Training Camp Preview: Defensive LineBREAKING NEWS, Eagles, News Monday, July 7th, 2014
The 2014 draft was “defensive heavy,” and all five players selected should contribute as “role players.” Breaking down the current depth chart, the defensive line has a nice mix of traditional 3-4 players, 4-3 players and guys who fit into both schemes.
Yes, we are no longer “transitioning” to a 3-4; this is our defensive scheme, so we should be focused on 3-4 base players. Defensive coordinator Billy Davis has made it clear that the Eagles will not be a traditional 3-4 defense that most identify with in the NFL. Remove comparisons to the Ravens and Steelers, the smash mouth style led behind the massive nose tackle, double digit sack collecting linebackers and a ball hawking safety.
We will continue to hear labels like “modified” and “hybrid” associated with our 3-4 scheme. For those like me who were ecstatic to learn that we were going in the direction of the 3-4; being patient and trusting the philosophy of a defensive coordinator with a mediocre NFL track record can be challenging.
Defensive Line- Interchangeable parts; composed of athletes and not pure “beef.” Our starting nose tackle will play at less than 320 pound. Bennie Logan will see time as your typical nose tackle with his gap assignments, taking on two blockers so the linebackers can make the play. Logan will also fill the untraditional nose tackle role by moving to defensive end; Bill Davis will take advantage of the speed and athleticism from the second year player out of LSU. As for the “beef,” 2014 7th round Beau Allen will provide plenty, his chances of making this team are quite good with the traditional nose tackle background that he brings to the team.
Starting alongside Logan will be returning defensive ends Thorton and Cox. Thorton looks to build on a strong 2013 campaign, and Logan is eager to prove that he can be a dominant nose tackle playing at a weight many would not associate with his position. Defensive end Vinnie Curry would be starting for many 4-3 formats across the league, and his production when he saw limited time on the field resulted in pressure on the quarterback. 5th rounder Taylor Hart is a big, physical traditional 3-4 end whose work ethic and toughness was applauded by his former college and now professional coach Chip Kelly. The remaining front line positions will likely go to who turns in the best training camp and preseason with Square, Kruger and Villanueva, unless an unlikely player comes out of nowhere to win the job.
This unit “must’ create consistent pressure on the quarterback without relying on the blitz to be successful in that area. The top defenses in the league shut down the rushing attack and disrupt the passing attack. They win games for their respected football team, and are game changers when a big play needs to happen.
The key to the defense is Fletcher Cox. After a promising rookie campaign in the 4-3 base defense, Cox had a “decent” year, but expectations for a player who was drafted that high in the first round are to be a Pro Bowl caliber player. He has the tools, and the coaching staff recognize that like Connor Barwin last season; Cox was asked to help out in areas that took away “production numbers” that are often seen as how good of a season the player is having. Cox was often a split second away from a sack, but his pressure on the quarterback led to other players racking up sacks or altering the timing pattern of the quarterback throw.
This is a young defensive line that is learning the ropes as a unit. They proved last year that what they lack in size they make up for in speed.
This season, having the “experience” of playing the 3-4 and better depth at the position group will hopefully provide consistent reliability within the group and a significant increase with overall production.
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