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Fan-Demonium: Logan's Role In 2014

Posted Feb 8, 2014

When the Eagles switched to the 3-4 defense last offseason, one of the big questions was who would be the nose tackle?

The 3-4 requires a nose tackle to be able to eat up blocks and anchor against the run. The Eagles went out and signed 330-pound free agent Isaac Sopoaga to be the nose tackle in 2013. They also drafted Bennie Logan, hoping he would find a home at defensive end or nose tackle.

Sopoaga was dealt to the Patriots at midseason and Logan took his place in the starting lineup. Logan doesn't have a typical nose tackle build. He is 6-foot-2 and lists at 309 pounds. Logan admitted after the draft that Chip Kelly thinks he can bulk up to the 315-320 pound range and carry it well. That would be solid size for a nose tackle.

Just five years ago, 3-4 teams had massive players manning the middle. Whether it was Casey Hampton, Vince Wilfork or Jamal Williams, there was a 350-pound monster sitting in the middle and dominating the line of scrimmage. Heck, those players might have been closer to 400 pounds than 350. They were next to impossible to move.

Times have changed. The Steelers no longer have Hampton. They now start Steve McLendon, who might not even be 300 pounds. The Houston Texans have one of the best defenses in the league with Earl Mitchell at the nose. He's another guy around 300 pounds. The Niners have a great defense. Glenn Dorsey is the man in the middle for them. He goes about 315 pounds and has generally been more of a penetrator than an anchor type of player.

There is no longer a need for a massive player to just eat up space. Teams like the Chiefs and Ravens still have big guys in the middle, but they are athletic. Dontari Poe might be 340 pounds, but he runs like he is only 300. He is a gifted athlete who happens to be huge. The NFL is a passing league. Teams prefer having defensive linemen who can be at least effective as pass rushers. Just being a huge nose tackle isn't going to cut it with most teams these days.

Is Logan the answer for the Eagles at nose tackle? He might be. I think Logan showed enough promise this season that the team doesn't need to feel as if that spot must be filled. That said, the Eagles could still keep an eye open in case a top-flight nose tackle is available in the draft or free agency.

Logan showed real potential last year, but wasn't so good that you can just hand him the job without any questions. If the Eagles add a stud nose tackle, then Logan becomes the top backup lineman. He could play end and nose tackle.

The popular knock on Logan is that he's not a good enough run defender. I think that is going a bit far with the description. Logan did struggle at times when he first took over as a starter. He was new to starting in the NFL and was also learning how to play the nose tackle spot. Logan did well on some plays, but struggled to consistently shed blocks and control his area. He fared better when defensive coordinator Bill Davis got creative and mixed in line stunts.

While Logan isn't a massive guy, he is a solid athlete. He moves well laterally and runs well. He was effective when on the move. What we don't know is whether Davis wanted to have his defensive linemen looping and moving around or if he did that out of necessity. We'll figure that out in the future, as we see how Davis uses his players when new guys are mixed into the lineup.

Lawlor

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the Editor of IgglesBlitz.com and was a contributor to the Eagles Almanac.

Logan will bulk up for the 2014 season. He will be stronger. You can bet defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro will work tirelessly with him to improve his technique. Eagles linemen hit the sled every day, working on how to use their hands and other fundamental techniques. Logan should get much better at shedding blocks. One thing that can be a big help is his long arms. Logan's arms are 34 inches long, which is outstanding for a nose tackle. That will help Logan engage blockers and keep them off his body.

I went back and re-watched some games to see Logan in action. He got better the more that he played. I thought he had a solid showing in the loss to the Saints. They did run the ball well, but most of that was off-tackle. Logan got some pressure on quarterback Drew Brees and looked good on the move.

My bet is that Logan will be the Eagles’ starting nose tackle in 2014.

I do think the team will address the position in the draft or free agency. Damion Square was the backup nose tackle last season, but he didn't play a whole lot. Square must get bigger and stronger if he has any shot at carving out a role in the NFL. The coaches love him because he works hard, does everything that is asked of him and is a smart, experienced 3-4 player. The problem is that Square lacks ideal size and isn't able to lean on athletic ability to make up for that.

There were some plays where Square got pushed around in the run game. Ideally, you'd like the nose tackle to push blockers backward. Logan was able to hold his ground at times. Square got moved off the ball more than you'd like. That gives the offense a huge advantage. The running back and quarterback have plenty of room to work with. You prefer blockers being pushed back into the backfield, where they will affect the skill players.

Square should be bigger and stronger by next summer, but I don't think he played well enough to count on him as the backup. The Eagles need to add a bigger body with more natural talent. It doesn't have to be a first-round pick or big-name free agent. The team simply needs someone that could be a functional starter if Logan were to get hurt. I don't think Square would have been able to start and play effectively last year.

One thing to keep in mind is that the Eagles want versatile players. Logan is able to play end or nose tackle. Square began the season as a backup defensive end.  Cedric Thornton is a good defensive end, but played the nose in certain sets. Don't look for a huge guy to be brought in as a nose tackle unless he has some movement skills and athleticism.

Fletcher Cox, Thornton and Logan give the Eagles an outstanding foundation up front, but you can never have enough good defensive linemen. Vinny Curry proved to be a good role player. Expect the Eagles to build on this group. They'll give current players like Joe Kruger and Square a chance to show what they can do, but won't count on those players as key backups. There will be competition.

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