Defensive Line Review/Outlook

The Eagles defensive line was supposed to be an area of strength heading into the 2016 season under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.  Beyond the early portion of the season that was not the case at all.  The defensive line drastically took a declined statistically and in terms of production after the month of September.  Far too often Schwartz relied on generating a pass rush from his front four which simply did not get the job done.  Fletcher Cox signed his monster deal in the offseason, and the Eagles still expect him to be a cornerstone piece on this defense so he won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.  His defensive tackle partner, Bennie Logan, heads into the offseason as an unrestricted free agent with question marks surrounding his return to the team.  Logan has made it know he wants to resign in Philadelphia, but this is his opportunity for a monster contract so he will not be taking a “hometown discount.”  The Eagles have a ton of capital invested into the defensive line as a whole so I’m not totally sure Howie Roseman will have the capability to match an offer for Logan on the open market.  Beau Allen is a nice role player and honestly filled in well during Logan’s absence, but how will he perform as a full-time starter if needed?  Also, it must be noted that Fletcher Cox played better while Logan was next to him so that’s another factor to consider in this decision.  Vinny Curry was the ultimate disappointment after receiving his long-term contract in the offseason.  Curry finally got his chance to play in the 4-3 scheme which was described as best suited for his style of play.  He recorded 2.5 sacks for the entire season.  That’s not even close to the production you need from a player with a cap hit of $9 million heading into 2017.  The Eagles won’t be able to get out of Curry’s contract so he simply needs to play better or possibly find a trade partner.  Next up is Connor Barwin who predictably struggled mightily during his transition from linebacker to defensive end.  Barwin is not big enough to pass rush against left tackles in this league.  It only took the Eagles an entire season to realize that.  Barwin is under contract for the next two seasons, and carries a dead cap hit of $600,000 in 2017 according to Spotrac.  He has mentioned he would be willing to take a pay cut to remain an Eagle.  We’ve talked about this at length pretty much every time Barwin is mentioned, he’s a great guy and teammate.  That being said the Eagles need to move on and find players who fit Schwartz’s scheme.  Barwin can still help a 3-4 defense in this league at the outside linebacker spot.  Arguably the best player on the defensive line this season was Brandon Graham who earned 2nd Team All Pro honors.  Graham earned high grades consistently from Pro Football Focus as well.  That being said Seth Joyner was recently on WIP and he believes Graham is still limited as a pass rusher.  Joyner believes Graham will never be more than an 8 sack player.  Graham is relatively undersized for a 4-3 defensive end, but he’s proven to be a valuable player for the Eagles.  The defensive end opposite Graham is the real issue which needs to be solved amongst others.

 

Sources: spotrac.com, philadelphiaeagles.com, profootballfocus.com

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