The Eagles drafted NT Bennie Logan, a promising LSU product in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft. The rookie began the season as a backup to Isaac Sopoaga, but impressed the coaches enough to snatch the starting NT position after only eight games (Sopoaga was shipped to NE for a sixth round pick). Logan is one of the more athletic NT’s in the league, and showed the ability to be disruptive by logging 19 tackles and two sacks in only nine starts.
The one knock on Logan’s game as a starting 3-4 NT is his height/weight. He stands at a mere 6-foot-2, 309-pounds. One of Chip Kelly’s most common “Chip-isms” is that “big people beat up little people” and that starts in the trenches. Here is a list of all 3-4 starting NT’s in the NFL and their height/weight:
If you single out the more dominating defenses from 2013 (KC, AZ, CLE, SF), the NT’s check in at an average weight of 332 pounds. These players are able to occupy double teams and eat up gaps, which allows their LB’s to fly around and make tackles. After taking a look at these numbers, it’s clear why Kelly would prefer a bigger player at the position.
As you can see, Logan actually isn’t too far off from the “measurables” of an average starting NT, and it would certainly be within the realm of possibility for him to put on 10-15 pounds in the offseason.
Whether it’s giving Logan an extra smoothie after practice or some other method, the coaching staff must help him put on weight and improve his strength. Although Logan mostly shined in year one, he was especially singled out time and time again in the playoff game against the New Orleans Saints.
Fans will remember the abnormal number of QB sneaks on third/fourth and short in which Drew Brees continued to convert and extend drives right up the middle of the Eagles defense. Perhaps the most memorable (or unmemorable) plays came on the final drive that led to the Saints game winning FG, in which the Eagles defense was unable to get off the field.
An Eagles blogger by the name of Ryan (also known as @ChipWagoneer) posted screen caps here that consistently show Logan being pushed back off the line of scrimmage for two, three, and even four yards from where the ball is originally spotted on those critical plays. In a game where the Eagles desperately needed a stop on the final drive in the fourth quarter, Logan and the rest of the Eagles run defense was gassed.
Not surprisingly, one of the criticisms of Logan’s game leading up to the draft was his inability to display stamina on a consistent basis.
From NFL.com: “Stamina is an issue, losing his chase ability and short-area quickness when facing strong competition, and forces him to be heavily rotated.”
From CBSSports.com: “Frequently is substituted as part of LSU’s rotation, which raises concerns about his readiness to play consistent snaps against better competition in the NFL.”
Clearly, Logan was unable to get the push up front that you’d expect from a dominant 3-4 NT. Perhaps you can chalk it up to the rookie wall (this was in fact Logan’s 17th game, but at the same time he only started eight games prior to the playoff loss). Perhaps Logan will get bigger and stronger while retaining his athleticism in the off-season. Traditional 4-3 DE Vinny Curry (280 pounds) has put on 30 pounds from when the Eagles drafted him, and ended up being the most productive pass rusher in 2013 in terms of snap counts. Logan will have to bulk up similarly to Curry if he wants to retain his starting role.
Again, with Chip Kelly really placing such an emphasis on bigger people beating up on little people, you’d think the Eagles would probably target a NT with more of the prototypical “measurables” for a successful 3-4 defense.
Birds 24/7 writer Sheil Kapadia touched on the state of the D-line in an article yesterday, specifically on the need for a lot of bodies:
“If Logan wins the starting job, great. If not, he’ll still have a role as a rotational lineman and backup nose tackle…to have a really strong unit up front, you need to get contributions from all six [players].”
The Eagles currently list only two tackles (Damion Square and Logan) on their roster, and even if Logan is not the long-term solution at NT, his versatility will allow him to find a niche along the Eagles’ defensive front. His intangibles are absolutely not to be overlooked as well—Logan wore No. 18 at LSU (rare for a DT), which is a special jersey awarded by the coaching staff as the player who best represents what it means “to be a Tiger on and off the field”. In fact, Logan was one of two players that really “wowed” Chip Kelly during the draft interview process (the other being QB Matt Barkley).
He is clearly a high character guy and one that will most likely stick around in Philadelphia for some time, but his long-term role has yet to be determined.