Tuesday, November 25, 2014
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Round-up of edge pass rushers the Eagles have shown interest in this offseason

Unsurprisingly, the Eagles have taken a hard look at a good number of pass rushing prospects this offseason, as it is arguably their biggest need. It was revealed yesterday that the Birds will be hosting UCLA's Anthony Barr and Louisville's Marcus Smith, two of the draft's better pass rushers.

Round-up of edge pass rushers the Eagles have shown interest in this offseason

Georgia Tech´s Jeremiah Attaochu. (G.M. Andrews/AP file photo)
Georgia Tech's Jeremiah Attaochu. (G.M. Andrews/AP file photo)

Unsurprisingly, the Eagles have taken a hard look at a good number of pass rushing prospects this offseason, as it is arguably their biggest need. It was revealed yesterday that the Birds will be hosting UCLA's Anthony Barr and Louisville's Marcus Smith, two of the draft's better pass rushers.

The Barr news comes via Ross Jones of FOX Sports:

The Smith news comes via Alex Marvez of Sirius:

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Marcus Smith @MoneyMarcc91 has visited with @Titans & @Colts. Heading to @Eagles on Mon for final pre-draft visit @SiriusXMNFL @Gil_Brandt

— Alex Marvez (@alexmarvez) April 15, 2014

Let's recap which edge rushers have caught the Eagles' eye this offseason:

Pre-draft visits

Anthony Barr, UCLA (6'5, 255): Barr is an obvious Eagles draft target because of his size, athleticism, and production. Had a "down year" in 2013 when he collected 10 sacks, a year after being 2nd in the country as a junior with 13.5 sacks. He converted from RB to OLB in college, so his skills are considered to be a little raw, but Barr's size/speed combo is rare. It is highly unlikely that Barr will be available when the Eagles pick at 22, but if he unexpectedly slides into the mid teens, the Eagles might consider trading up to get him. 

Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech (6'3, 252):  Attaochu had 12.5 sacks his senior season at Georgia Tech, including 10.5 in his last 6 games. We had previously reviewed Attaochu back in January, but here's the short version:

Attaochu has the requisite athletic ability and size to be a dominant pass rusher, but it could take some time to teach him how to rush the passer and master the finer points of the game (timing out the snap count, developing a pass rushing repertoire, etc). In terms of his fit in Philly, Attaochu could be played sparingly behind Trent Cole for a year, before taking over as the rush OLB in 2015.

Attaochu is thought of by some as a first round pick. However, there will likely be better players on the board at 22 when the Eagles are picking. If the Eagles found a trade-back partner to acquire more picks, and they moved further back in to the 1st round or early 2nd, Attaochu could be a nice value there. However, he's unlikely to make it all the way to the Eagles' pick in the 2nd round at 54th overall.

Marcus Smith, Louisville (6'3, 251): Opinions on Smith are all over the map. Some see him as a borderline 1st round pick. Others see him lasting until the 3rd. Smith played a variety of positions at Louisville, which will appeal to the Eagles, who value versatility. He was also 2nd in the country with 14.5 sacks, although a number of those were the result of a creative defensive scheme as opposed to Smith dominating opposing offensive tackles.

If Smith is still available when the Eagles are picking in the 2nd round, he could be in play. 

Larry Webster, Bloomsberg (6'6, 252): I haven't had the chance to watch Webster play yet, but he boasts an impressive blend of size and speed. Late round project.

Pro Day exposure

Khalil Mack (6'3, 251): The Eagles reportedly ran Mack's pro day, so we'll include him here. In case you are unaware of Mack's work, here's a sampling from his game against Ohio State this year.

Mack gets up under the RT's pads and puts him on roller skates back into the QB: 

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.

Watch as Mack bends under the OT's block mid speed rush. This is only a 3-man rush. No way Mack should be able to get to the QB as fast as he does here.

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.

Unfortunately, there's almost  no chance Mack gets out of the top 6 or 7 picks, and that's a worst case scenario.

Kony Ealy, Missouri (6'4, 273): Chip Kelly attended Missouri's pro day, and the best Missouri prospect is DE Kony Ealy, who actually reminds me a little bit of Vinny Curry. Both players have a great burst off the line, but can they play in space? Where do you put Ealy? Is he an OLB in a 3-4, or a DE? Like Curry, Ealy's best fit is probably as a 4-3 DE, so I don't think the Eagles would want to spend their first pick on another guy like that.

Michael Sam, Missouri (6'2, 261): Kelly also saw Sam at Missouri's pro day. Sam's best fit is probably as a situational pass rusher in a 4-3, and those guys can be valuable. However, the Eagles already have a 6'2, 260-ish pound 4-3 DE who can rush the passer, but struggles with everything else. That would be Brandon Graham, who the Eagles are trying to trade because he doesn'tfit their scheme. Graham was a far better prospect than Sam coming out of college.

Will Clarke, West Virginia (6'6, 271): Clarke was actually an Eagles 4th round pick in my first mock draft this year. Clarke played DE and NT at WVU, but the Eagles may be looking at him as a 3-4 OLB at the next level. Clarke is huge, at 6'6, 271, and may be athletic enough to occasionally play in space in the Eagles' 3-4 scheme. He also does a great job with batted passes (he had 7 of them in 2013), which is something the Eagles value.

Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com profiled Clarke in depth.

Scott Crichton, Oregon State (6'3, 273): The Eagles worked Crichton through LB drills at Oregon State's pro day, per Tony Pauline (via Tommy). Over the last 3 years at Oregon State, Crichton had good production. His sack numbers aren't eye-popping (22.5), but he had 51 tackles for loss, 10 forced fumbles, and 9 batted passes. Those numbers are excellent. 

Combine interviews

Trevor Reilly, Utah (6'5, 245): Reilly is a lot like Connor 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 lined Reilly up all over the field, which makes him very attractive as a versatile player in Billy Davis' defense.

However, there is one major knock on him. He's 26.

Adrian Hubbard, Alabama (6'6, 257): Check out how Hubbard's height, weight and wingspan compare to other OLB's at the Combine since 1999. Hubbard has good athleticism for his size, but only 10 sacks in his 3 year career at Alabama.

Private workout

Jesse Joseph, UConn (6'3, 262, unofficial): Likely a UDFA target.

General interest

Ronald Powell, Florida (6'3, 237): Philly.com reported yesterday that the Eagles have shown heavy interest in Powell. A review of Powell can be found here.

Current NFL players

Dion Jordan, Miami Dolphins (6'6, 248): The Eagles reportedly made a trade offer for Jordan that included Brandon Graham and a 2nd round pick. We offered thoughts on that scenario here last week.

Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski

Jimmy Kempski Philly.com
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