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Players Whose Roles Could Change In 2016

Posted Jan 23, 2016

New head coach Doug Pederson has a long evaluation process ahead of him as he digs deep into the Eagles' roster. Let's have some fun on a snowy weekend and take a look at some players who could have their roles change in the season ahead ...

New head coach Doug Pederson has a long evaluation process ahead of him as he digs deep into the Eagles' roster. Let's have some fun on a snowy weekend and take a look at some players who could have their roles change in the season ahead.

In truth, of course, all roles are going to change, if even slightly. Pederson brings his version of the West Coast offense to the Eagles and Jim Schwartz has his "attack-style" defense that could feature a four-man front in base situations. But for the purposes of projecting, there are some players who could have more change than others.

FLETCHER COX, DT

An All-Pro end in the 3-4 base the last three seasons, Fletcher Cox will likely slide inside and play the tackle position and he will be asked to penetrate, dominate and do the things he wants to do. Cox is obviously a tremendous player in any system, but he should be a great fit with what Schwartz wants to run. There is no two-gapping here. Instead of occupying blockers and allowing the linebackers to get to the football, Cox is going to have chances to make a ton of plays, to play up the field and get in the backfield. Cox will be the linchpin of this defensive line.

MYCHAL KENDRICKS, LB

Mychal Kendricks began his career here as a SAM linebacker and then moved inside in the 3-4. He struggled in 2015 after missing some time in the spring and summer and he just never got comfortable until way late in the season. Where does Kendricks fit in here? He could be a weakside linebacker and use his speed and burst off the edge and in coverage, or maybe Schwartz decides to put Kendricks back on the strong side. It's going to be interesting to see how Kendricks and Kiko Alonso, who played the weak side -- away from the tight end -- in Buffalo's 4-3. Alonso has the right length and athletic ability to run with tight ends in coverage, so maybe he plays on the strong side. There are some pieces at linebacker -- including second-year man Jordan Hicks -- who are attractive and versatile. It's critical for the defense that the linebacker group plays with more consistency and gets to the football much more than it did a season ago.

JORDAN MATTHEWS, WR

Does Jordan Matthews stay in the slot? He's one of the biggest slot receivers league, something that Chip Kelly wanted, and while Matthews certainly offered a lot of production, he also took some tremendous shots in the middle of the field. Does Matthews move outside? Do the Eagles use more motion with him and try to work him into free space? Stay tuned. Matthews is a hard-working player and he could be a real focal point of a passing attack that could look quite a bit different.

BRANDON GRAHAM, DE

Schwartz knows Graham from the Senior Bowl in 2010. Schwartz coached the North Team that featured Graham, who had a huge week of practice and three sacks in the game and went on to become the Eagles' first-round draft pick. Graham came into the NFL as a hand-down end and then transitioned after three seasons to the stand-up end/linebacker position he then played for three more years. 

Now it's back to his roots and Graham should have success. He's got the burst and he has the strength and desire to excel under Schwartz. A lot changes for Graham and for Connor Barwin, who said he thinks he might be an end in this system after playing as a stand-up end/linebacker in the Eagles' defense under Bill Davis. 

DeMARCO MURRAY/RYAN MATHEWS, RB

There is going to be a fullback on this roster if Pederson holds form, so that is a significant change right there for all of the running backs (including Darren Sproles, who could be featured more in the passing game). Pederson didn't run as much shotgun formation in Kansas City as the Eagles did here under Chip Kelly. That's another change. Pederson had success with the power running game in Kansas City, even when Jamaal Charles was lost for the season with a knee injury. Can't wait to see how the Eagles configure the running back position and how they are used in the ground game.

ZACH ERTZ, TE

The numbers look good enough for Ertz in 2015 -- he had 75 receptions -- but a deeper look shows that Ertz had six games with three receptions or fewer in the 15 games that he played in 2015. Too many times in his three seasons Ertz has not been featured in the passing game. That could change in this offense. Kansas City maximized Travis Kelce's talents in 2015 and he'll be in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl this upcoming week. The two have similar numbers the last two seasons, but Kelce just seemed to be more emphasized more with the Chiefs. The Eagles need to keep Ertz in the game plan every week and use his many talents. 

Everything is under evaluation from Pederson and the coaching staff. There is a long road ahead and anything goes with the roster as the Eagles put the pieces in place, little by little, for the season ahead.

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