Bennie Logan joined the starting lineup in Week 9 of the 2013 season and has not missed a game since. That streak stretches 38 regular-season games. During the last 30 games, Beau Allen has been Logan's backup.
Allen is likely to get his first start in Logan's place on Saturday when the Eagles host the Washington Redskins. Logan has a calf injury that kept him out of practice this week, and there have not yet been indications that he will return in time for Saturday.
That means Allen, a 2014 seventh-round pick, would join Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton in the starting lineup. The Eagles could also use Thornton at nose tackle. Brandon Bair will be active if Logan is out and the Eagles would maintain a rotation at each defensive line spot. But the player in the spotlight will be Allen, who has played 25 percent of the defensive snaps this season.
"Beau came along a whole lot," Thornton said. "You can see his confidence level rise week-to-week. He's been ready to start. Not saying he wanted Bennie to get hurt, but he's been ready to start. You can tell. Hopefully, he's up for it and has a great game."
Although it will be an uptick in usage for Allen, the most playing time in his career actually came in Week 4 against Washington. Thornton and Taylor Hart were out, and Bair left after 16 plays with an injury. The Eagles moved Logan to end and played Allen at nose tackle, where he took 54 snaps. Allen finished with a career-high six tackles, and defensive coordinator Bill Davis lauded his performance in the days after the game.
That day offered Allen familiarity of Washington's scheme and personnel, although Washington has turned to Josh LeRibeus to replace Kory Lichtensteiger at center. But Washington can expect Allen to look better, too. During a conversation with DeMeco Ryans this week, Allen remarked how much he's developed since that game.
"I've come a long way," Allen said. "You learn so much with every game. Sometimes you watch yourself earlier on film and you're like, 'If I only knew what I knew now or as comfortable as I am now,' So it's nice to see that kind of progress."
At 6-foot-2 and 333 pounds, Allen has quick feet for someone that size. The Eagles identified him as a scheme fit late in the 2014 draft and he's been active every game with the team. He's not the player Logan is – especially against the run, where Logan thrives – but he can play within the system and he'll line up between two experienced, productive players.
"I just ask Beau to do one thing and that's play fast," Cox said. "Don't worry about the mistakes. Play fast, and be physical."
Playing with Cox and Thornton will be a change for Allen, who usually enters with Allen as part of a defensive line rotation. But Thornton said that he and Cox will trust Allen to be the "captain" of the defensive line when they're in the game together.
The burden to replace Logan is not just on Allen. With Thornton able to slide to the inside, the Eagles could find more playing time for Hart and Bair, with Vinny Curry playing in passing situations.
Bair has been productive whenever he's active, but he's caught in a numbers crunch at the position. The Eagles have seven linemen and play six on gamedays, and the coaching staff prefers Hart to Bair.
"Taylor Hart is playing good football, in my opinion," Davis said. "He doesn't get pushed around in the double-teams. . . .He is more of a run defender than a pass rusher. He's in the rotation with Beau and those two are getting about the same. We're growing them at about the same pace."
Thornton did not know how much he would play nose tackle, but he's practiced there during the last seasons and has learned from Logan.
Regardless, the Eagles will have more depth on the defensive line than the first time they played Washington. Barring injuries, the group will be fresher late in the game. But they'll miss Logan if he's absent, and Allen will need to show why the team has been so confident in his progress during the past two seasons.
"It's kind of exciting, more than anything," Allen said.
In addition to Logan, cornerback Byron Maxwell (shoulder) and wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu didn't practice on Thursday. Maxwell has a sprain of the SC joint, and his absence would mean the Eagles must turn to E.J. Biggers at cornerback. Ajirotutu is a core special-teams player for the Eagles.