This defense will only go as far as this unit will take them during the 2016 season. It’s all about Fletcher Cox and company up front. They set the tone on a play to play basis. We went over Cox’s contract during our recent podcast. With the 63 plus guaranteed he’s now the focal point and was for some time. This blog isn’t as much about Fletcher Cox because we all know what he is capable of. It’s about his teammates and potential teammates and how they’ll stack up along side of him. After moving from a 3/4 to a 4/3 the emphasis will be on getting to the quarterback. That job falls on everyone but more so on the shoulders of Vinny Curry who was just signed to an extension and 2010 1st round draftee Brandon Graham.
Lost in the shuffle here is Conor Barwin. I said at length on earlier podcasts I’m not sure where he fits in. In a 3/4 scheme his primary role was edge rusher. Barwin isn’t a hand in the dirt player. I thought he might an earlier trade piece come draft time but he clearly wasn’t moved. At times I believe he’ll drop back and play a traditional 4-3 OLB roll. Jim Schwartz will have to do his best to disguise how he will use Barwin. The other players on the roster fighting for spots are as follows: Bryan Braman, Mike Martin, Alex McCalister, Steven Means, Marcus Smith, Beau Allen, Taylor Hart, Bennie Logan, Derrick Lott, Aziz Shittu, Destiny Vaeao and Conor Wujciak. Out of the crop I just mentioned I think it’s fair and safe to say Bennie Logan is the only solid lock to be on this roster. Playing next to Fletcher Cox I don’t think Logan gets enough credit. Cox even went on to say after he signed his deal he wants Logan to get one as well. Bryan Braman is making a similar switch as Conor Barwin. Being a special teams ace I expect Braman to be the 9th-10th guy and ultimately have a spot. At the same time if it’s a numbers game I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a camp casualty come early September.
If you’ve listen to our recent two podcasts you know I’m extremely high on rookie DE Alex McCalister. In 5 years we could look back on this draft and say he was the best selection. Hopefully he’s the second behind QB Carson Wentz but that’s a topic for another day. At 6’6 239 he needs to add more weight but I really like his skill set. His frame reminds me of Chandler Jones. Hopefully the production will soon follow. I expect him to be brought along slowly. He will be way down on the depth chart. His first NFL season could be a redshirt but I expect big things down the road.
I think we’ve seen the end of the Taylor Hart era. Chip took one of his golden boys in the 5th round of the 2013 draft. 2 rounds two early but he never did or accomplished anything. I expect him to be looking for work come September and most likely will be out of the league. Other rookies that could make an impact come camp and preseason time is UDFA Aziz Shittu (have fun with the last name if he produces). Signed after the draft from Stanford, some teams had 5th – 7th round grades on him. He could be a diamond in the rough. Mike Martin was picked up as a veteran and could earn one of the last spots. I believe it could ultimately come down to him and 3 year pro Beau Allen. Although they play different positions neither has ties to this current regime.
I listed Marcus Smith with the rest of the guys but in my opinion he’s a long shot to make this team. The former 2014 1st round pick has done nothing to earn a spot. He hasn’t done enough to warrant being active on game days the last 2 seasons. He will need a great training camp and preseason to make the 53.
Buddy Ryan Blog coming Thursday
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