The 2014 NFL offseason has begun for the Eagles, which means Chip Kelly and his staff will spend the next couple of weeks evaluating the 2013 roster. While the team was able to manage a 10-6 record along with an NFC East crown, there are still many ways the Eagles roster could be improved upon. By the time NFL free agency starts on March 11, the Eagles will have a good idea of which players they'll want to bring back for the 2014 season. Today we'll continue this offseason review series by looking at the 3-4 defensive end position.
The Eagles have a young and talented pair of defensive ends who I've written about a number of times in 2013. Reviewing their season as individuals:
Fletcher Cox - 23
Stats: 910 snaps, 6 penalties, 3 sacks, 10 QB hits, 39 QB hurries, 1 batted pass, 29 tackles, 10 assisted, 5 missed tackles, 24 stops, 1 fumble recovery
Review: Fletcher Cox transitioned from a 4-3 DT to a 3-4 DE in his second year. When Cox was drafted, it was noted how he lined up at a number of different spots on the defensive line in college. His versatility proved true in 2013. Cox looked capable of both rushing the passer and stopping the run. One of my favorite takeaways from Cox's performance was his ability to blow up screen plays. He showed the awareness and athleticism to disrupt short throws in the backfield before they ever had a chance to get started. A concern was that Cox seemed to taper off at the end of the season. Cox is still young and developing so I don't think he's showed all he has to offer yet. He could be a player that stands out even more in 2014.
Cedric Thornton -25
Stats: 739 snaps, 4 penalties, 1 sack, 2 QB hits, 17 QB hurries, 2 batted passes, 48 tackles, 10 assisted, 7 missed tackles, 36 stops, 1 forced fumble, 1 safety
Review: Along with Cox, Cedric Thornton also made the jump from 4-3 DT to 3-4 DE. Thornton made the most of his opportunity as a starter. The Eagles were very solid against the run in 2013 and Thornton was a big part of that success. His run defense was dominant; only two other 3-4 DEs finished with more tackles than Thornton did. Thornton didn't offer much as a pass rusher, but his run defense more than made up for that weakness. Thornton, a former UDFA signing, looks to have been a great find.
Vinny Curry -25
Stats: 322 snaps, 5 sacks, 5 QB hits, 22 QB hurries, 2 batted passes, 11 tackles, 3 assisted, 1 missed tackle, 12 stops
Review: Vinny Curry was drafted as a 4-3 defensive end in 2012 but spent the 2013 gearing up to play 3-4 defense end. Curry looked great in preseason and training camp; his quick burst off the snap was apparent. When the season started, however, Curry wasn't even active for game day. That changed in Week 3 when Curry was activated for the first time and was never inactive again all season. In limited time off the bench, Curry showed real promise as a pass rusher. Curry led all Eagles 3-4 DEs in sacks despite playing a fraction of the starter's snaps.
Clifton Geathers- 26
Stats: 254 snaps, 4 QB Hit, 4 QB hurries, 13 tackles, 2 missed tackles, 10 stops
Review: First, allow me to say Big Clif is my favorite tweeter on the team. With that out of the way, the Eagles traded for Geathers from the Colts last offseason in exchange for former Eagles FB Stanley Havili. Geathers has great size at 6-8, 340. He didn't play often but looked like an OK run defender.
Brandon Bair - 29
Review: Former Oregon Duck Brandon Bair spent the majority of the 2013 on the Eagles practice squad. He signed a futures/reverse deal with the Eagles after the season ended.
Who Could Leave
Clifton Geathers is a free agent. Cedric Thornton is an exclusive rights restricted free agent, which means he can only negotiate a new deal with the Eagles. Vinny Curry's name came up in trade rumors near the NFL trade deadline. If a team makes a worthwhile trade offer for Curry, the Eagles could end up taking it.
Who Could Sign
Lamarr Houston is the sexy name here, but I'm not sure if the Eagles are looking to spend big on a position where they have quality youth and depth. Philadelphia will likely look to add depth, which could include resigning Geathers or looking elsewhere. The 4-3 DE options look more appealing than the 3-4 DE options on the market.