Bennie Logan set to emerge from trenches as a star

Bennie Logan arrived in Philadelphia as a third-round pick out of LSU in 2013, joined the starting lineup in the middle of his rookie season, and proved to be a steady presence at nose tackle for the Eagles last year.

Entering his third year with the team, Logan appears to be poised for a breakout campaign - or at least as much as a nose tackle can produce, considering that his statistical production will not be as impressive as his on-field contribution.

The 25-year-old lineman stood out to the coaching staff throughout the preseason. And in his second year as a full-time starter, he can take the next step from a solid player to a consistent difference-maker.

"Bennie has just really been a disruptive force in the run game for us," coach Chip Kelly said Aug. 31. "I think he's been difficult to block in all three of these preseason games [he played], is causing a lot of havoc, getting penetration into the backfield, and disrupting the timing of plays. . . . I think he's played really well and may be playing as well as anybody on our defensive line right now."

That last claim is noteworthy because the Eagles defensive line is among the strongest units on the roster. Fletcher Cox is one of the NFL's top young defenders. Cedric Thornton is a three-year starter who has drawn Kelly's praise in the past. With the level Logan is playing, the Eagles can find comfort in a group that has been together since Kelly arrived.

"It's important, the chemistry with those three guys going on to three years now," Logan said. "We know what each other are capable of and we hold each other accountable."

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In the first two preseason games, running backs seemed to find Logan to finish their rush. He had three tackles in nine plays in the preseason opener and three tackles in 15 plays in the second game.

Earlier this summer, Kelly raved about "his knowledge and understanding of blocking schemes" going into his third year in the defense. Kelly said the run stops were not only physical plays but also intelligent ones. In the first game, he came on the back side on a power run, running around the center to make a play in the backfield. On another play, a right guard could not get to Logan and he ran over the center.

"Confidence and just understanding," Logan said, "it allows you to just play. . . . This is the third year in the same defense, so I feel like you should do nothing but progress. . . . I don't want to be the drop-off or the weak link of the D-line or on defense."

The numbers he accumulated in the preseason might not last in the regular season, which would not necessarily be an indication of his play. The team credited Logan with 61 total tackles and no sacks in 639 snaps last season. But the Eagles kept the opponents to the fifth fewest yards per carry of any run defense in the NFL, and Logan played a major part of that effort. He is a stout, long-armed run defender who can occupy blockers at the point of attack. That allows other defenders to roam free. When he can disengage and make a play, it shows up in the stat sheet. But when he ties up the blocker and the linebacker makes the play, the results are the same. That's also the case when he gets into the backfield and forces the runner to deviate from a path.

"I measure my production by my technique - how good I play my technique and my effort to the ball," Logan said. ". . . I just try to dominate the guy ahead of me."

Logan said his improvements could come with recognizing what the offense is doing earlier in the game. Pass rushing is another area that can improve, although the Eagles don't usually use Logan on passing downs. He has spent time on better understanding his pass rushing technique.

"At first, I was doing more reading instead of rushing," Logan said. "Now, I rush and then read later."

The defensive line's continuity means it is almost taken for granted compared to other positions. Kelly said earlier this summer that "you don't worry about" the defensive linemen, adding that the coaches did not need to spend much time on them in personnel meetings because of that group's consistency.

"I think they're continuing to grow, continuing to get a little bit stronger, develop more pass-rush moves, add a little bit more to their game," Kelly said. "But I think [Logan has] been outstanding."


zberman@phillynews.com

@ZBerm