April 1, 2024   6 MIN READ

Secondary First

Projected Birds Depth Chart: Defense Edition


The dust from the whirlwind NFL Draft has finally settled.

Now, it’s time to gauge draft hauls and where those new pieces fit into the context of a depth chart.

The Eagles continued their trend from free agency of rebuilding their defense, adding cornerback Quinyon Mitchell (first round), defensive back Cooper DeJean (second round) and edge rusher Jalyx Hunt (third round) for new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and his coaching staff.

GETTY IMAGES: The re-signing of CG Gardner-Johnson and drafting of Cooper DeJean gives the Eagles their most safety depth in a while.

Today we’ll project the defensive depth chart headed into OTAs. On Thursday, we’ll do the offensive depth chart projection.

[Editor’s Note: Any reported undrafted free agent signings are excluded until officially confirmed.]

Defensive Line

The foundation will center on the Eagles’ two first-round tackles, Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter, both of whom  fall under intense scrutiny in the wake of Fletcher Cox’s retirement. Both will be counted on to cause disruption and generate a push up front, creating opportunities for teammates to clean up.

Big year for fourth-year defensive tackle Milton Williams, as well, who is primed to undertake a prominent role for the first time in his career. The lack of depth beyond the aforementioned is worth mentioning, however, though Tuipulotu has flashed on occasion while Booker appeared in 10 games with the Texans in 2022.

The Eagles tinkered with their pass-rush contingent since the end of last season, jettisoning edge rusher Haason Reddick to the Jets and inking Bryce Huff to a sizable free-agent deal. Flanking Huff on the right side will be Josh Sweat, who went radio silent for the second-half of last season.

Perhaps a deeper rotation serves Sweat well, relieving the veteran of potential overload. Smith, a 2023 first-round pick, ascends to the SAM role after playing sparingly as a rookie. While Smith’s motor was never in question, his play-strength development will be crucial to taking a second-year leap.

Baun, a veteran free-agent addition, and the newly minted third-round pick Hunt will be in contention for the key reserve role behind Smith. The early projection here is that Baun staves off the rookie, affording Hunt the necessary time to develop his frame and refine his skill set.

Off Ball Linebackers

The Eagles added free agents White and Burks to their oft-maligned linebacking corps, the former projecting as a starter opposite Dean. Burks was largely added for experience and special teams impact.

White, who’s known for going off-script and roaming the field unrestrained, provides explosion and athleticism to a unit that severely lacked juice last season. Perhaps new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio manages to harness White’s rogue tendencies and maximize his skill set.

But the spotlight is on Dean, who eyes a third-year breakthrough after returning from an injury plagued 2023 season. Highly intelligent, instinctive and possessing inherent leadership qualities, Dean’s issue is his slight build that could continually present durability challenges. The Eagles need Dean to have a big year.

The initially forecasted backup to Dean is fifth-round rookie Trotter Jr., though I’m not entirely sure VanSumeren doesn’t leap him in the pecking order in training camp. Aside from acclimating to the speed of the pro level, Trotter Jr. must overcome his slight frame and speed deficiency to serve as anything more than a special teamer as a rookie. I view the former Clemson product as a sporadic defensive contributor in Year 1 while he finds his footing.

VanSumeren, on the other hand, showcased development when called upon late last season. The second-year linebacker has experience, versatility and supreme athleticism working in his favor. Given his explosive traits and propensity to grasp things quickly, VanSumeren feels like a player Fangio will find a role for in some capacity.


With all the new additions, the hierarchy in the defensive backfield might be the most fascinating storyline to follow through training camp. It’s also the most challenging position group to project.

Bradberry’s drop-off last season was steep and drastic and he’ll be unseated by the rookie Mitchell, who will start across Darius Slay when the Eagles play Week 1 in Brazil.

A virtual mirror image of Slay, Mitchell’s length, technique and instinctiveness should allow for a smooth transition. Ringo and Ricks showed notable signs of development down the stretch last season. Personally, I don’t view Ringo as a starter; more like the top backup outside corner who should still see the field plenty.

I’ve been pretty high on Ricks, who offers inside and outside versatility, though his natural position is on the outside. I believe he’ll legitimately push Ringo in camp for that top backup outside cornerback role.

It’s tough to give Rodgers prominent billing after being away from football for a year and not having seen him take a single practice snap in Philadelphia, but the former Colts corner compiled some impressive tape in 2022. Rodgers, who also provides return ability, could easily work his way up the depth chart.

Curious to see what new defensive backs coach Christian Parker is able to get out of Jobe, who last summer strung together a noteworthy training camp. Jobe is highly regarded for his special teams contributions, but I think there’s a world where the new coaching staff – known for developing – catapults him back into defensive relevance.

Maddox will presumably be afforded every opportunity to seize the nickel role, but he’ll have some competition, as DeJean, McPhearson and Hall all share the same abilities and a much cleaner bill of heath. Maddox has the early inside track, but the Eagles have insurance.

Gardner-Johnson and Blankenship sit atop the safety depth chart for now, but my thinking is DeJean, who can play corner, nickel and safety, forces his way into the picture opposite Gardner-Johnson sooner than later, relegating Blankenship to the critical third safety role.

Brown will also have a complementary role once cleared to return from his late season ACL injury. Garner and McCollum are holdovers who logged defensive snaps for the Eagles last season. It’s a bit more crowded this time around, but with Brown presumably beginning the season on the PUP, the potential shortage tells you that one – or both – have a realistic shot at earning a spot.

– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.

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