End of Season Review and Analysis…Defensive Line
- Updated: January 6, 2015
Cedric Thornton (DE)
In his 3rd season, after coming off what seemed a promising 2013 season, Thornton took a step back this season which raises concern for his future in Philadelphia in 2015. The best way to describe Thornton’s play is inconsistent. There were times when he flashed ability to be a force inside but there were many plays that he showed lack of strength and size and was driven down field. Thornton who has started every game the last two seasons saw a decline in tackles from 48 in 2013 to 36 in 2014 but also was ineffective at getting to the quarterback.
Lack of strength…
The two images below, is an example of the inconsistency of Thornton. There are too many places that he is driven 5 yards down the field. The Eagles need someone that can hold their ground and consistently get penetration.
Cedric Thornton is a free agent and if the Eagles defense is going to take the next step to becoming a top 10 run defense it must replace Thornton. If the Eagles can bring someone in that can compliment Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan it will be a great step forward. If they chose to resign Thornton, it is imperative to bring someone that can push him and compete for the starting role in 2015.
Bennie Logan (NT)
Logan, in his second season out of LSU, put the NFL on notice that he has a bright future at the nose tackle position. Logan who is a natural one gap defensive tackle, has done a great job of transitioning into a two-gap nose tackle in the 3-4. In 2013 Logan was inconsistent but you could see if he continued to improve he could be one of the better nose tackles in the NFL. This season, Logan was solid much of the season clogging the A gaps, and one of the few bright spots on the defense. He came close to doubling his tackle production from 24 in 2013 to 45 in 2014.
Controlling the A gap and clogging up the middle…
In the play below, Logan does an excellent job to get his hands extended and push the Cowboys center back, getting penetration up front (image 1). In image 2, Logan does a great job of fighting off the block to help make the tackle of DeMarco Murray at the line of scrimmage.
Getting to the ball…
Not only did Logan do a nice job clogging up the middle but he also did a great job of hustling to the ball even when the run was outside.
In the play below, Logan does a great job of recognizing the flow of the play and does a great job to get of the block and scrape down the line (image 1) to stuff Alfred Morris for no gain (image 2).
In what will be his third season, look for Bennie Logan to have a big year and make a lot of noise around the NFL.
Fletcher Cox (DE)
Fletcher Cox got a raw deal as he was snubbed from making the pro bowl. Cox fought through some nagging injuries early in the season but came on late in the year and finished the season as the fourth highest graded 3-4 defensive end according to ProFootballFocus. His 35 quarterback hurries were good enough for second at his position, only behind MVP candidate JJ Watt and finished third in tackles with 46.
In just his 3rd season out of Mississippi St., Cox has done nothing but get better each season. He made great improvement against the run as he recorded 48 tackles up from 32 in 2013. What separates the 3-4 defensive ends are the ones that can not only defend the run but put pressure on the quarterback. Cox finished the season with 4.0 sacks along with his 35 hurries.
Against the run…
In the below play against the Cowboys, Cox does a good job getting penetration up front while putting himself in position to play both gaps on either side (image 1). In image 2, Cox sheds the right guard to stop DeMarco Murray at the line of scrimmage.
Pressuring the QB…
In the play below, Cox shows his athleticism as he comes the outside to stunt inside on nose tackle Bennie Logan (image 1) then finishes it off by recording the sack (image 2).
Vinny Curry (DE)
Vinny Curry who is naturally a 4-3 pass rush specialist, took a lot of heat last season for not only being able to defend the run but unable to get to the quarterback in the 3-4 defense where he recorded just 4.0 sacks. Curry heard all the noise and answered it with 9.0 sacks in 2014 in a limited role.
With Curry unable to defend the run consistently, he must continue to produce these numbers if he is to stay an Eagle past 2015.