Pederson Outlines Roster Plans
(973espn.com) — Eagles head coach Doug Pederson started to lock down some of his personnel plans at the NFL's annual spring meeting in Boca Raton, Fla. on Wednesday.
Moat notably the first-year mentor confirmed that both Connor Barwin and Marcus Smith are earmarked for defensive end moving forward, while receiver Jordan Matthews will get an opportunity to play outside the numbers after being used almost exclusively as a slot receiver under Chip Kelly.
Pederson also indicated that a fullback will be back in play come September with Trey Burton getting a look at the position.
“I think Connor can be an exceptional defensive end, pass rusher, while still being comfortable in space,” Pederson said. “He’s done that before. His best position is coming off that edge rushing that passer.”
The projected starters for Philadelphia at defensive end are Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry but the team needs depth. To this point Barwin has spent his entire career as a 3-4 outside linebacker with Houston and the Eagles but will be asked to make the transition in Jim Schwartz's 4-3 scheme.
The same can be said for Smith, who has been a huge disappointment as a 3-4 OLB after being chosen in the first round of the 2014 draft. Pederson believes scaling back Smith's workload and allowing him to focus on his perceived strength -- pass rushing -- could help the Louisville product.
"He’s going to go in as a defensive end,” Pederson said of Smith. "He’s got a lot of potential, and as coaches, we need to get that potential (out of him)."
Chip Kelly's devotion to tempo, in that the main emphasis was lining up quickly at all times, pigeonholed Matthews in the slot but Pederson sees a more well-rounded receiver whose size could be an asset when moving around the field in different formations.
“I think he can play outside,” Pederson said. “I want to look at him outside this spring as we go through the offseason. With his skill set, I think he can play both.”
Pederson explained what he likes about having a fullback and explained that Burton, to this point a tight end, would get a look at the position in the spring.
"I like the fullback position," the coach said. "I'd like fullback to be a four-core special teams player."
Burton was an H-back in college at the University of Florida so he has some experience in the backfield.
“(Burton is) somebody that I want to look at there this spring,” Pederson said. “I want to see if he can handle that. I don’t know that answer yet without actually physically putting him in that position. The other thing is there’s no blocking, protection schemes and all that kind of stuff in the spring, so you really have to wait until training camp to see if he can hold up back there.”
Pederson also addressed the linebacker position and as expected, Jordan Hicks is currently penciled in as the middle linebacker, flanked by Mychal Kendricks on the weak side and the newly signed Nigel Bradham at the SAM spot.
Meanwhile, the starting left guard position is up for grabs, presumably with Allen Barbre trying to hold off players like Andrew Gardner, Matt Tobin and second-year project Malcolm Bunche.
“There’s holes on the offensive-line," Pederson admitted. “You can never have enough offensive linemen."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973ESPN.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen