Eagles Position Battle Briefs: The Defensive Line Rotation

In case you were wondering who is supposed to be the odd man out among Eagles defensive ends Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry, the answer so far is nobody.

True, we're not likely to see all three on the field at the same time. And even in a three-man rotation, somebody ultimately will wind up with the fewest snaps. Yet if one thing has been made clear so far at training camp, that is the Eagles are going to substitute defensive linemen freely.

At different points, we've see Barwin, Graham and Curry all running with the second-team defense. For that matter, we've also seen Bennie Logan replaced by Mike Martin with the ones at defensive tackle. Only Fletcher Cox has lined up exclusively with the starters.

One potential explanation as to why the Eagles are utilizing different variations up front might be simply so that everybody can get used to playing alongside one another. Otherwise, there's no apparent rhyme or reason to who is where on the depth chart on which day.

That being said, it's at least interesting to attempt to interpret how the reps have been divided at recent practices.

While it may be unwise to look too deeply at any of it, Curry's usage kind of sticks out, as he's spent the most time with the twos out of the ends in recent days. The 28-year-old was inked to a surprising five-year, $47.5 million contract with $18 million during the offseason, which would typically be indicative of a player's role as a starter. Yes, it's a rotation, but still, that's not looked like the case at all.

Martin's emergence at the top of the depth chart is an even bigger twist. The former third-round draft pick does have experience in the Wide-9 and ran with the ones while Cox stayed away from the team during OTAs. That being said, Martin has never amounted to much during his NFL career, while Logan is still a promising young player.

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Again, it could be nothing more than getting players experience on the field together. In Curry's case, it's a crowded group of ends and somebody has to go on second-string.

Perhaps another explanation here is we're getting a glimpse into certain players having more defined roles.

For instance, Curry has flashed the ability to be a dominant pass-rusher in the NFL, but there's not much relevant tape that would show how effective he can be in run defense. Meanwhile, Barwin and Graham are both excellent at setting the edge and holding their ground against the run, suggesting this rotation could be based on situation.

Similarly, Logan has been outstanding against the run, but has just 3.0 sacks through three NFL seasons. Martin has also been good for only one sack per year, although the coaching staff may prefer his skillset in that aspect of the game.

Again, it's possible we're reading too much into this and the Eagles are still shuffling players around to find out what works best. It's certainly unfair to say Barwin or Graham have gained an edge on Curry, or Logan is losing ground to Martin. The word "rotation" should be stressed once again.

How that rotation is going to work exactly remains a bit of a mystery, and we would be kidding ourselves if we tell ourselves it isn't based on production or situation. Certain players might perform better than others on first and second down, when opponents want to hand the ball off. Some might better suited to be sent after the quarterback when the defense knows the ball is going to be in the air.

The Eagles have an underrated competition taking place at end right now for those snaps, and apparently on the inside as well. All seven linemen are going to play, but not necessarily equally in every situation. As of right now, Cox appears to be the unit's only constant.

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