Well its taken a couple of days for me to get the time. I did my roster analysis of the offense (scroll down) a few days ago. So not to leave out the defense, off we go:
DL (10 total, 5 DE, 5 DT) Brief word before the positions. This is same number of D-lineman we carried last year. However, unlike the O-Line, there are several new faces this year. As usual, expect the Eagles to dress 8 DL each game, and creating alternating DT & DE rotations (They don't usually swap out 4x4, but 2x2 and sometimes 1-to-1.
DE - Jevon Kearse, Trent Cole, Darren Howard, Juqua Thomas and Victor Abiamiri. O.k. so the only "new" face is Abiamiri, our second round draft pick. But Kearse returns after missing 14 games last year with a knee injury. His effectiveness will go a long way to determining how effective our DE rotation will be. The Darren Howard at RE, Kearse at LE combo looked awesome early last season. Then Kearse went out, Howard played out-of-position some snaps and played too many snaps are wore down as the season progressed. This season, provided they all stay healthy, the two elder statesmen of the D-Line should be fine. Matter-of-fact, Trent Cole supplanted Darren Howard as the starter in TC this year, so his snap count should be manageable. Of course, for the amount of $$$ he's making, Howard is over-priced. If he could manage to play to the level of his compensation. We'd could have a monster line. The final member of the regular rotation will be Juqua Thomas (who followed Kearse here from Tennessee). JT has a stellar preseason, and that new contract hasn't slowed the man's motor. I am looking for good thing from Juqua this year - he's going to make it hard for the coaches to keep him off the field. Abiamiri is a spot player this year. He's insurance in case of injury, but it really here to learn the position and then take over one of DE slots that will almost assuredly be vacated by Kearse or Howard (or both) during the 2008 offseason.
DT - Mike Patterson, Broderick Bunkley, Montae Reagor, Kimo Von Oelhoffen, LaJuan Ramsey. Two new faces here. One real new, as Kimo just joined the team in place of the injured Ian Scott (who signed in the offseason but never played a snap in TC or preseason). This rotation gives the Birds a mixture of youth and experience (in Kimo's case, significant experience - he's 36). The bonus as I see it: Reagor and KVO may give up some age/weight to the departed Sam Rayburn and Darwin Walker, but they have both recently been part of Super Bowl winning teams. They know what it takes to get things down, and can teach the young guys (Patt is 3rd year player, Bunk and LaJuan 2nd year, rookie FA Jeremy Clark is on the practice squad) a thing or two and provide a steady veteran presence in the middle. In Kimo's case he'll primarily be called on the stuff the run. Ramsey has been hobbled by a high ankle sprain most of TC and preseason and will likely start the season not dressing for games. Once he's good to go (say a few weeks into the season) expect him to suit up and spell one of the "old" fellas for a few games. This will keep the vets fresh for the long campaign.
LB (6) - Takeo Spikes (TKO), Omar Gaither (OG), Chris Gocong, Stewart Bradley, Matt McCoy and Pago Togafau. Lots of question marks about this group. Obvious TKO is being relied on as our stalwart LB, even though he's brand new to the system. OG is going to good in the middle. He's got the speed Trotter used to have, though not the size. OG is more of sideline-to-sideline guy, whereas Trot had become a tackle-to-tackle guy, or perhaps a tackle-to-hashmark guy if he slanted that way. That said, he's and last year, he played the WILL position. One thing he did flash last year - a propensity to make plays - something our LBs sorely lacked before he showed up. TKO is a play-maker as well, so look for the LBs to contribute a bit more on the batted passes, INT scope. The real question is going to be their susceptibility to mis-direction, screens, etc. Gocong is essentially a rookie and learning the SAM, Stewart Bradley is a more natural SAM, but is a genuine rookie. There's going to be some bumps along the way, but these guys have the talent, its a matter of getting the confidence, being comfortable and just playing. As for McCoy, well, the Eagles like to talk about how well he graded out in the first half of last year, but he's small, quick guy and while he can tackle ok, he hasn't shown an ability to really stick his head in there and knock out a runner or an ability to stay healthy for a season. Since he's not a starter anymore, expect to him dress and play special teams, and also, perhaps join in the certain LB rotation packages when the Birds need a LB to help in pass coverage. As for Pago, no clue fellas. The Eagles had to place him on the 53-man roster because they claimed him off waivers from the Cardinals. He's a fireplug type (5'10", 250), who can run. But can he play? Not sure we're going to find out this year, though he could dress and make an appearance on special teams. I just don't think it will be early in the season - perhaps once McCoy wears out....
DBs (9 total - 5 CB, 4 S)
CBs - Lito Sheppard, Sheldon Brown, Will James, Joselio Hanson, Nick Graham. A bit of consternation in the Eagle-land when the Eagles pulled plug on the Rashad Barksdale (6th rnd pick) experiment in favor of undrafted rookie free agent Nick Graham. Both players flashed some ball-hawk in the preseason, but neither is really going to be counted to play much this year. Will James is our clear #3 CB, even though he boasted about being a starter and going to the ProBowl, he did not do enough (IMHO) to justify playing in front of Sheldon Brown. Lito remains our best play-making CB and has really developed into one of the top corners in the NFL.
S - Brian Dawkins, Sean Considine, Quintin Mikell, J.R. Reed. This group is a bit less steady that in years past. Dawk is going to be fine, as always, and we really need to remain pretty much ageless this year. Last year he responded from an o.k. season in 2005 to a stellar Pro-Bowl-nod-earning 2006. We need that to continue, because the Eagles did not have a chance to draft his replacement this past April. He's one of the best-ever, and my all-time favorite Eagle. Say no more - it will be a sad, sad day when Dawkins hangs them up. I just hope it doesn't happen for a few more seasons - and I can't wait to see him snatch another Brett Favre pass in the opener.
The biggest area of concern is clearly his battery mate Considine. Much was made about him bulking up in the off-season in order for him to be able to stand-up and lay some wood from the SS position. Uh....doesn't look like that is going to happen. He bounces off big TEs and I haven't seen him lay out a single WR. SC simply does not instill any fear in opposing receivers over crossing the middle. None. Quintin Mikell and J.R. Reed both have huge special teams roles for the Eagles. Mikell is our ST captain and J.R. returns after a injury and jaunt around the league to (hopefully) provide our return game that spark its been missing ever since he got injured between the '04-'05 seasons. The primary question in my mind: Can "Q" turn his play up another notch and supplant Considine. One thing Mikell can do is HIT, and it appears that Def. Coord. Jim Johnson is creating some schemes/packages to get Mikell onto the field. With Reed and Mikell both dressing, I practically expect more contribution to the Birds from our back-ups safeties than from our starting SS.