment to an OLB on the other side who can really specialize in getting after the passer.
Trent Cole has gotten the majority of snaps on the other side, and the Eagles haven't asked him to do as much as Barwin in coverage. The following data, via ProFootballFocus, shows how often Barwin and Cole rush the passer or drop in coverage on pass plays:
As the chart above shows, when the opposing offense is passing, Barwin is almost twice as likely to drop into coverage, with Cole getting pass rush opportunities on more than 80% of opposing pass plays.
The Eagles' biggest need on defense, in my opinion, is a stud outside edge pass rusher who can play opposite Barwin and be an impact player. That is not Trevor Reilly.
Reilly is a lot more like Barwin, in that he's comfortable handling all the responsibilities (pass rush, run support, and coverage) of the OLB position, but isn't an elite player at any one of those things. When you watch Utah, they line Reilly up all over the field, which makes him very attractive as a versatile player in Billy Davis' defense (via DraftBreakdown.com):
In a way, Reilly is both a great fit, and a bad fit. He's a great fit in that his skill set is perfect for the Eagles' defensive scheme, but he's a bad fit in that the Eagles already have a good player in place who basically plays the same role, in Barwin.
Still, because of the Eagles' fast paced, quick strike offense, the Eagles' defense faces more snaps than any team in the NFL. They need depth, and Reilly would be a player who can play multiple positions and multiple roles. If you can get him in the middle rounds, he could be a fantastic bargain.
On a side note, Utah has had a large number of defenders drafted over the last 5 years, and many of them have panned out in the NFL:
In his last 3 games, Reilly has 5.5 sacks. Oregon's offense will present Reilly with a great challenge this week.
Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo (Tues): Buffalo at Miami Ohio
I hadn't actually taken a look at Mack until very recently, but when I did, he instantly became one of my favorite players in the country. Mack is simply an incredible talent and an elite prospect, who would be an absolutely perfect fit for Billy Davis' 3-4 scheme. He can rush the passer, he does a tremendous job setting the edge against the run, and he has more than enough athleticism to cover.
However, Mack has the potential to be a star pass rusher in the NFL, and thus, a very high pick. As long as NFL teams are comfortable with his mental makeup, I would be surprised if Mack didn't get drafted in the top 15 picks.
In the first week of the season, Buffalo played Ohio State, and Mack was clearly the best player on the field. Just watch (again, via DraftBreakdown.com):
My favorite moments in the video above:
- At the 5:14 mark, the Buckeyes' OT tries to cut Mack and get him on the ground, which will make the screen pass easier to execute. Mack avoids the cut block, recognizes screen, reads the QB, picks off the pass, and then outruns a fast WR (#1) to the end zone. Extraordinarily impressive play, on so many levels.
- At the 8:39 mark, watch Mack just bully the Buckeyes' OG, who outweighs him by 60 pounds. He pushes him straight back into QB Braxton Miller, and when Miller tries to escape, Mack disengages, chases him down, and throws him to the ground violently, forcing a fumble. Football porn. Ultimately, it didn't count, as the zebras called Mack for hands to the face on the OG, but when you watch that play you see just how special Mack is.
Mack could be a star player in the NFL, and would fit the Eagles' biggest need on defense as an impact edge rusher. He will almost certainly be big blob on the Eagles' radar.
To note, Buffalo actually plays on Tuesday, but since this is one of the last chances I'll have to highlight Mack, I wanted to make sure he was included.
Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State: (17) Michigan State at Nebraska
Calhoun is a redshirt sophomore, so there's a good chance he won't enter the draft this year, but if he does, he could be viewed as an attractive pass rusher. Two weeks ago against Michigan, Calhoun was in on 3 sacks, and pressured Michigan QB Devin Gardner all day. However, it is noteworthy that he was shut down whenever he was being blocked by Michigan standout LT Taylor Lewan.
Calhoun has good size at 6'4, 250, and he did a good job setting the edge against Michigan's run game. He would be expected to move to 3-4 OLB if the Eagles had interest, and could be a player they try to develop, but would likely not a player that would have immediate impact.
Aaron Lynch, OLB, South Florida: Memphis at South Florida
I'll give you the short short version of Lynch's college career. He went to Notre Dame in 2011 as a true freshman and led the team with 5.5 sacks and 14 hurries, earning a spot on the Football Writers Association of America Freshman All-American team. After one season there, he wanted to go back home to Florida, so he transferred and had to sit 2012 out, which counted as his redshirt year.
During that year off, Lynch's weight dropped drastically, from his playing weight of 270 at Notre Dame to 244 at South Florida. Lynch's production in his first year playing at South Florida has been disappointing, to put it mildly. He has just 18 tackles (9 solo), 1 sack, and 3 tackles for loss. Not good.
Still, Lynch does have talent, and something you can't teach -- size. From a size perspectiive, Lynch fits the "Dion Jordan mold," at 6'6, 244 pounds, with room to add weight.
The top pass rushers in the 2014 draft will be Jadeveon Clowney and Anthony Barr. Those two players will be out of reach for the Eagles, unless they put together a big package to move up. The next group of edge rushers who could be attractive options for Philly all lack great size, except for Stanford's Trent Murphy:
If Lynch declares and the Eagles are comfortable with his mental makeup, he could be a more economical value pick with the type of size they're looking for.
By the way, if you actually do watch Memphis at South Florida, you're far more hardcore than me.
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
If you don't know who Jadeveon Clowney is, there's a good chance you wouldn't be reading this article in the first place. But obviously, Clowney is an immensely gifted player, and maybe the #1 talent in the country. He's a surefire top 5 pick, and should be an immediate impact player in the NFL.
Even if the Eagles lost the rest of their games this season, they have probably already won too many to have a shot at him. Clowney is probably best suited in the 4-3, where you could use him all over the line, creating havoc for opposing offensive lines. But frankly, it wouldn't really matter what scheme you run, as Clowney would be an impact player in any system. My guess is that the Eagles would stick him at the rush OLB spot and just send him after the QB on 95% of the plays, because his talents would almost be wasted as a 2-gap DE.
Just figured I'd mention him at some point this season, but something catastrophic would have to occur (both to Clowney and the Eagles) for Clowney to become an Eagle.
Previously highlighted players:
- Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
- Devin Street, WR, Pittsburgh
- Cyrus Kouandijo, OT, Alabama
- Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State
- Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
- Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami
- Cameron Erving, OT, Florida State
- Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
- Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
- Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
- Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
- Hroniss Grasu, C, Oregon
- Michael Sam, DE, Missouri
- E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri
- RaShede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
- Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
- Lamarcus Joyner, CB/S, Florida State
- Christian Jones, LB, Florida State
- Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
- Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
- Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
- De'Anthony Thomas, TAZR, Oregon
- Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
- Allen Robinson,WR, Penn State
- Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
- Antone Exum, CB, Virginia Tech
- Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado
- Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
- Taylor Hart, DE, Oregon
- Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
- Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma
- Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss
- Chris Smith, DE, Arkansas
- Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
- Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
- Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
- Daniel McCullers, NT, Tennessee
- Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers
- Craig Loston, S, LSU
- Yawin Smallwood, ILB, UConn
- Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
- Adrian Hubbard, OLB, Alabama
- C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
- Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
- Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
- Stephen Morris, QB, Miami
- Louchiez Purifoy, Marcus Roberson, and Jaylen Watkins, CBs, Florida
- Tayler Lewan, OT, Michigan
- Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
- Stephon Tuitt, NT, Notre Dame
- David Fales, QB, San Jose State
- Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford
- Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
- Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon
- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
- Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
- Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA