SOMETIMES in football, taking a chance on a rookie instead of the veteran can pay off. For Bennie Logan, making the most out of every opportunity has been his key to success in his first season with Philadelphia.
When the Eagles sent Isaac Sopoaga to New England at the end of October, they made way for Logan - a 2013 third-round pick out of LSU - to replace the 10-year veteran. Although the moved saved the Eagles $1.5 million, they have yet to see whether Logan can handle the full-time load on Philadelphia's defensive line.
"It caught me by surprise at first," Logan said of the Sopoaga trade. "I looked up to Isaac, because he taught me a lot about football and about life. When he got traded, I was shocked, but it taught me that I need to step up and be the starter and that's the reason why they drafted me. I knew it was time for me to show them what I could do and I knew what I was capable of."
Since the Eagles sent Sopoaga and a 2014 sixth-round pick to the Patriots in exchange for New England's fifth-round selection in 2014, Logan has surpassed all expectations.
In six games following the trade, Logan has recorded 27 tackles (15 solo, 12 assisted), helping the team earn a 5-1 record. During that same period, Sopoaga has recorded only two combined tackles and has been replaced by Patriots' rookie Joe Vellano.
After signing during the offseason, the former 49er was set to compete with Logan for the starting nose-tackle job. Eventually it was Sopoaga who came out on top, but Logan kept battling.
"I battle every day, even now," Logan said. "You can't get comfortable, you can't get complacent or anything like that. It's the same battle to come to work every day and fight hard and prepare for each week the same way and go from there. I'm not comfortable or satisfied with where I'm at and I try to get better every week."
During the Eagles' first eight games of the season, Sopoaga and Logan shared time at nose tackle, while the veteran played most of the snaps. The 6-2, 309-pound rookie notched 11 tackles, including one sack, while also playing defensive end as Sopoaga added 10 tackles.
"I think he has stepped up and answered the challenge that he had in front of him," defensive end Cedric Thornton said. "I think he has been playing real good and he had a real good game last weekend. He's improving week-to-week and he is a guy that comes to work everyday and knows what's at stake and knows that we want to win right now. He has been very productive and a great guy to be out there with on Sundays."
"I think Bennie has come a long way week in and week out and I think if he picks one thing to get better each week, you will see a difference," defensive end Fletcher Cox said. "He is comfortable on and off the field, and he is always willing to learn and do more."
In only his second game as the Eagles' starting nose tackle on Nov. 10, Logan recorded a season-high eight tackles (four solo, four assisted) in a 27-13 win at Green Bay, only one fewer tackles than Sopoaga had during his time with the Eagles.
"He's just progressed as the season went along," coach Chip Kelly said this week. "Obviously, he's a rookie. You see him adapt a lot more to the scheme as the season has gone along.
"Our players understand on a weekly basis is how you practice, and how you perform, how you train is what we're looking for them during the week. Just because you played well 4 weeks ago doesn't affect what you're doing this week.
"The one thing with Bennie that you love is that each week, he seems to get a little bit better, a little bit more comfortable in what we're trying to do, getting a lot of production out of him. That's why he warrants playing time."
After Sunday's game at Minnesota, in which Logan recorded three tackles and tipped a ball that was then intercepted by linebacker Mychal Kendricks, defensive coordinator Bill Davis described Logan as one of the bright defensive spots on a team that allowed 48 points. Although Logan did not believe it was his best game as a professional, his coaches disagree.
"I think Bennie has been fun to watch," Davis said during his Tuesday news conference at the NovaCare Complex. "He's a fun story that really is a rookie and you're watching a rookie's growth. Bennie probably played his best game against Minnesota. He's getting better and better, more comfortable, where, as I've said about a lot of rookies, at certain times they have a lot of confidence, but never really sure, 'Do I really belong in the NFL?' Through a lot of success, they relax and excel and say, I do belong, I am good enough. They take a huge spike.
"When the confidence hits, I think Bennie is somewhere in that area right now. I think he knows he can play at this level and he's playing better and better every week and he is getting rewarded for it. He made quite a few plays for us."
Moving forward this season and in his career, Logan hopes to continue to improve as a pass rusher, as well as getting off of run blocks. While there is still a learning curve to adjust to with the professional game, Logan has been on the big stage before and said he has felt comfortable in Philadelphia after 3 years at LSU.
"I started in college at LSU, so I understand what it takes to play in big scenery, a big stadium, big games and at the big stage like this, so you just have to be comfortable and be relaxed and play your game," Logan said. "You're going to make mistakes, but you have to play really hard and forget the play and only worry about the next snap and go hard from there."
The NFL fined Nick Foles $10,000 for his cut block on Vikings linebacker Erin Henderson, which negated DeSean Jackson's touchdown run . . . The Bears listed linebacker Lance Briggs as questionable for tomorrow, but Briggs probably will return from a shoulder injury suffered Oct. 20, after practicing all week. He could stiffen the NFL's softest run defense . . . As expected, Eagles safeties and special-teamers Colt Anderson (knee) and Kurt Coleman (hamstring) are out.
- Daily News sports writer Les Bowen contributed to this report.