Weekend mailbag: Eagles defensive tackles

Whenever I do this, I think of Strong Bad. No one ever did it better than him. But we try nonetheless.

Matt from RI/Mass area had two questions, but the one you guys will care about had to do with Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackles. Matt thinks the team has several players who could fit the description of "starter" at that position and wonders whether, "with this lineup, there might not be a true starter or even a true consistent player at the position for three downs, or even two out of the three every series."

Dan Graziano: I agree, Matt, with your premise. As you noted, I listed Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson as the projected starters at defensive tackle when we looked at the Eagles' defensive line in our position-by-position series. And I think Jenkins is the No. 1 guy there. But the Eagles would prefer and plan to use a rotation at defensive tackle, with guys like Fletcher Cox, Antonio Dixon and Derek Landri working there as well. Defensive line coach Jim Washburn loves the depth he has on the line this year, and plans to take full advantage of it by rotating guys in to keep them all fresh. I think you will see a lot of substituting at those positions. In answer to your other question, no, no relation to Steven Graziano.

Jug from Seattle asks whether Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather's April arrest on drunk driving charges could cause him to miss time, and who would step in at strong safety if it did.

DG: If it's Meriweather's first violation, it should not cause him to miss any time. DUIs are, I believe, covered under the substance abuse policy and not the Roger Goodell-run discipline policy, and there are specific guidelines for punishments that can and cannot be imposed. For instance, New York Giants lineman David Diehl was arrested on DUI charges this offseason as well, but it's been reported that he's not facing a suspension, just likely a fine. As for replacements, my guess is Reed Doughty would be the short-term fill-in if one were needed.

Mark from Fort Worth Texas asks whether I think Dallas Cowboys first-round draft pick Morris Claiborne will be able to hold up at the NFL level and generate turnovers.

DG: I do, Mark, yes. The criticism I had of the Claiborne trade was that I thought the Cowboys had enough needs on defense that they should have drafted two players with their first two picks rather than just one. But the player they picked is, I believe, going to be excellent. We can't know for sure how he'll react to the speed of the NFL game, and the adversity he'll face when he realizes (as all NFL rookies do) that he's not the most talented guy on the field anymore. Every player who's ever been great in the NFL has had to adapt to the immense skill level of the players around them in the pros, and Claiborne is no exception. But as long as he's the kind of guy who understands that and is willing to work to overcome it (which he so far seems to be), then yes, I believe his ball skills and his speed and his coverage instincts will translate well to the NFL level. I think he's going to be a great player, and I would not be surprised if he developed quickly. Might see some growing pains early in the season, but my sense is that, by December, people will be talking about this guy as a star.

And finally, Scot from Philadelphia was in the chat Tuesday (Thanks, Scot!) and noticed that my answer to a question about who was the best player in the division was Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware. Scott asks, "if you are basing it on last year alone wouldn't you have to rank Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul ahead of him?"

DG: I mean, (a) not necessarily and (b) why on earth would we base it on last year alone? Pierre-Paul was fantastic last season, and sure, you could argue that he had a better season than Ware had. But you could also argue that he didn't, since Ware had 19.5 sacks to Pierre-Paul's 16.5. Also, as great as Pierre-Paul was, he was playing on the same team as Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, a couple of guys that get a fair amount of attention from opposing blockers. Very often, the second-best sack threat on the Cowboys after Ware is the possibility that the quarterback just falls down on his own. So Ware sees more double-teams. But the best answer is that Ware's done it for years. He's averaged 14.2 sacks per year over the last seven seasons, and has totaled 35 over the past two. I think the world of Pierre-Paul, and I believe he has the ability to be as good as any defensive player in the game. But if you asked him whether he's better right now than Ware is, I believe Pierre-Paul would laugh. Ware is the player he aspires to be. He could get there. He could be even better. But I don't think one year is enough to change the pecking order in the division.

Hey, folks. I'm on vacation. No mailbag next week. Nothing from me next week, actually. Be back soon enough, and I'll catch you then.