I have done a comparison of the Opening Day starters/contributors for the defense last year and compared them to our current projected Opening Day starters/contributors. I didn't realize how improved we really are depth-wise across the board.
I'm looking at it position by position, and the likely top 2 on the depth chart.
Defensive Line: 10 Spots, 1 PUP
Then- Trent Cole and Darryl Tapp
Projected- Trent Cole and Brandon Graham
Then- Mike Patterson and Antonio Dixon
Projected- Derek Landri and Cedric Thornton
Then-Cullen Jenkins and Trevor Laws
Projected- Cullen Jenkins and Fletcher Cox
Then- Jason Babin and Juqua Parker
Projected- Jason Babin and Phillip Hunt
Then- DE Phillip Hunt
Projected- DE Vinny Curry, DE Darryl Tapp, DT Mike Patterson (PUP- Skull)
Better or Worse?
This has been said a thousand (maybe more) times, but I'm going to say it again. The Eagles DL is loaded. From the first guy to last guy, there is not a deeper defensive line rotation in the NFL. I'm projecting that Dixon is Traded/Released. Phillip Hunt is more explosive than Juqua Parker and looks better than Parker did at any point last year.Curry could play in a pinch and would easily be a contributor on any other team that was not this ridiculously deep at DE. I was going to have Tapp as being released or traded, but unless we get a legitimately good offer I don't see how we can rid ourselves of him. If Tapp does go then, Dixon will stay. Dixon has not shown to be a good fit for our Wide 9 alignment, but has had value in short yardage in the past; yet, he would only be here by virtue of Mike Patterson being on the PUP, and is likely the player that will be gone should Patterson be healthy enough to play when eligible to come off PUP around midseason.
Linebackers: 6 Spots
Then- Moise Fokou--Keenan Clayton
Projected- Akeem Jordan--Jamar Chaney
Then-Casey Matthews--Jamar Chaney
Projected- DeMeco Ryans--Casey Matthews
Then- Jamar Chaney--Akeem Jordan
Projected- Mychal Kendricks--Akeem Jordan
Projected- Keenan Clayton or Brian Rolle
Better or Worse?
Better, much better. The LB core has gone from a huge problem, to a potential strength. I’m not going to waste a ton of words on how much of an upgrade DeMeco Ryans is over Matthews. MIKE is massively upgraded in every aspect, tangible and intangible. We all know it. Mychal Kendricks, by all accounts, has been a revelation at SAM. DeMeco Ryans thinks Kendricks is a legit DROY candidate, and he would know since he won it his rookie year. Brian Rolle has his flaws, but when compared to Fokou, who was just a bad fit, is a slight upgrade. He was a better option when he took over WIL last year, and with 13 games starting experience he should be improved. However this WIL spot is still up for grabs due to Rolle's sub-par play throughout the preseason. It may be any area that we could potentially look for competition from another team's cuts.
***UPDATED*** Rolle has since lost the starting WIL spot, and has been replaced with Akeem Jordan. This has perhaps opened the door for Clayton to use his Special Teams/Coverage LB ability to sneak onto the roster.
Secondary: 10 Spots, 1 PUP
Then- Nnamdi Asomugha--DRC
Projected- Nnamdi Asomugha--Curtis Marsh
Then- Asante Samuel--DRC
Projected- DRC--Curtis Marsh
Then- Jarrad Page--Nate Allen
Projected- Nate Allen--OJ Atogwe
Then- Kurt Coleman--Jai Jarrett
Projected- Kurt Coleman--Phillip Thomas
Then- CB Brandon Hughes, S Colt Anderson, CB Curtis Marsh
Projected- CB Brandon Hughes, Mystery CB/S , S Colt Anderson (PUP-ACL)
Better or Worse?
All things being equal, the secondary is going to be better simply because Page isn't in it. Nate Allen was playing very well towards the end of the season and should continue coming into his own. Kurt Coleman had a rough start to the beginning of 2011, but bounced back and was more consistent in the 2nd half of the season. Experience means a lot at Safety and if we can merely get consistently solid play with some INTs mixed in our secondary will be improved. It isn't unfair to expect DRC to equal or surpass Asante's production from last year. If Boykin beats out Hanson, then Hanson is a goner. Hanson is an interesting case; he's either the Nickel CB or cut. I'm leaning towards cut, due to the facts that: 1. Boykin will be given every opportunity to win the job during both the preseason/regular season, 2. Boykin is the primary KR and will be active on gameday regardless, and 3. Hanson being cut frees up ~1M in cap room, along with an active gameday spot. DRC has been flat out dominant since he arrived at Lehigh and is in a contract year. Marsh has played well in the preseason and is the first man up if Aso or DRC goes down, but hasn't proven anything, so our 3rd CB spot is a talented question mark. Hughes is pretty solidly on the roster in my opinion, because of his ST ability, particularly with all signs pointing towards Anderson starting the season on the PUP. Phillip Thomas has shown well when given the chance and could solidify a roster spot with extended playing time in the 4th preseason game. It is also very possible that we look to fill out 4th S spot with a vet after cut-down day.