Assessing Philadelphia Eagles’ DT depth after Beau Allen’s reported injury
Several days after the Philadelphia Eagles bolstered their depth at defensive tackle by trading for Timmy Jernigan, they suffered a blow at the position, according to reports.
The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Zach Berman reported Saturday Beau Allen suffered a chest injury while working out last week, and The Daily News’ Les Bowen tweeted surgery would keep the fourth-year veteran sidelined until September. Allen likely won’t participate in training camp, and uncertainty shrouds his status for the first few weeks of the regular season.
Allen, 25, played more than 40 percent of the Eagles’ defensive snaps in 2016 and started three games. He’s expected to play a big role in the 2017, too. Even if Jernigan wins the starting job next to Fletcher Cox, the Birds would like to rely on Allen as an established rotational piece.
Behind the presumed starters and Allen, Philadelphia lacks proven depth. Suddenly, the Eagles might need to refocus their attention on the defensive tackles.
Bennie Logan started alongside Cox last season, while Allen slid in as the No. 3 option, starting when Logan was injured and rotating into the lineup regularly. Logan signed with the Chiefs last month, though, and the team traded for Jernigan, a former Ravens starter.
In terms of experienced depth, the Eagles broke even. They lost one young, starting-caliber defensive tackle and gained another.
Allen’s injury adds a new dynamic, because it could take away a key member of the defense for a few games.
The Eagles have three defensive tackles on the roster other than Cox, Jernigan and Allen, and only one has played an NFL snap: 2016 undrafted free agent Destiny Vaeao. If Allen misses time with his injury and the Eagles enter training camp with the same defensive tackle depth chart they have now, Vaeao would assume a heftier role.
He was the No. 4 defensive tackle last season and played 286 snaps. The No. 3 tackle, Allen, was on the field for 402 snaps.
Vaeao might be ready for an uptick responsibility after racking up nine tackles and two sacks in his rookie season.
Coordinator Jim Schwartz likes to rotate lineman, though, and in the past, he’s used at least four defensive tackles in regular-season games. So the ripple effects of Allen’s potential absence could extend beyond Vaeao and down to Aziz Shittu or Justin Hamilton, the other two defensive tackles on the roster.
Shittu, a former Stanford Cardinal, spent the 2016 season on the Eagles practice squad, while Hamilton has been with three NFL teams over two seasons but has yet to make an active roster. Both players entered the league as undrafted free agents.
Can the Eagles trust Vaeao to play more in 2017? Will Shittu or Hamilton prove capable of making the roster and providing strong play?
The Eagles will likely consider those questions as they move toward this month’s draft. If Allen recovers fully, he’ll play most of the 2017 season, but he could miss a few games early on and might need some time to regain his on-field form after working his shoulder back to full strength.
Plus, recovery from pectoral injuries often presents challenges for defensive players, who use those muscles to make tackles. And Schwartz’s defense leans heavily on production from its front four, making Allen’s role a crucial one on the team.
His injury doesn’t spell doom for Philadelphia and shouldn’t the team’s large-scale approach in the draft. It might, however, force the Eagles to scrutinize their depth at defensive tackle at bit more closely.
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