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Philadelphia Eagles depth chart: Post-NFL Draft defense edition

Looking at the Eagles’ projected depth chart now that the 2018 NFL Draft is over.

Super Bowl LII - Philadelphia Eagles v New England Patriots Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Eagles acquired a total of five new players from the 2018 NFL Draft. The team also signed 15 undrafted rookie free agents. Now let’s take a look at what the team’s 2018 projected depth chart looks like with respect to these draft additions. Yesterday we reviewed at the offense. Today we’ll examine the defense and tomorrow will be special teams day. Then I’ll make a 53-man roster prediction on Thursday. Try not to get too excited. (For more fun, look at how the roster looks compared to last year at this time.)

DEFENSIVE END

1 - Brandon Graham

2 - Michael Bennett

3 - Derek Barnett

4 - Chris Long

5 - Steven Means

6 - Josh Sweat

7 - Joe Ostman

8 - Aziz Shittu

9 - Danny Ezechukwu

Graham made the biggest play in Eagles franchise history by strip-sacking Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. He is a legend and deserves a new contract extension. Until that happens, he’s set to play out the final year of his current deal. BLG is a beast. Bennett figures to be a good addition for Philly assuming his legal troubles don’t impact his availability. He should be even more effective whilst playing in a rotation. Barnett is still only 21 years old and figures to get even better as he makes the jump to Year 2. He has very bright future ahead of him. Long had a great season coming off the bench last year. Will the 33-year-old be able to bring that same kind of spark in 2018? I wouldn’t bet against him. Means is a really nice fifth defensive end to have. The Eagles might consider trading the 27-year-old to a team in need of a pass rusher later this summer since he’s on the last year of his deal anyway. Sweat was potentially a steal for the Eagles in the fourth round of this year’s draft. Like Barnett, he’s only 21 years old. He doesn’t project to make an immediate impact as much as he figures to be a starter down the road in his career. Ostman was the NCAA’s sack leader. He doesn’t have a natural build for the position but he was really fun to watch in college. I’d keep an eye on him. Shittu is surprisingly listed at defensive end on the Eagles’ official roster. I don’t know if that’s a mistake since Shittu was previously a defensive tackle. Ezechukwu played some linebacker in college.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

1 - Fletcher Cox

2 - Tim Jernigan (INJURED)

3 - Haloti Ngata

4 - Destiny Vaeao

5 - Elijah Qualls

6 - Bruce Hector

7 - Winston Craig

Cox is a beast. So is Jernigan, when healthy. The problem is that Jernigan isn’t healthy. He’s dealing with a back injury that’s expected to keep him out for four-to-six months ... at least. I’d be cautious with Jernigan’s expectations moving forward. Back injuries are no joke. In some cases, they’re career-ending type deals. Jernigan’s revised contract even indicates the Eagles could move on from him after this year. With Jernigan out, Ngata is elevated to the starter next to Cox. He’s hardly in his prime but still can be an effective player. Vaeao doesn’t really do much for me. I’m much more interested to see if Qualls can step up this summer (read more about him here). Hector will also be worth keeping an eye on since he was given the highest guarantee of any Eagles UDFA signing and is a good scheme fit as an interior disruptor. Craig is competing for a depth job at most.

LINEBACKER

1 - Jordan Hicks

2 - Nigel Bradham

3 - Mychal Kendricks

4 - Corey Nelson

5 - Paul Worrilow

6 - Kamu Grugier-Hill

7 - Nate Gerry

8 - Joe Walker

9 - LaRey Reynolds

10 - Asantay Brown

Hicks is a monster when he can stay healthy. Hopefully he can stay injury-free this season as he plays on the final year of his rookie deal. Bradham did a great job of filling in for Hicks when he had to last year. He’s versatile and effective. I still have a hard time believing Kendricks is going to be on the roster by the time the NFL trade deadline has expired this fall. You might argue he’s an important depth player, but not at the cost of $7.6 million, which is the seventh highest cap figure on the team. The Eagles are pressed for cap space moving forward and they’re going to be fine with paying that much money to a guy who might play, like, 30% of the snaps? Or even fewer if Hicks DOES stay healthy? I just have a hard time believing that, especially considering the Eagles signed Nelson to be his replacement. Nelson said the Eagles promised him playing time at the weakside linebacker spot. He figures to be a much less expensive rotational player than Kendricks would be. Worrilow gives the Eagles more depth at middle linebacker and potentially an upgrade on Walker. Grugier-Hill seems like a lock to make the roster as the team’s special teams ace. Gerry has the potential to step up in Year 2. For now, the 2017 fifth-round pick is still unproven. Reynolds is a veteran player with special teams ability. Brown played safety in college but is converting to linebacker as an undrafted free agent signing.

CORNERBACK

1 - Ronald Darby

2 - Jalen Mills

3 - Sidney Jones

4 - Rasul Douglas

5 - Avonte Maddox

6 - D.J. Killings

7 - De’Vante Bausby

8 - Randall Goforth

9 - Chandon Sullivan

Darby offers the best combination of pure talent and proven experience on the Eagles’ roster. He had some down moments in 2017 but I’m willing to give him leeway for those since he only joined the team late in August and then suffered an injury that impacted him for most of the season. I think he’ll be much better this year, especially after he enters a contract season. Jim Schwartz really loves Mills. So I can’t just imagine he’s not going to be playing even with Jones coming back. Mills might get the first crack at playing in the slot while also starting on the outside in base defense. It might work where Jones comes in to play on the outside when Mills move in to the nickel corner spot. Jones also has a chance to beat out Darby or Mills if he balls out this summer. Douglas could have a hard time finding playing time with those three guys ahead of him. Maddox could have an easy time finding playing time if he stands out in the slot. Killings and Goforth will also get looks there. Killings is a dark horse name to file away. Bausby and Sullivan are competing for depth jobs. Bausby might have the leg up given his NFL experience.

SAFETY

1 - Malcolm Jenkins

2 - Rodney McLeod

3 - Chris Maragos

4 - Tre Sullivan

5 - Jeremy Reaves

6 - Stephen Roberts

7 - Ryan Neal

Jenkins and McLeod are locked in as quality starting safeties, with Jenkins being the better and more versatile of the two. It’s unclear who will take the third safety role. It won’t be Maragos, who is limited to special teams contributions. The 2017 special teams captain might be cut. I only have him at No. 3 right now due to experience. Sullivan was name-dropped by Joe Douglas during a pre-draft press conference this offseason. He really flashed last summer with his big hits that sent one Packers player to the hospital. I liked what I saw out of him in coverage during training camp last year as well. Reaves is a fan-favorite UDFA signing due to his physical nature. Roberts and Neal are undrafted free agent signings with the potential to earn a depth spot or be on the practice squad. I wouldn’t rule out Corey Graham being re-signed if the young guys don’t pan out this summer.