With the addition of 13 draft picks and more than 10 un-drafted free agents, the Eagles have brought in plenty of fresh faces to compete for starting jobs, playing time, and roster spots.
Those new faces will make it difficult for some veterans to keep their spots on the team, particularly those who have been around for a while and those who have under-achieved.
On the hot seat at linebacker: Omar Gaither, Joe Mays
The Eagles traded for Ernie Sims and Alex Hall, and they drafted Keenan Clayton and Jabar Chaney. Sims will battle with Akeem Jordan for the starting job at the WILL, and Hall will push Moises Fokou for the starting job on the strong side.
Clayton and Chaney will battle with veterans Omar Gaither and Joe Mays for the final reserve spots. Gaither’s play against the run has been a liability, and Mays¬† has not been able to adapt his natural play-making ability within the scope of the defense. It won‚Äôt be enough for any of these players to be standouts on special teams, they will need to show they can contribute to the defense as well.
On the hot seat at defensive end: Victor Abiamiri, Juqua Parker
Trent Cole could be the only defensive end from last season to still be on the team come opening day. The additions of Darryl Tapp, Brandon Graham, Daniel Te‚Äôo-Neshiem, and Ricky Sapp will make it hard for both Juqua Parker and Victor Abiamiri to stick around. Parker has given the Eagles decent production, and may benefit from a reduced role, but Abiamiri is in trouble. The former 2nd round pick has given the Eagles exactly nothing in his 3 seasons, being injured most of that time. The Eagles won‚Äôt wait any longer for him to become productive.
On the hot seat at defensive tackle: Trevor Laws
The Eagles only drafted 1 defensive tackle, Jeff Owens, late in the draft. It’s hard to imagine that a late draft pick with a poor scouting report will beat out former 2nd round pick Trevor Laws. But what does it say about Laws when an un-drafted free agent that wasn‚Äôt even with the team for training camp (Antonio Dixon) takes your job?
Maybe what the Eagles have planned here is to use more pass rushing specialists on passing downs, as the Giants do, rather than stay with the big boys. This may explain the drafting of so many defensive ends, many of whom are undersized.
If that is the case, it would not be a choice of Owens over Laws so much, but rather a question of a 4th defensive tackle on a team that only uses defensive tackles on 1st and 2nd downs, over a pass-rushing specialist who will play on third downs. In that light, the team really doesn’t need the 4th defensive tackle, and Laws would be in trouble.
On the hot seat in the secondary: Joselio Hanson, Ellis Hobbs.
The secondary is crowded, and in turmoil. Safety Sean Jones is already gone, as is Sheldon Brown. Nate Allen should end up beating out Quintin Demps and Macho Harris for the free safety job.
Asante Samuel will start at one corner. That leaves Ellis Hobbs, Joselio Hanson,and maybe 4th round pick Trevard Lindley for the starting job opposite Asante Samuel.
Hanson is on the hot seat due to his steroids suspension and his sub-par performance post suspension. Hanson must rebound to his former level of play immediately.
Hobbs is a concern due to the nature of his neck injury. The Eagles clearly like Hobbs, but like Hanson, he must show quickly that he is healed and ready to go. The Eagles cannot afford to have Hobbs less than 100% healthy.
The Eagles know the defense needs a massive overhaul, and they‚Äôve brought in many fresh faces to try and address it. They‚Äôve created competition throughout the defense, and will trim away the dead weight by the end of August. For some veterans, their time has come.