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February 19, 2016

NFL Combine positional previews: Defensive ends who could interest the Eagles

Eagles NFL
022016CarlNassib Gene J. Puskar/AP

Despite missing three games in 2015, Penn State's Carl Nassib led the nation with 16 sacks.

The Eagles have good defensive end talent and depth, with Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham and Connor Barwin in place. However, as we were accustomed to seeing in the old Andy Reid days, the Eagles could continue loading up on "fastballs."

Here are five defensive ends competing at the 2016 Combine this week who might make sense for the Eagles:

Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky (6'2, 254)

Spence has first-round talent but comes with baggage. He enrolled at Ohio State but was permanently banned from the Big Ten for repeated failed drug tests. Spence has admitted that he was addicted to the drug Ecstacy.


In the Chip Kelly days, Spence likely wouldn't be a consideration. Under Doug Pederson, who knows?

At Eastern Kentucky in 2015, Spence had 11.5 sacks, 22.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries, even with opposing offenses game planning specifically to stop him.

Spence was dominant at the Senior Bowl, displaying a myriad of pass rush moves, and disrupting in the backfield with regularity. To note, some had previously thought Spence to be limited in his pass rush repertoire, but that's not was I saw in Mobile. If teams are comfortable with his character concerns, he'll easily be a first round pick. Spence's talent is worthy of the 13th overall pick, but the Eagles are already stacked with good players at DE. Still, I wouldn't rule it out completely in a trade-down scenario, as a pick of Spence could signal a trade of Barwin.

Carl Nassib, Penn State (6'6, 273)

Despite missing three games, Nassib led the nation with 16 sacks in 2015 and his draft status has skyrocketed as a result. At 6'6, 273, Nassib has excellent size. In the past, Jim Schwartz had good 6'6 pass rushers in Mario Williams and Kevin Carter. Curry (6'3), Graham (6'2), and Barwin (6'4) don't have that kind of height, so it will be interesting to see if Schwartz will prefer varied sizes and shapes along his defensive line.

While Nassib had 16 sacks in 2015, he was a "one-year wonder" who had 1.5 sacks over the rest of his career. His athleticism also does not match his production, so NFL evaluators will have to be careful not to overvalue his impressive 2015 stats. If Nassib were to slip to the third round, I could see the Eagles having interest.

Bronson Kaufusi, BYU (6'6, 281)

Kaufusi, like Nassib, is a big edge rusher at 6'6, 281. Kaufusi played both at OLB in the Cougars' 3-4 defense, as well as along their defensive line. In 2015, he played DL, where he racked up 11 sacks (seventh in the nation), 3 forced fumbles, 16.5 tackles for loss, and 5 blocked kicks/punts.

Dadi Nicolas, Virginia Tech (6'3, 235)

Nicolas often could not hold the point of attack at Virginia Tech in the run game as a 235-pound defensive lineman, and probably shouldn't have been asked to. In the NFL, he'll have no chance as he'll often be battling offensive tackles outweighing him by around 100 pounds. However, he is a very good pass rusher with 35 1/2" arms who gave OTs competing at the Senior Bowl fits all week with his speed off the edge.

In Jim Schwartz's wide nine looks, Nicolas could be very difficult for opposing tackles to deal with when given a lot of space to work. He could be an interesting fit as a situational pass rusher.

Ronald Blair, Appalachian State (6'1, 272)

My friend Tommy Lawlor of is an App State alum and, therefore, biased, but he likes Blair as a fit in Jim Schwartz's defense as the #NextTrentCole. Blair was the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year in 2015 when he had 7.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. At 6'1, Blair's short stature could turn some teams off, so he could be available in the late rounds as a rotational defensive lineman. 

Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski