Nose tackle is not the sexiest position in a 3-4 defense. The linebackers get the sacks, the defensive backs come up with the picks, and even the Eagles' defensive ends can get in on the action from time to time. The anchor of the defensive line? Not as much.
But on the Eagles' defense, which prioritizes stopping the run, nose tackle Bennie Logan is the keystone. And despite his important role on defense, even defensive coordinator Billy Davis acknowledges that the third-year player out of LSU doesn't get as much love as he should.
"I would say absolutely Bennie is underrated," Davis said before practice Sunday. "Bennie is a big part of our defense and defensive line. He's a steady player that has both ‑‑ and from a nose guard position and a 3‑4 [scheme perspective], you are really looking for a stout run defender and the bonus is when they have some suddenness in the pass rush and Bennie gives us both of those."
Part of the underrating of Logan comes from his size: after all, one of head coach Chip Kelly's mantras is "big people beat up little people". Logan is on the smaller side for a nose tackle, coming in at a svelte 6-2, 315 pounds. Logan himself said he used to feel trepidation from fans, but that it's subsided as time has passed.
"A lot of people were thinking I was undersized because a typical nose tackle is 330 pounds," Logan said Sunday. "But the size doesn’t really matter to me, it’s just the heart. How much heart do you have to play the position? My heart is big and I enjoy the game; I enjoy playing the position. I just go out there and have fun."
It's hard to argue with his heart. And it's even harder to argue with his success: according to Pro Football Focus, Logan ranked fifth among all defensive tackles and nose tackles in run stop percentage last year. That's huge for a defense that wants its primary focus to be stopping the run.
Granted, stopping the run isn't everything. The reality of the modern NFL is that teams are finding more ways to put the ball in the air, and while stopping the run remains important, having big guys who can pass rush is helpful. Per PFF, Logan's pass rush productivity was ranked 25th among all defensive tackles and nose tackles who played at least 50 percent of their team's snaps.
So there are still things to work on. Logan said that his next steps are about him becomes an even bigger impact player, and the only thing standing in his way is his own 6-2, 315 pound self.
"Oh man, going into my third year I’m looking to have an even greater impact," Logan said. "Right now I feel like nothing’s stopping me but myself. Nothing’s stopping us as a team but ourselves. We are our own enemy at this time, so we’ll go as far as we allow ourselves to go. So going into my third year I’m definitely looking to have a greater impact on the defense."