Eagles Positional Overview: The defense will be battle tested before the final 53-man roster is set

Philadelphia Eagles safety Reed Blankenship celebrates after their win in the NFC Championship NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, in Philadelphia.AP Photo/Seth Wenig

The Philadelphia Eagles used their first three 2024 NFL Draft picks to select defensive players, and the front office mentioned that they expect production from their rookies more than they have in the past. If the first-year players produce, the defense will be much improved. 

Unlike on the offense, the Eagles, and their fans, have many competitions to look forward to on the defensive side of the ball during training camp. The cornerback position should be the most intriguing.

Listed in each positional review are the total number of players at each position on the Eagles’ 90-man roster.

DT (8) 

Eagles nfl
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) scrambles as Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Jalen Carter (98) defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The Eagles are likely to carry 5 or 6 tackles and the battle for the final roster spot at the position likely comes down to free agent PJ Mustipher vs. incumbent Marlon Tuipulotu. Marlon is the incumbent, but PJ has experience at NT. That decision could come down to the final days of camp.

Milton Williams is in a contract year and could have a breakout season by taking on the extra snaps left behind by Fletcher Cox. Jalen Carter has the potential to be an all-pro, and Jordan Davis, in year 3, will be expected to perform at a higher level than he has. He reported to camp in excellent shape and appeared ready for the challenge. 

Defensive Tackle- Jalen Carter, Jordan Davis, Milton Williams, Moro Ojomo, Marlon Tuipulotu, PJ Mustipher, Gabe Hall, Thomas Booker IV

Edge/OLB (9)

Philadelphia Eagles Bryce Huff talks to the media during the press conference after signing with the Eagles, Thursday, March 14, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

The Eagles website reads 3 DE and 6 OLB. (listed below) 

Two of the three listed at DE are locks, and of the six OLBs listed, three appear to be assured a roster spot. If they keep more than 6 pass rushers, the competition will be between Terrell Lewis, Julian Okwara, and Patrick Johnson for the 7th spot. 

Bryce Huff should thrive in his role with the Eagles and a little more playing time could equate to him putting up the best numbers of his career.

Nolan Smith showed up at OTAs bigger and stronger, reportedly at 245 lbs, and has impressed those who have watched him. He showed glimpses of what he could become last season and as a first-round pick, he will be expected to produce on the field this year. 

Adding a pass rusher is an underrated need for the team. It would not be surprising if they were still looking for one via trade or free agency.

Edge- Bryce Huff, Tarron Jackson, Brandon Graham at DE and Josh Sweat, Nolan Smith, Jalyx Hunt, Terrell Lewis, Julian Okwara, and Patrick Johnson as OLB. 

iLB (7)

TAMPA, FL – DECEMBER 05: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Linebacker Devin White (45) looks into the offensive backfield during the regular season game between the New Orleans Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on December 05, 2022 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

Philadelphia hopes newcomer Devin White can revert to his all-pro form and that Nakobe Dean will stay healthy. The progression of Ben VanSumeren and the excitement of adding Jeremiah Trotter Jr brings more optimism at LB than the team has had in a long time. Zack Baun and Oren Burks are both upgrades who will bring veteran snaps. 

Zack Baun may have a larger role than many originally thought, especially if he contributes the way Andrew Van Ginkel did in 2023 with Fangio as his coordinator in Miami: 6 sacks, 1 int(TD), 69 tackles, 19 QB hits, 8 TFLs

Linebacker- Devin White, Nakobe Dean, Zack Baun, Oren Burks, Jeremiah Trotter Jr, Ben VanSumeren, Brandon Smith

Safety (7)

Chauncey Gardner-johnson eagles
GLENDALE, AZ – FEBRUARY 12: Philadelphia Eagles safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson (23) flexes during Super Bowl LVII between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles on February 12, 2023 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

This is a position they could use another veteran presence. A former Fangio standout, Justin Simmons, is still available and could be someone they bring in during camp.

Avonte Maddox is listed as a corner but was playing a lot of safety snaps at OTAs. His versatility as a backup safety would go a long way to securing his spot on the roster. 

Second-year man Sydney Jones is healing fast and reportedly running up to 22 mph. Having him back by week one is great for the team and his development. If they do not sign anyone else, it would be surprising if more than 3 from the list below make the 53-man roster. 

Safety- Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Reed Blankenship, Sydney Brown, Tristin McCollum, Andre Sam, Mekhi Garner, James Bradberry(?)

CB (13)

FILE – Iowa defensive back Cooper DeJean (3) returns an interception for a touchdown against Rutgers quarterback Evan Simon (3) during the first half of an NCAA football game, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Piscataway, N.J. Coopr DeJean was named to The Associated Press preseason All-America team, Monday, Aug. 21, 2023.(AP Photo/Noah K. Murray, File)

The Eagles have thirteen players fighting for six or seven spots at corner. This should be the most competitive position at camp.

Isaiah Rodgers and Kelee Ringo both impressed during OTAs and will compete with first-round draft pick Quinyon Mitchell for the right to play opposite BP Slay in week one.

Another rookie, Cooper DeJean, could see significant snaps at slot corner this season. In addition to Cooper, the Eagles have a lot of options inside. Tyler Hall, Avonte Maddox, and Zech McPhearson will all compete to stay on the active roster and the team. 

With the talent that the Eagles have added to the position, it will be fascinating to watch over the summer. 

Corner- BP Slay, Isaiah Rodgers, Quinyon Mitchell, Cooper DeJean, Kelee Ringo, Eli Ricks, Zech McPhearson, Tyler Hall, Josh Jobe, Avonte Maddox, Shon Stephens, Mario Goodrich, Parry Nickerson

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AP Photo/Seth Wenig