One of the strongest positions on the Eagles roster, the starting defensive tackle spots are manned by two former first-round draft picks in Mike Patterson (2005) and Brodrick Bunkley (2006).
Even though he didn't put up flashy numbers as a rookie, the team's top draft pick from last year - Trevor Laws - became an integral part of the rotation.
Those three spots are set.
The battle for the fourth job will be interesting. Dan Klecko had a career-high two sacks before being switched to fullback in the middle of last season. Now, Klecko will move back to his natural position. Weight is not an issue for Klecko, who didn't make a big change after the position switch last year.
The wild card in the rotation is the unknown journeyman Amon Gordon. At 6-2, 305 pounds, the Eagles claimed Gordon off of waivers earlier in the off-season. He was a fifth-round draft choice of the Browns in 2004 and has played in Cleveland, Baltimore and most recently with Tennessee. Last season, Gordon played in two regular season games and had six tackles for the Titans.
The Eagles have significantly bolstered the talent level and depth at the defensive tackle position over the past four years. After the Eagles' Super Bowl appearance in the 2004 season, the Eagles used the 31st overall pick in the following draft on Mike Patterson from USC.
The 6-foot, 292-pound Patterson was thrust into the starting lineup his rookie season and has been a formidable force ever since. Since 2005, Patterson leads all Eagles defensive linemen with 348 tackles. In 2007, Patterson and Trent Cole became the first pair of Eagles defensive linemen to each record 100-or-more tackles in the same season since 1991. Patterson also scored one of the more remarkable touchdowns in recent Eagles history when he returned a fumble 98 yards against San Francisco in 2006.
One year later, the Eagles drafted Brodrick Bunkley with the 14th overall selection out of Florida State. After a disappointing rookie season, Bunkley has become a rock on the defensive line. In 46 career regular season games, Bunkley has 170 tackles and five sacks. Since Bunkley took over as the full-time starter in 2007, the Eagles are sixth in the league in run defense giving up an average of just 94 yards per game. From 1999-2006, the Eagles were ranked 24th and gave up an average of 30 more rushing yards per game.
The same year Bunkley was drafted the Eagles also selected Patterson's former teammate LaJuan Ramsey in the sixth round. A welcomed surprise, Ramsey played in 15 games between the 2006 and 2007 seasons.
With the selection of Trevor Laws last year, it signaled the third time in four years that the Eagles used their first pick on a defensive tackle. Laws played in all 16 regular season and three postseason games as a rookie and had a total of 20 tackles.
The Eagles have done very well with their draft picks at defensive tackle. The only other pick that wasn't a late-round project was Corey Simon, the sixth overall pick of the 2000 draft. Simon is the only defensive tackle drafted by the Eagles during the Andy Reid era to go to the Pro Bowl. Simon played in 78 games during his five years with the Eagles and started in Super Bowl XXXIX.
PREVIEWIt's not a strong class of defensive tackles in this year's draft, so if the Eagles were to select one they would have to do so early. A couple of guys to keep an eye on include another USC defensive tackle in Fili Moala and Purdue's Alex Magee, who many fans may not have heard of but could be picked right around where the Eagles draft in the second round.
Defensive tackle is very low on the list of needs, but many fans were surprised with the selection of Laws last year so you never know. There isn't a big, space eater on the roster, but the Eagles previous drafts indicate that the team prefers smaller, quicker tackles who have good technique.