Sunday’s showing raised more questions about the defense. One of the discussions was about how good some of these players are. They certainly didn’t show much talent against the Broncos.
We talked about this prior to the season, but it is worth re-visiting. This defense is based mostly on 4-3 talent. Imagine this for a minute:
DE Trent Cole
DT Fletcher Cox
DT Cedric Thornton
DE Brandon Graham
* DL Vinny Curry
MLB DeMeco Ryans
WLB Mychal Kendricks
That would be a talented front seven. Players would be used in roles that are natural to them. That group wouldn’t be last in the NFL in defense. Put those same guys into a 3-4 system and their talent is marginalized. Their years of experience go out the window. They have to learn a new system and new roles. No one is comfortable.
You can talk about how untalented the defense is. You can rip Howie Roseman and the scouts. But that’s not being fair to the situation. The bulk of these players were brought here to play in a 1-gap 4-3 system.
Chip Kelly believes in the 3-4 defense. He hired a 3-4 coach in Bill Davis. We expected to see more of a hybrid system this year, but we’ve mainly gotten the 3-4.
Why would Kelly “waste” the defensive talent like this? He feels the 3-4 is the way to go. He could have spent this year trying to put a better defense on the field, but then next year the players would have had the very same issues as they moved to the 3-4. I don’t like Kelly’s defensive choice, but I do agree that it was wise to make the move now.
I’d still prefer more of a 1-gap attacking system that let talented players like Vinny Curry get on the field and make plays.
What does have me confused is that Kelly and Davis talked about the difficulty of the transition from the Wide-9 to a 2-gap 3-4. They knew going in that would be a really difficult transition. They talked about finding a happy medium, so that the players could start to get adjusted to the new system, but also would be used in a way that would give them a chance to be successful this year.
That’s not happening right now.
So a talented player like Curry sits. Graham plays minimal snaps. And Isaac Sopoaga is on the field, accomplishing virtually nothing.
I hope Kelly and Davis make some adjustments to the scheme and player rotation so that this group can be more effective this year. We do have to understand this is Year 1 of an awkward transition. And the Eagles haven’t caught any breaks in terms of who they’ve faced. Phillip Rivers is 2nd in the league in QB rating at 118. He’s having a career year. Alex Smith and the Chiefs are red hot right now. And Peyton Manning is on pace for one of the greatest seasons in football history.
The Eagles do have some defensive talent. What they don’t have are superstars, guys that transcend schemes and can be great any way you use them.
I still think Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks can become star players in this system. Brandon Boykin has excellent potential. But the defense needs more 3-4 guys and it needs more talent. This time last year Roseman and the scouts were looking for Wide-9 talent. This season they are fully committed to finding 3-4 talent. That should make a difference when free agency and the draft roll around.
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He talked about the mistakes that the defense made on Sunday. He did a good job of explaining what the problems were.
Davis also talked about seeing growth. This is hard for the average person to understand, but I know what he’s talking about. He’s seeing the players start to understand the scheme. He’s seeing things look more natural.
Sunday’s results don’t show it, but that can be deceiving. The Broncos are killing everyone. They put up 49 points and 510 yards on the Ravens.
Are the Broncos, Chargers and Skins all in the Top 9 in total offense because they faced the Eagles or are the Eagles dead last in defense because they faced the Broncos, Chargers and Skins? We’ll get the answer to this question in the next few weeks when the Eagles play some offenses that aren’t red hot.
If the awful numbers continue…well, let’s just not think about that right now. A couple of INTs from Eli would go a long way to making the defense look better to everyone.
Davis needs something good to happen, whether takeaways, 3rd down stops or Red Zone stops. He needs those players to step up and start making some plays.