Jimmy Kempski takes an in depth look at every position heading into camp.
There is a lot of uncertainty heading into training camp in regard to the defensive line. Geoff Mosher of CSN Philly wrote about the defensive line and the mystery surrounding it:
The only certainty is that none of the linemen will be pigeonholed into one position. The coaches spent all of the minicamps rotating personnel — and alternating three-man fronts with four-man looks — to gauge which players can do what and which can’t.
That jibes with what I saw during OTAs and minicamp as well. Here’s what I wrote at the Morning Call during OTAs about Fletcher Cox:
The defensive linemen shifted positions quite a bit today. Fletcher Cox in particular moved all over the place. He played some 3 tech, some 5 tech, left side, right side. At one point he lined up at DE in a wide-9 alignment, and on the next play he was playing NT.
It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out from a positional standpoint, but for now, let’s just take each defensive lineman one-by-one:
Fletcher Cox: Here’s what I wrote about Cox a couple weeks ago at the Morning Call:
In 2010, Jason Pierre-Paul was a rookie with the Giants. He was a role player, but flashed impressive athleticism, and made some plays. In 2011, there was a case for JPP to be the NFL’s defensive player of the year:
In 2011, JJ Watt was a rookie with the Texans. Again, Watt flashed talent, and then in 2012 he became the best defensive player in the NFL, by a mile:
Can Fletcher Cox be the NFL’s next defensive lineman to make that huge jump from Year 1 to Year 2?
It is wildly unfair to expect Cox to make the kind of jumps that JPP and Watt made, but Cox absolutely flashed legitimate game-changing ability his rookie season, and he could the player that the Eagles build around on their defense.
Isaac Sopoaga: The phrase “pass-rush specialist” has become somewhat of an antiquated term in the NFL, seeing as it’s rare that a talented pass rusher will ever come off the field, even if they are a liability against the run. It is probably more apt to apply the “specialist” term to guys who do not excel at getting after the QB, but can clog up running lanes. Sopoaga would fall into the category of a “run-stuffing specialist.” Unlike the rest of the line, there isn’t a lot of mystery of where Sopoaga will line up when he’s in the game. He’ll be parked right in the middle of the line.
Cedric Thornton: Our very own Danta Klaus (Dan Klausner) highlighted Cedric Thornton a few days ago. Thornton had a tremendous camp in 2012, and doesn’t lack ability. He’ll be competing for a starting role this season. Thornton is 6’4, 310-ish, but as Tommy Lawlor likes to say (and I