Impressions on the First Iteration of the 2011 Eagles Depth Chart

Impressions on the First Iteration of the 2011 Eagles Depth Chart

There's a lot of fun "firsts" once football season starts to roll around. First day of training camp, the first day Madden is released, and, of course, the first Sunday of the season are all popular ones. Today was the less heralded, but still entertaining for football geeks, first draft of the Eagles' depth chart, as the headline would imply.

Of course, a couple of notes before we get into some analysis. First, the depth chart is always UNOFFICIAL. It's compiled largely based on watching who is taking what snaps during practices, not by members of the coaching staff. Also, obviously much can and will change before the regular season gets underway, but it's still interesting to take a peak at what the team is working with up at Lehigh.

So with that in mind, thoughts on a few key positions after the jump.

RT1 - Ryan Harris
This has to be considered the second biggest surprise on the depth chart. The Harris signing was met with little fanfare (we didn't even post on it), and sort of lost in the shuffle after the Birds acquired some guys named Nnamdi, and Cullen, and Ronnie. For now, he is the starting right tackle.

Winston Justice is currently on the Physically Unable to Perform list, but Andy Reid told reporters back in April that the starter of two seasons would compete with King Dunlap for his job. Dunlap, however, is currently third on the chart, even behind 2009 fifth rounder Fenuki Topou, who has yet to appear in an NFL game.

Meanwhile, Harris--who signed a one-year deal for the veteran minimum--is becoming a greater threat to Justice. A third round pick out of Notre Dame in 2007, the 6-5, 300-pounder started 34 games at right tackle in four seasons with the Broncos, and by all accounts he has been very impressive in camp.

We thought the Eagles could target a high priced talent in free agency, and indeed there is at least one report they went after Doug Free, so when they wound up with Harris, it seemed minor. It appears he could really push Justice though, which certainly isn't a bad thing with him coming off an injury and a subpar season protecting Mike Vick's blind side.

LDE2 - Jason Babin; RDT2 - Cullen Jenkins
The first time I read over the list, I actually did not notice two of the three biggest free agent additions on defense weren't listed as starters. It's mildly interesting, but probably means little.

Babin is currently slotted behind Juqua Parker, who seems to be locked in a battle for his starting job every summer. Ultimately, it doesn't matter much who holds the designation as a starter, because the Eagles will rotate their ends. At $6 million/year, Babin will have more than his fair share of chances to rush the quarterback, while a fresher Parker should equal a more productive Parker.

Antonio Dixon is ahead of Jenkins, though again, there will be some kind of rotation here. But assuming Patterson returns (as he intends) and the Birds are playing with a full deck, it is actually possible Dixon's name could stay on top. He was an effective run-stopper last season, which might make him more appropriate on first and second downs, as opposed to Jenkins, who is coming over from a different defensive alignment entirely.

It could be they are just working Jenkins into the system, but it could be he will also see the bulk of his action on third downs and obvious passing situations.

MLB1 - Casey Matthews; SLB1 - Jamar Chaney
Not much the Eagles do shocks me anymore, but Matthews as the starting middle linebacker accomplished precisely that. I figured at the most, Chaney would reprise his role in the middle, and Matthews would compete at one of the outside positions. It appears they may have pegged him as their new MIKE from the very beginning.

Neither Matthews or Chaney are exceptionally big, both standing at 6 feet, so I suppose they aren't losing anything from a size perspective. For that matter, Chaney--last year's seventh round pick--has only been in the league for one season, with three career starts including the playoffs, so they're not exactly losing out on a wealth of experience either.

Only the Eagles could tell you exactly why they went with Matthews over Chaney in the middle, but it may have something to do with the difference in athleticism. Matthews, a fourth round rookie out of Oregon, is measurably slower than Chaney (4.78 to 4.54 in the 40-yard dash). In Jim Johnson's defensive system, the middle linebacker was typically aggressive around the line of scrimmage, while the outside backers more frequently played in space.

If defensive coordinator Juan Castillo is maintaining the principles of JJ's system, then it makes sense to put the faster player in more coverage situations. As for trusting a rookie at such an important area, if it were anybody else, I'd be more concerned. This Matthews kid, on the other hand, has football in his blood.

RCB1 - Nnamdi Asomugha
Nothing really to add here, but it is sort of cool.

Eagles Mailbag: Bennie Logan, top WRs in draft, Jeremy Maclin return?

Eagles Mailbag: Bennie Logan, top WRs in draft, Jeremy Maclin return?

There hasn't been much Eagles talk recently. The last few weeks have been pretty dead. 

That's about to change soon enough. Next week, the football world will take over Indianapolis for the combine and just after that, free agency will begin on March 9. After that, the draft isn't too far away. 

So let's jump into your mailbag questions: 

Yeah, I think there's a real chance Bennie Logan isn't an Eagle next year. Howie Roseman has been pretty consistent in saying he wants Logan to return, but it's fair to wonder about the price. Logan has now proven that he can play in a 4-3 or a 3-4 scheme, so there will be plenty of teams interested. 

If the Eagles lose Logan, their defense will take a big hit. There's not really a way around that. He's a good player and has been an important part of the line. But with a ton of money devoted to the defensive line over the next few years -- even assuming Connor Barwin isn't back -- will the Eagles pay another? I'm not so sure. 

And I agree that Logan was really good against the run last year. But I think his real value is in being great against the run while also being able to generate some pass rush. I think Beau Allen can be a decent run-stuffer, but he's clearly not the same player as Logan. 

I can't give a real answer here. Sorry. While I don't wholeheartedly agree with the best player available notion, the Eagles also can't prioritize one need over the other in this scenario. There will be either 13 or 14 picks before the Eagles are on the board. 

Really, it's going to depend on which players are left. Are Mike Williams and Corey Davis on the board? How about the top corners? There's a lot of them. If the player the Eagles really want at one of those positions is off the board, they could look elsewhere. And it's not automatic they'll take a receiver or a cornerback. What if they opt for an edge rusher? 

But getting back to corner vs. receiver, there are a couple thoughts: 

1. They'll pick a corner because receivers are far from a sure thing. Roseman made it a point to talk about how the 2014 draft changed expectations for rookie receivers. And the Eagles haven't had much luck recently drafting receivers in the first round. And Roseman has also said that while it might make sense to grab a first-round corner in the second round because of depth, there's often a run at positions where a draft is strong. It would be better to just get the best one. 

2. On the flip side of that, maybe they'll pick a receiver with the idea that at least one really good corner will be on the board in the second round. That would maximize value, especially if they get the receiver they want in the first round. 

That's a long way to say: I don't think it'll be about position as much as it will be about the specific player at 14 or 15. 

This is a tough one. I really think the margin separating these two is so close that the combine could flip them for me. But for now, I'm going with Mike Williams. 

Clemson listed him at 6-3, 225 and I think he's going to come close to that at the combine. And he might not have Corey Davis' speed or quick twitch, but he makes up for it. I really want to see how he performs at the combine; I expect it to confirm my belief that he's the top receiver in the draft. Davis will reportedly not run at the combine because of an ankle injury. 

It's possible a team like the Eagles could fall in love with Davis' deep threat ability. That's clearly what they value right now. But ultimately, I think Williams is the top guy. 

I don't think Ryan Mathews will be back next season. He's 29, coming off a serious neck injury and is way too expensive. The Eagles can save $4 million by cutting him. I expect that to happen and for the Eagles to try to find some younger, healthier talent. 

Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy! Let's get the band back together! 

I understand why the Maclin questions are rolling in. An ESPN column recently suggested that the Chiefs could cut the former Eagle. Maclin is familiar with the Eagles' offense and Doug Pederson, which means the move would make some sense. 

But from a football standpoint, Jackson would give the Eagles what they need more than Maclin. Over the last couple years, Maclin has really been utilized in the slot, which happens to be where the Eagles' only decent receiver plays. Sure, Pederson will move around his receivers, but there are probably better fits out there for the Eagles than Maclin. If he does become a free agent, though, it's at least worth inquiring. 

Former Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans joins 49ers coaching staff

Former Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans joins 49ers coaching staff

About a year ago, while in Indianapolis for the combine, the Eagles cut veteran linebacker DeMeco Ryans. 

Ryans has finally found his next job ... as a coach. 

The 32-year-old former linebacker has been named a defensive quality control coach on Kyle Shanahan's staff in San Francisco. Shanahan was on the Texans' staff for the first four years of Ryans' pro career. Niners defensive coordinator Robert Saleh was also on that Houston staff. 

After the Eagles cut him last Feb. 24, Ryans was out of the league in 2016 after 10 NFL seasons. He played the first six years of his career in Houston, where he was a two-time Pro Bowler, before joining the Eagles through a trade in 2012. 

While the Eagles cut Ryans after the 2015 season to save $3.5 million in cap space, they made a point to go out of their way to praise him on his way out. He was very well-thought of in the locker room and throughout the building. 

While Ryans played one season under Andy Reid, he quickly became a favorite of Chip Kelly, who frequently called Ryans the "Mufasa" of the Eagles' defense. 

Kelly didn't forget about Ryans when he went to San Francisco to coach the 49ers for the 2016 season. In fact, in Kelly's questionnaire in the NFL's 2016 information guide, Kelly listed Ryans as a player who'd make a great head coach.