Once again, it's time to take one last look at the Eagles roster before the draft. With the offense already discussed, let's move on to the defense. Today we'll take each position in turn, noting what I think the Eagles should do against what I think they will do.
Defensive Line: One of the things that's tough about this analysis is we don't yet know exactly what the defensive scheme will look like. Adding Isaac Sopoaga and Connor Barwin point strongly in the direction of a 3-4, but both Chip Kelly at Oregon and Billy Davis with the Cardinals have run hybrid schemes. The most recent report suggests that at least in the base defense there's a 3-4 focus with Cox on one side, Sopoaga at the nose, and players like Vinny Curry and Cedric Thornton on the other. Trent Cole and Brandon Graham are shifted to outside linebacker, although I wouldn't be surprised to see them playing with their hands on the ground in many pass rush situations. If the goal is to transition more fully into a 3-4, Cox is the only solid piece in place. I like Thornton too, but that other end spot is still up for grabs. Meanwhile, Sopogoa will turn 32 in September. A young nose tackle to groom under him is important.
DL Should: I'd rather the team skip some of the top names and draft bodies to compete in the mid and late rounds. Neither the nose tackle nor the end opposite Cox need to be glamorous players, and you can find good options later. DL Will: There's a chance, especially if they trade down, that defensive line could be a target in the first round, but I think most likely it's a position they'll address later on.
Linebacker: The great conversion begins with Graham and Cole, who are transitioning to stand-up linebackers in the new scheme. The team needs to add more young depth here, though, especially because its unclear that either will be able to handle a new position. On the inside, DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks make a solid one-two punch. Not much need there at the moment.
LB Should: If Fisher's off the board at four overall, I wouldn't hesitate to select Dion Jordan. Players with his athleticism don't come along very often, and Kelly already knows how best to use him. Otherwise, I'm looking more to the later rounds and the undrafted pool for help here. Also, trade Vinny Curry to someone who might actually use him properly. LB Will: I think Jordan is a likely target if Jacksonville doesn't snatch him first. Otherwise the Eagles may like a third round pass rusher, as they have so many times in the past.
Cornerback: There's a ton of uncertainty at cornerback. We know what kind of slot corner Brandon Boykin is, but the two new (presumed) starters -- Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams -- are unknowns who weren't high-priced free agent acquisitions. I know no one's counting on familiar names like Huges, Lindley, or Marsh to suddenly step up.
CB Should: Draft one early, maybe in the top of the second round. This is a crucial position and it often takes years for a prospect to adjust to the NFL game. Get some talent into the building. CB Will: Sounds like there's a good group of corners expected to go in the second round. Perhaps the Eagles trade back or wait at the top of the third and scoop up whomever's left.
Safety: More question marks abound. The Eagles signed two players with talent but history of injuries and inconsistency: Kenny Philips and Patrick Chung. They bring back two players two underperformed mightily: Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman. Colt Anderson and David Sims stick around for good measure. I don't think there's any way to handicap who's going to start -- or even who's gong to be on the team a year from now. That deserves more competition.
S Should: There are some intriguing late first-early second round safety prospects, but I'd rather aim for cornerback first and safety later. S Will: The fourth-fifth round seems like a more reasonable place to add another body. Also UDFAs.
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