Each Sunday we'll examine a potential draft pick for the Eagles -- first round or otherwise. Today we'll take a look at a defensive tackle out of Penn State.
Height/Weight: 6-4, 322
School: Penn State
Last offseason when the Eagles knew they were moving to Bill Davis' hybrid 3-4 scheme, one of the first signings they made in free agency was Isaac Sopoaga. The big defensive tackle was expected to come in, play the one-technique and clog the middle of the line on running downs. And while the veteran did a decent job in his limited snaps, he was shipped to New England midway through the season so rookie Bennie Logan could take over at nose tackle. Logan, a much more athletic player than Sopoaga, acquitted himself well despite his lack of girth, and should be slotted in between defensive ends Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton as the starter in 2014.
But with little behind Logan (Damion Square) and the Birds' penchant for rotating linemen during games, I would be shocked if the Eagles didn't target a run-stopping DT in either free agency or the draft.
Jones' biggest asset is size and strength. He dropped over 20 pounds between his junior and senior season while maintaining his brute strength and improving his quickness. Jones led Penn State in tackles for loss (11 ½) and recorded three sacks in 2013.
Against the run, Jones is hard to move when he gets low and establishes a wide base. He does a good job of keeping his shoulders square to the line and shedding blocks. Big and strong enough to take on double teams, Jones can toss blockers when he gets underneath their pads. Once he's shed a block, Jones is very quick in short areas and is a solid tackler. He showed scheme versatility as well, lining up at DE when the Nittany Lions went to a three-man front.
While Jones doesn't offer much in terms of pass rush, he's very capable of collapsing pockets using his strength and making it difficult for passers to step up and throw.
Like many big men, Jones' technique gets a little spotty at times. He was able to get by on his strength alone in college, but in the pros if he doesn't win the leverage battle he'll get washed out of a lot of plays. Jones needs to keep his base wide while tracking down the line or he'll be spending too much time on the ground.
Jones is down to 322, but teams will have to make sure he keeps the additional pounds off. In 2012 he carried another 20 pounds and became sluggish as games progressed.
Jones will also need to continue improving his recognition skills and finding the ball. Watching him this season, you'd see Jones lose where the ball was too often. I'd also like to see a bit more nastiness out of Jones. I know that's hard to quantify, but he doesn't have the same swagger Florida State's Timmy Jernigan or Pitt's Aaron Donald have, and I like that from the guy eating up blocks in the middle.
How he'd fit with the Eagles
Davis likes to rotate linemen in and out, keeping them fresh, and finding good matchups. Logan is more of a penetrator at NT, relying on his outstanding athleticism to make plays in the run game rather than holding his ground against double teams. As mentioned above, the Eagles have little depth behind him, and certainly nobody capable of disrupting the run game.
Jones fits that bill as a rotational piece, capable of gumming up the works against the run and pushing the pocket on passing downs. The Eagles were statistically solid against the run in 2013 (probably because they were so bad against the pass), but finding a player who can take on the double teams in short-yardage situations and stymie a team trying to control the clock is still a need.
It's not necessarily a top priority this offseason, but being able to address it with a player like Jones in the second round would certainly make some sense and add to an already young and talented defensive line.
Prospect reflection: Linval Joseph (East Carolina): Second round (46th overall) by New York Giants
Draft projection: Second round (48 to 64)