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Book On Bennie: Arrow Is Up

Posted Jul 11, 2014

Bennie Logan has grown into this job. He's a 315-pound (give a cheesesteak or two) second-year player the Eagles are counting on to man the middle of their defensive line ...

Bennie Logan has grown into this job. He's a 315-pound (give a cheesesteak or two) second-year player the Eagles are counting on to man the middle of their defensive line.

"Bennie works hard and he's one of those players who loves the game and who gives you everything he has every day," said defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro of Logan, the team's third-round draft pick in 2013. "He was an extremely productive player in college at LSU and he's been that way here. I don't expect anything less."

Logan may not be the key for the Eagles' defense this season, but he's a vital piece. After taking over at nose tackle last year when the Eagles traded Isaac Sopoaga, Logan helped spark a run defense that allowed just 74 yards per game and 2.9 yards per carry in the final five weeks of the season. Logan's per-game snap total doubled and the run defense clamped down.

So there is considerable excitement about what 2014 holds for Logan, who added 10 pounds of strength since the 2013 season ended. He's expected to be agile and explosive, and to use his exceptional arm length (34 inches, according to general manager Howie Roseman) to shed blockers and get to the football.

Logan may not be the prototype of what we see in a nose tackle - 330 pounds, clogging running lanes - but the Eagles aren't looking for a stationary player inside on defense. They want mobility. They want disruption.

"It was important to add some weight and strength because of the snaps and making sure I keep my weight up and don't wear down," said Logan. "Our scheme requires that I get to the football and move. I can't just dig in and stand there not go sideline to sideline.

"It's been a good offseason for me. I feel like I've made a lot of improvement and I'm far ahead of where I was last year. Let's get it going."

Much of the external focus on this defense has been centered on the secondary, which received upgrades in free agency (Malcolm Jenkins, Nolan Carroll II, Chris Maragos) and in the draft (Jaylen Watkins, Ed Reynolds). The Eagles anticipate a step forward in the back four of the defense, certainly.

And in first-round draft pick Marcus Smith II, the linebackers get a boost in talent and competition, which bears watching in the summer.

The front line of the defense is young and strong and on the rise, and Logan's steps forward are critical. The Eagles have Fletcher Cox emerging as he grows into the 3-4 defensive end role, and Cedric Thornton made great improvement last season. Vinny Curry adds pass-rush punch. Damion Square benefited from some playing time in his rookie season. There is youth and there is depth, with draftees Taylor Hart and Beau Allen joining the mix.

Much revolves around Logan's next steps. Can be become a dominant nose tackle and anchor Phase 2 of the defense?

"I'm just trying to improve every day and do what the coaches ask me to do. We're all working together to start the season strong," said Logan. "I take care of the little things and work hard and I'm pleased with where I am."

So is the coaching staff, which recognizes that while the defense improved in the second half of 2013, the final game against New Orleans, and in particular the final drive that led to a game-winning field goal, still sticks.

The entire defense has been pushed in the offseason.

"It's not just on Bennie," said Azzinaro. "It's everybody working together. Bennie is going to do his part. He's that kind of guy. You don't worry about effort or going outside the scheme with him. He is going to be right there for you every day."

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