Ex-LSU star Bennie Logan finding his way with Philadelphia Eagles

PHILADELPHIA — Bennie Logan hopped out of his car at the gas station on a mid-summer day and seconds later thought he did something wrong. The attendants were motioning to him, frantically waving their hands.

The former LSU star was confused.

“I found out it’s illegal to pump your own gas in (New) Jersey,” recalled Logan, bellowing a huge laugh. “That’s unusual to me, because I’ve pumped my own gas my whole life.”

The 6-foot-2, 310-pound Philadelphia Eagles’ nose guard has never been out of Coushatta for a prolonged period of time until now. There’s been a few minor bumps here and there, but otherwise, Logan has adjusted to life in the big city — and in the NFL — quite well.

The Eagles started the season with 10-year veteran Isaac Sopoaga, a free-agent signee, as the nose guard in their new aligned 3-4 front, with the intention of gradually easing in Logan, a third-round pick.

But Sopoaga was invisible. He did nothing, and Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis had to shore up the middle. The Eagles released Sopoaga (now with New England) after a 15-7 loss to the New York Giants on Oct. 27 and handed the middle to Logan.

All he’s done since is shine.

Logan proved to be the last piece of what has turned into one of the youngest and most dynamic defensive fronts in the NFL, with defensive ends Fletcher Cox (a 2012 first-round pick) and undrafted free agent Cedric Thornton. They’re getting penetration, keeping inside linebackers Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans clean and are one of the main reasons this young team turned around a 3-5 season to winning the NFC East.

Over the past 12 games, the Eagles have held opponents to 19.4 points a game, down precipitously from the 27.5 points they allowed over the first four. The Eagles have not permitted an opening-drive point in 11 straight games and have held opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in 10 of their past 12 games.

The Eagles have 17 interceptions and are allowing 2.3 TDs a game in their last 12 games, a gaping dip from the 4.0 TDs allowed over the first four, which was ranked 29th in the NFL.

Logan has played a large role in that resurgence. The Eagles are 7-1 since Logan took over as a starter.

“My coaches and teammates have helped play the nose, and it’s just repetition, repetition, repetition playing there,” said Logan, who has two sacks, 27 tackles, two stuffs and a fumble recovery, and a pile of contributions that don’t show up on the stat sheet. “I’ve learned from mistakes in games, I’ve learned from mistakes in practice and I’m just getting better from that. I’m also learning different ways to play the centers. Some centers are fast, some centers use base blocking. I’m learning to adjust to the schemes and playing within the system.”

Nose tackle is a thankless, selfless job. It’s a position that absorbs double teams to free up the ends and inside linebackers. Logan said a reason for his success is getting off the double teams and keeping leverage so the linebackers can get clear.

It’s typical Logan, who was bestowed the prestigious No. 18 at LSU, awarded by the coaches to the player that best exemplifies leadership and commitment.

Logan has carried the same character to the Eagles. He’s quiet, does his job, is a diligent worker and has earned the respect of his teammates. Defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro and assistant coach Erik Chinander find Logan extremely coachable.

“The thing we talk about in our room, and that’s Coach Azz and Coach Chin breaking everything down for all of us, is going from good to really good,” Cox said. “Right now, I think we’re good and we’re pushing to be really good. Bennie keeps working. He’s listening and has been very coachable. I’ve seen Bennie improve a lot from OTAs, and he’s shown the NFL that he can play nose guard. It’s all about sacrifice. Bennie has taken that and run with it.”

Logan is from Coushatta and plans on returning after the season, which he hopes to prolong against the Saints on Saturday.

“You know it’s funny, I was never a Saints fan growing up, wasn’t a Cowboys fan, I was a Giants fan growing up,” Logan said. “The Saints just didn’t fascinate me. Nothing really caught my attention, other than Ricky Williams. But no one is talking noise to me about this game back home.”

If he once harbored doubts about succeeding in the NFL, those are long gone now.

“The thing I think I learned about myself is keep working hard and listening,” Logan said. “This level can be intimidating, but I realized I could do anything if I put my mind to it. It got me this far. You walk into an unknown when you first walk in here, but through the season, I learned to relax and get comfortable. I know I don’t have to pump my own gas, too.”