Jim Schwartz's scheme scrambles defensive depth chart

PHILADELPHIA -- With the draft finally over, the Philadelphia Eagles begin preparing for minicamps and OTAs over the next two months.

Here is a look at the defensive side of their depth chart after a busy offseason:

Defensive tackles (5): Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Beau Allen, Taylor Hart, Travis Raciti.

The Eagles seem a little thin here, especially coming out of a draft where depth on the defensive line was considered exceptional.

The only question about Cox is whether the team will be able to complete a new megacontract with him before the season starts. After three years as a 3-4 defensive end, the Pro Bowler will get a chance to play where he feels most comfortable.

And you can bet defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will find new and exciting ways to use his best player.

Logan and Allen face similar challenges. They were drafted to play nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. Now they will have to adjust to playing in a 4-3. That can be disorienting but it can also be freeing. In a 4-3, there is more space and more opportunity for DTs to make plays.

Hart was an Oregon player drafted by Chip Kelly. He will have an uphill battle to establish himself as a 4-3 player for Schwartz. But the impression Schwartz created is that every player will get a fair chance to find a place on his defense.

Defensive ends (9): Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Marcus Smith, Alex McCalister, Bryan Braman, Mike Martin, Travis Long, Steven Means.

Most of these guys were outside linebackers under Chip Kelly. Some have experience as defensive ends, some don’t. A few were defensive ends trying to find homes in the Eagles’ 3-4 scheme.

There are a few interesting cases here. Marcus Smith, the underwhelming first-round pick from 2014, never established himself as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme. With a fresh start and a new defense, can he remake himself as a Wide 9 defensive end?

Barwin was an effective outside linebacker with some experience playing end. Can his versatility translate as a 4-3 end? Can he be an even better pass-rusher if he’s freed from the coverage responsibilities that come with being a linebacker?

Graham and Curry were defensive ends before Kelly got here. Graham lost weight and made the transition to linebacker. Curry became a reserve end. Both have been signed to new contracts and will get a chance to rush the quarterback as defensive ends. It is what they do best.

Linebackers (7): Mychal Kendricks, Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Najee Goode, Joe Walker, Brandon Hepburn, Deontae Skinner.

This is perhaps the thinnest position group on the roster right now, partly because six outside linebackers migrated over to defensive end. The Eagles also parted with DeMeco Ryans and Kiko Alonso from last year’s rotation.

Linebackers play a slightly different role in Schwartz’s scheme. His front four will be aggressively trying to get upfield and disrupt things in the backfield. That means both against the run and the pass.

It will be up to the linebackers to make sure things don’t get by them. That means a lot of gap responsibility in the run game and the ability to cover backs and tight ends in the quick passing game.

Bradham was an underrated pickup this offseason. He played for Schwartz in Buffalo and understands the linebackers’ role in the defense. With Bradham on one side and Kendricks returning to a 4-3 on the other, the Eagles should be able to make the transition fairly smoothly.

With the release of Ryans, Hicks becomes the middle linebacker. It is a big job for a young player, but Hicks shows every sign of being able to handle it. Goode and seventh-round pick Joe Walker will compete for time on the inside.

Safeties (6): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Chris Maragos, Jalen Mills, Blake Countess, Ed Reynolds.

This has been a problem area for the Eagles for years. With Jenkins and McLeod, they hope they have locked up two solid players for the foreseeable future. Either way, they will be the starters in 2016.

Maragos has been an effective special-teams player. He will have to fend off challenges there from 2016 draft picks Mills and Countess. Both of them will serve as understudies to Jenkins and McLeod, but will have to find playing time on special teams.

Cornerbacks (9): Eric Rowe, Nolan Carroll, Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, Jaylen Watkins, JaCorey Shepherd, Aaron Grymes, Denzel Rice, Randall Evans.

The Eagles added McKelvin, who is 30, in free agency. He joins Carroll, 29, as the two most senior members of the team’s cornerback group.

Otherwise, the Eagles are hoping a group of young players can develop into effective players. Rowe, last year’s second-round pick, showed flashes as a rookie. But everything the Eagles did in the secondary has to be viewed skeptically. The defense simply didn’t give cornerbacks much chance to thrive.

Schwartz is a big believer that a team can’t have too many cornerbacks. The question here is whether he has enough.

Rowe, Carroll and McKelvin will compete for the starting positions, including the nickel corner job.

Shepherd, who tore his ACL last summer, was showing promise in his first training camp. He will get a fresh start with fresh eyes on him this summer.

Rice made the team as an undrafted free agent last year. Grymes was signed out of the Canadian Football League and will get a chance to earn a spot.

Brooks is a contender to play in the nickel and on special teams. Watkins, going into his third year, is another young player who could blossom in Schwartz’s scheme.