Kelly's confidence high in Eagles' young D-line

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Kelly's confidence high in Eagles' young D-line

Lunch Break: Foles vs. Pryor

October 31, 2013, 1:15 pm
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From left to right: Clifton Geathers is 25, Damion Square is 24 and Bennie Logan is 23. (USA Today Images)

The Eagles’ defensive line will have a new look starting Sunday.

Starting nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga is gone, which means when the Eagles face the Raiders in Oakland, we’ll see more Bennie Logan, more Damion Square and more Clifton Geathers.

The Eagles’ defense has gotten younger, and the coaches believe it’s gotten better.

“I thought Isaac did a nice job for us, but we felt like we had a couple younger guys that we really need to continue to get in there, and when they've played, they continue to really produce,” head coach Chip Kelly said.

“I think Clifton Geathers is a great example. Clifton Geathers played 13 snaps on Sunday vs. the Giants and had three contacts with the ball, and he's a guy that just keeps getting better. I think Bennie Logan is a guy we need to see more of. Damion Square is a guy who was up for [the first] two games ... but you watch Square every day in practice and I think Square, Logan and Geathers need more reps.”

The Eagles traded Sopoaga, their only defensive lineman over 25 years old, and a sixth-round pick to the Patriots at Tuesday’s trade deadline in exchange for a fifth-round pick.

Sopoaga played 237 snaps in the first eight games, which means defensive coordinator Billy Davis will have about 30 more snaps per game to divvy up to the Eagles’ young defensive linemen.

Logan, a rookie third-round pick from LSU, starts in place of Sopoaga, with Square likely to be activated for the first time since Week 2 and backing up at nose. Geathers is an end, but since Cedric Thornton can play both inside and out, the Eagles expect his snaps to increase too.

“If it's one position on a team that we probably had the most depth on, probably the most encouraged we were about, [it’s] our defensive line,” Kelly said. “I think getting the younger guys involved is going to be beneficial for us. I'm excited to see Bennie and Clifton and Square and those guys play a lot more.”

Logan has played well but has been limited to 21 snaps per game, just 11 vs. the Giants Sunday.

That number will probably almost double in the coming weeks.

“Being able to get more reps, I’m looking forward to that,” Logan said. “Every week I prepare as if I’m a starter so it’s nothing new for me to practice hard or give my all. It’s something I’m used to doing every day.

“It’s just being focused to detail now that I’m with the first team. Make sure I handle my business, limit my mistakes and be more consistent.”

Square made the roster as an undrafted rookie free agent, but it’s tough to get a third defensive tackle any reps. Maybe in a 4-3 but not in a 3-4.

So Square hasn’t played since Week 2, which wasn’t easy for a guy who played on three BCS National Championship teams at Alabama.

“I just used it as an opportunity to learn, an opportunity to get to know myself,” he said.

“You’re not the guy, you’re sitting on the side, you get a lot of time to just reflect, and for me, I asked myself, ‘What can you do to make sure when you do get back, how are you going to make it difficult for these guys to take me off the field again?’

“And that’s what I’ve been trying to do. I’ve been out there practicing hard. I approach practice the same way every day as if I’m a first-team guy, try to give the best scout look I can give, try to give the best second-team look that I can give, that way when my name is called I’ll be ready and will be a productive player.”

As for Geathers, he opened a lot of eyes with his performance against the Giants and likely earned himself more playing time as well.

“I see every day as an opportunity,” he said. “Even last game, even though it was only [13] snaps, I still played my hardest regardless. Whatever snaps I get, I’ll play hard. Doesn’t matter if I’m first string, second string, somebody’s gone, I’m just going to play my ass off, whenever I’m out there.”

The Eagles have the makings of a very good young defensive line here.

Fletcher Cox is 22, Logan is 23, Square is 24 and Geathers, Vinny Curry and Cedric Thornton are 25.

And now we’ll get to see even more of them.

This is the first time since 2000 that all the defensive linemen on the roster are in their 20s -- that year it was Hugh Douglas, Paul Grasmanis, Mike Mamula, Brandon Whiting, Tyrone Williams, Hollis Thomas and Uhuru “Joby” Hamiter -- and the first time going back to 1950, as far back as available records go, that the Eagles don’t have a defensive lineman on the roster who’s older than 25.

“Our young guys are playing pretty good football,” Kelly said. “I think the strength of our team on the defensive side of the ball has been our defensive line and the production that we're getting out of those guys.

“We've got a lot of good competition going on at that position. How do we create more opportunities for those young guys?”

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