As we approach the launch of the Eagles 2018 training camp, we'll take a look at some of the key positions we'll see this summer.
Today we will look at the defensive line.
Names to Know
Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan, Michael Bennett, Haloti Ngata, Chris Long, Derek Barnett, Destiny Vaeao
What to look for
The only guy we do not really have Need to waste time is Cox. He is really good and he has to be a big part of the team. OK, enough about Fletch.
Here are many moving parts. It starts with a few injuries. Jernigan is still recovering from the postseason back surgery and is likely to be a candidate to start the season on the non-soccer injury list. And Graham is also recovering from the surgery to heal a strong ankle sprain he had at the end of last season and pull through in the playoffs. As long as Graham is still healthy at the beginning of the season, he will start at the defensive end. That means we know two starters for the season opener.
The team added Bennett through a trade and added Ngata through a free agency. The Eagles cut Vinny Curry and run Beau Allen. Still, this is a very strong unit, maybe even stronger than a year ago.
Long considered retiring, but came back and Barnett should improve as he enters Year 2. At least they make this unit incredibly deep. What's more, defensive-line coach Chris Wilson said he wanted to press Barnett for a start-up gig this year. Barnett was a rotating player last year and was often a passionate specialist.
There are some ways in which the grid could work, and it really depends on Jernigan's health and Bennett's comfort in the defense. The Eagles have opportunities with Bennett for his ability to play end and tackle. If the Eagles really see Ngata as a rotation player who can not start until Jernigan returns, maybe Bennett will slip in. That could give the Eagles a chance to get their four best on the field: Graham, Cox, Bennett and Barnett. Not a bad idea, unless you think that Bennett is a load in the running game, where Ngata obviously fits better. The Eagles also have Vaeao, but although he is very popular with coaches, he can not imagine he would race over Ngata. Anyway, the Eagles will keep turning. So it's not just about starting gigs, it's about fighting for time and snaps. There are only a limited number of players.
Graham is healthy for the season opener, but Jernigan is not and starts the season on NFI. I think Graham, Cox, Ngata and Bennett start the season as starters, but Bennett and Graham spend a lot of time passing through Downs. After all, it's not surprising that Barnetts playing time so far that he is a starter.
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