Improving the Defense

Posted: March 17th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 173 Comments »

The first place you always look for improvement should be your own roster. If you have done a good job of acquiring young talent, the players should improve from year to year. I think too many Eagles fans are expecting outside help for the defense. The Eagles should see improvement from the guys already on the roster and that should be the biggest boost.

I remember having a discussion with someone at the Senior Bowl in Mobile about how there would be less change on defense than many expected to see. The Eagles like their players. Many of them are young, which makes you hesitant to give up on them and start looking for new faces.

You also have to factor in the move to the 3-4. That meant that no one knew what they were doing last year. There was no foundation for players to lean on. All of them were learning a new scheme and new roles within that scheme. 2014 will be very different. There will be less schematic teaching and the coaches can focus on honing individual skills. That can have a big impact on player development.

If you go back and study the best defenses, they take time to build. You get a couple of players in 3 or 4 straight drafts and then mix in a free agent or two. Suddenly you’ve got a strong group.

Look at Gang Green:

1983 – Wes Hopkins – 2nd round

1984 – Andre Waters – UDFA

1985 – Reggie White – brought over from USFL

1986 – Seth Joyner – 8th round
1986 – Clyde Simmons – 9th round

1987 – Jerome Brown – 1st round
1987 – Byron Evans – 4th round

1988 – Eric Allen – 2nd round

1990 – Ben Smith – 1st round

1991 – William Thomas – 4th round

Obviously times have changed. With free agency, you can sign and lose players much easier than you did in the past. That’s why I made the point of building a defense over several years and not 9 like that group was put together.

You can cobble together a group and turn them into a good defense, but if you build something long term, you’ve got a better chance at having sustained success. Just look at what the Steelers have done compared to the Patriots. Bill Belichick gets a piece here and a piece there and is able to turn them into an effective unit. Every now and then he’ll find a really good player and the defense will thrive. The Steelers started building their defense 20 years ago and it has been outstanding for those 2 decades. Continuity and player development are huge parts of that. Players aren’t rushed into the lineup. They are given a chance to develop.

The Eagles had to have Safety help. The cupboard was literally bare. They added Malcolm Jenkins and I get the feeling they’ll add another veteran. There will be some other depth moves in free agency, but it sure seems like the big moves are done. The Eagles will add talent to the defense in the draft. That might not mean instant impact, but it is how you go about building a good defense.

If there was a great or even very good ROLB on the market, I’m sure the Eagles would have made him the focus of their free agency plans. They know the pass rush must get better. But you can’t get blood from a turnip, as the old saying goes. Once Worilds and Orakpo were taken off the market, there just wasn’t much for 3-4 pass rushers. Most of the top players were LOLBs and effort guys. I know DeMarcus Ware did get cut, but we’re talking about a player who will turn 32 this summer and is coming off a 6-sack season. He only missed 3 games, but was slowed by nagging injuries all year. He could bounce back, but nagging injuries have started to slow him down in recent years. Ware could turn out to be a great signing by Denver or he could prove to be a waste of resources. The Eagles didn’t feel he was worth the risk.

2014 is going to be a key year for the Eagles defense. The players will be held to a higher standard this time around. They can’t use the “we’re still learning the scheme” excuse anymore. Put up or shut up. At the end of this season, the team should have a much better feel for whether Fletcher Cox can take the next step and become an impact player. Whether Bennie Logan is the answer at NT. Whether Ced Thornton can rush the passer well enough to consider him more than just a run defender. Whether Mychal Kendricks can clean up his game and become more consistently outstanding.

The Eagles will also get a better feel for young backups like Vinny Curry, Damion Square, Joe Kruger, Jake Knott, Najee Goode and Travis Long. How do they fit in? Do they belong?

There are still plenty of question marks in regard to the defense. The Eagles hopefully will get some answers this year and have a better idea of what must be done next March. We know some players will get better. 1 or maybe even 2 players will emerge in a big way. And there can be 1 or even 2 who go the wrong direction, whether due to performance, injury or off-field circumstances.

The Eagles defense must play better in 2014, but adding talent is only part of the answer. The current players have to take a big step forward if the group is going the kind of unit that Chip Kelly and Bill Davis want.

_


  • Formidable

    So does this mean Tommy’s preferred OLB O’Brien Schofield was never really that good to begin with? I still believe he could be an asset to the team if his failed physical with the Jints was more form vs substance.

    • Joseph Dubyk

      If he’s not healthy enough to play than he’s probably not an asset…

      • Formidable

        Failing a physical where he had no apparent injury does not mean he can’t play; it means they can clear him physically to sign a contract with the team. Every team has different standards for pass/fail of a physical (sometimes players fail as a matter of business only). Schofield played and finished the Super Bowl without injury. Failing the physical was about an injury he had at the Senior Bowl years ago.

    • EaglesHero87

      Schofield was actually signed by the Giants on a two-year deal worth, I think, $8 million.

      • Formidable

        I was referring to that deal which was killed because he failed the physical.

  • Joseph Dubyk

    I agree with all the FA moves the Eagles have made so far defensively. We really need an OLB but like you said — nothing was out there. I’m glad we didn’t pay Byrd 9 million a year also. I don’t think he’s worth that type of cash.

    • EaglesHero87

      Which leaves us the biggest question of the year: (1) would you then want to trade up to get Barr, (2) stay with pick #22, or (3) trade our current pick to trade down for more picks?

      • Joseph Dubyk

        That my friend — is the biggest question. Also, is Dion Jordan really available? Could we pull off a trade?

  • Finlay Jones

    The only absolutely glaring need left to me is safety. We
    desperately need to add another veteran. I think we should sign Nate Allen.

    • Joseph Dubyk

      Lol… no it’s not… It’s pass rusher

    • EaglesHero87

      Disagree. It’s now no longer considered a “glaring” need. Jenkins is considered by many a significant upgrade over any of the safeties we have, even Allen. But then again, I’m not against the idea of re-signing Allen back for competition and depth.

      Our biggest “glaring” need, at this very point, is a pass-rushing OLB, particularly the ROLB.

      • eagleyankfan

        that and … Nate stinks.

        • Joseph Dubyk

          false… he is a very competent starter in this league.

          • Sb2bowl

            JD-
            Agreed, I’m happy with Nate being back on the roster. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him earn a starting role, and also an extension from the ‘birds during the season.

            He played decent as a rookie, took a pretty serious injury at the end of the year; clearly wasn’t comfortable with it the following season, and oh, by the way, also had primary gap responsibilities for the run game during the Wide 9 debacle.

            Confidence shot, earns a starting role in our new 3-4 defense, starts all 16 games, and gains confidence as the year goes along. Has a great interception during the Cards game which showed his ability to help out over the top, and looked like an NFL starting safety by the end of the year.

            Is Allen a top 10 safety? No, he is not. But he has decent physical size and abilities (6’1″, 210 lbs), knows the NFL (this will be his 5th year in the league) and NFL offenses, and is slowly gaining confidence in his ability and in the scheme. I really think with the addition of Jenkins to our secondary, that Nate will take his play to a whole new level.

            Also, I’m becoming “happy” with the shape of our defense, specifically in 3-3-5 / 4-1-6 / 2-4-5 / 4-2-5 fronts.when we need extra secondary bodies in the game. We improved in “talent available” and also, the fact that in obvious passing downs, Billy D can take DeMeco off the field (wasn’t able to last year because we didn’t have capable players to fill in on defense; this hurt us b/c Ryans’ strength isn’t defending the pass). In a sense, this is a version of “addition by addition” (new secondary players/talent upgraded) and also “addition by subtraction” (getting Ryans off the field in passing downs or when we have the lead late in a game)– this will save Ryans a bunch of snaps this year, which should also help him stay fresh later in the game and year.

            Listen, Nate Allen was a 2nd round pick. He got hurt, had a crappy situation with coaches, and finally started to look like a good NFL player for the first time since 2010 (remind you guys of someone else on the roster?). Give him another year in our system– at worst he plateaus and is part of our safety depth, but at best he continues to improve and gain confidence, and by the end of the year has 230 interceptions (but only 47 returned for touch downs). For $1 million (possibly $2 million) its worth the chance, I’m glad they brought him back.

          • Joseph Dubyk

            agreed 100%

          • Andy124

            false… he is a somewhat competent starter in this league.

          • Joseph Dubyk

            You don’t watch a lot of other teams do you? Bad safety play is an epidemic in the NFL. And if you can get a decent cover guy which Nate Allen is you got a competent safety… How many plays can you name off the top of your head last year that Nate REALLY blew? I can name about 10 for Chung, and I can think of one for Nate. Otherwise, he didn’t really stand out and when you’re on our current defense, that’snot a bad thing.

          • Andy124

            Wow man, ad hominem much? Over a slightly different shade of grey? That doesn’t sound much like the voice of reason to me.

            When a safety isn’t asked to do much it’s a lot easier for him not to screw it up. I’m not saying he sucks, just disagreeing with the “very” adverb you used. Sheesh.

          • Joseph Dubyk

            Ok here’s my problem with your argument. You said “he wasn’t asked to do much.” I haven’t seen that pointed out anywhere and if you could show me where Billy Davis asks his safeties “not to do much,” then I think your argument holds water. Otherwise, I feel like you just came up with that yourself.

            Nate Allen gets a bad rep for the 2011 and 12 seasons. And then fans keep on harping on him as if he had a similar season in 13 but he really played well. No he’s not a big hitter, but he’s a decent cover safety. he wasn’t anywhere near Chung status and people talk about him like he’s CC brown

      • Finlay Jones

        Behind wolff and Jenkins we have absolutely nothing, and
        chung was considered an upgrade before last year. Wolff was hurt a fair bit.

        I think we need to
        re-sign nate, or a different vet, and draft a guy. 4 people then compete for 2
        spots. At least we have bodies we can plug into ROLB.

      • Joseph Dubyk

        Glad you don’t mind cause we just resigned him :P

  • Dominik

    @ Tommy

    From your last post:

    “Kelly said the team is not interested backups if they cannot contribute on special teams.”

    Jimmy K wrote the same thing, so let’s just assume the quote is correct. That has to mean Allen isn’t coming back, has it? Would be interesting if you feel the same way.

    • Formidable

      I think Nate or any veteran safety would be signed as a starter and exempt from the backup ST requirement.

      • Dominik

        I don’t think any vet would be penciled in as starter. Not after they waited that long to sign a contract. Jenkins is penciled in, sure, but the other vet (I really hope they sign one) has to battle it out with Wolff and the Safety they will (hopefully) draft.

        If I’m correct with that assumption, the vet they sign has to be able to play ST.

        • Formidable

          They already signed a backup safety for ST (Maragos) and it is expected that they will probably draft another rookie Safety to also play on ST, why bring in a 4th player at safety for ST duty (Maragos, Wolff and Rookie makes 3)?

          I think of it this way, every role is essentially the same as last year except Jenkins replaces Chung, Wolff replaces Coleman, Maragos replaces Anderson and a rookie replaces Wolff. Allen or another vet would still serve in the role Allen had.

          • Dominik

            Why would Jenkins replace our #3 Safety (Chung)? He gets paid starter money, he better starts and play like a starter.

            Maragos is the question mark. We all assume he’ll replace Anderson, maybe they see him as a legitimate #4 (Anderson wasn’t really a Safety, he was like Dorenbos, a pure STer). I don’t know. Maybe he can play Defense. Fact is, he didn’t play Defense in Seattle, but you can’t expect him to replace Thomas. ;)

          • Formidable

            He replaces Chung as the FA vet they signed in the offseason and retained as a starter. The fact that Chung tumbled down the depth chart was a function of his poor play – not the original purpose for which he was signed.

          • Formidable

            Nate Allen was just resigned so there goes the ST theory.

    • EaglesHero87

      Now that one week has passed since the dust has settled, I’d be even more curious if the Eagles are in the process of negotiating a cheaper deal with Allen, or if they absolutely think he’s not worth bringing back to the team.

    • eagleyankfan

      wow — just wow. Either Nate Allen has a lot of relatives on this board or people just don’t get it….

      • Dominik

        Why do you reply to me? Do you think I’m pro Allen? If so, why? ;)

        • eagleyankfan

          doesn’t matter…Allen is back…every town needs ditch diggers I guess… no offense to those who actually dig ditches of course.

          • Finlay Jones

            Nate should be our 4th safety. He’s an insurance policy incase Jenkins doesn’t transition, wolff is hurt, and means we don’t have to reach for a safety. (although we should still draft one)

          • Call Me Carlos the Dwarf

            …except for the fact that he was better than Wolff last year.

      • Anders

        Seems the Eagles FO do not get it either

        • Dominik

          So there’s that, Kelly doesn’t have a ST dogma, he just prefers it. ;)

          Have to say 1m is very cheap. And besides ST, it does make some sense. You don’t have to draft a Safety (altough you should, imho) and if Allen turns out to be our #4 Safety (which I think everyone but Allen and those close to him would love, because that would mean that our Rookie and Wolff are making progress) everything is fine.

          If the Rookie and Wolff aren’t ready or hurt, we have an insurance. That could be important.

          If we don’t draft a Safety because we have Allen it would be a disaster, but I truly don’t think that’ll the case. He signed a 1 year deal for a reason.

          • Tumtum

            He will start at least the first 4 games. Mark it down.

  • Lukekelly65

    I have high hopes for Joe Kruger no one seems to think he has a shot.. I remember when we drafted him everyone was saying he came out a year early and how raw he was. Hopefully he took this past year to add some weight and strength because he has the frame to be that OLB that can rush the passer. I think by the end of next season there is a chance the Kruger turns out to be a perfect example of exactly what Tommy is talking about in this post.

    • Christopher Miller

      Isn’t he more of a DE in the 34?

      • Lukekelly65

        You’re right, my mistake

      • Tumtum

        We decided he would be a DE but I think there were questions of which way he would go. I think the sports science guy projected his body developing into a DE for 34.

    • mheil

      Kruger is a de, not olb. He may replace gather.

    • Tumtum

      I think he is a good developmental prospect. I wouldn’t say I have high hopes for him, but I am glad to have a guy like that.

      • Sb2bowl

        Agreed tumtum; glad he declared last year and we scooped him up for a 7th rounder. Hope he spent this year “rehabbing” that injury which landed him on the IR; he probably put on 25lbs and hopefully has a chance to make the game day roster this year, cycling in as a rotational player at first

  • Joseph Dubyk

    By the way…Kurt Coleman to either Vikings or Cowboys..you heard it here first

    • Dominik

      Dear god, let it be the Cowboys.

      • GermanEagle

        Why? I like Kurt and would absoutely hate seeing him in a Cowboys uniform. Besides the fact that I don’t see him getting any significant amount of defensive snaps..

        • Dominik

          I like him, too, but let’s just admit that he sucks as Safety. I always love it when the Cowboys sign players that suck. ;)

          • TheRogerPodacter

            i get what you’re saying, but just like how you wouldn’t want to wish an injury on a player of the opposing team, you wouldn’t want to wish any player going to Dallas. : P

            just think… if they NEED Kurt Coleman… and they DON”T get him… can you imagine how bad that secondary must be?!

        • Anders

          Because can you see Kurt trying to tackle McCoy?

          • Tumtum

            McCoy makes everyone look LoL funny.

        • Joseph Dubyk

          I like Kurt too. He put everything he had on the fied. He just wasn’t physically gifted enough. i dont think people should hate him for that.

          • Dominik

            I’m not hating him, I just think he isn’t a good NFL player. And the Cowboys can’t have enough of those. ;)

          • Joseph Dubyk

            Yeah it wouldn’t hurt if he was forced into action against the Eagles that’s for sure

  • Weapon Y

    I had such high expectations for Fletcher Cox, and really want to see him realize his potential. Is he just a good player or can he become the stud impact player I expected him to be?

    • Anders

      I really hope Cox develops into Richard Seymour type player this year. He showed flashes last year, but 1 more off season should bring it out.

      • eagleyankfan

        I think new scheme on defense stunted the growth of all players last year. This year though, we should see that jump. Hoping anyway, I’m a fan of Fletcher as well.

        • EaglesHero87

          Me too. Dude has it in him, he just needs to unleash the beast within him.

    • GEAGLE

      Gotta remember he is just a puppy, he should be in this draft lol…let the kid get year two in a scheme before everyone starts calling him a bust too. He is a puppy

      • Sb2bowl

        around 74, if I remember correctly. He has that Brad Pitt/Benjamin Button thing going on….. right?

  • GermanEagle

    Tommy
    can you please offer your quick thoughts re Anthony Spencer. Besides turning just 30 this year, he’d bring great size (6’3” / 262 lbs) and has experience as a 3-4 OLB with some pass-rushing skills. So tbh I am a bit surprised by the lack of interest from the Eagles and other NFL teams…

    • Anders

      Only has 1 good season, coming of an injury and most likely wanted more money than offered.
      Also Spencer would come here as a back up to Barwin

      • GermanEagle

        Yes, I get that that he only had one good season. But the longer he’s available the more his price tag should be dropping.
        I would at least give him a look and invite him for an interview/physical…

        • Mac

          One year prove it deal could make sense

    • GEAGLE

      Hate him, want nothing to do with him and I think the giants are giving him a one year deal, which makes me happy

      • GermanEagle

        Well…

  • Mike Roman

    I think Ware will have double digit sack year in Denver. Working opposite Von Miller will really help him. I don’t think he would have that production here but in my dream world, him and Cole would have both been 8 sack guys.

    I think it is really important for this team that Fletcher Cox becomes a Pro Bowl player. He’s shown flashes, but going from a rookie in a 4-3 and then transitioning to the 3-4 probably slowed his progress. We don’t have any blue-chip players on the defense and Cox has the pedigree to become that. Please Fletcher, don’t let me down.

    Lots of talk about moving Graham or Curry lately. I don’t see it with Curry because pass rushers are hard to find and he fits well in our sub packages. I don’t know what to think about Graham. He’s a bad fit, but there again, he can get after the QB. Do the Eagles think he can improve in year number two at ROLB? Or is it a foregone conclusion that he gets traded?

  • Frencheaglesfan

    Man do I love your articles Tommy, I don’ t come from a football background so I often lack indsight, but here we are taking about team sports and chemistry. There is the need to give our own players time to grow and put our trust in them. This trust is also necessary in the stands, I definitely think that except from the 1st round pick we need players that need to work behind this team, it is a winning team, they are winners, they lost in the playoffs in a close game and I can tell you this sample made them hungry, they know that no one can stop mc coy, they know defenses fear our receivers, they know we have a coach who is a genius at creating mismatches and maximising the talents of his players,…… They know that they can win and I’m telling you next year will maybe not be THE year but we are in the beginning of a long and great ride, it feels good to be an eagles fan. Hey NFL, fear the byrd, he’s coming at you.

    • Frencheaglesfan

      Freud would not be happy for the last word lol *Bird

      • Tumtum

        LoL great post all the way up to that.

  • nicolajNN

    Welcome back, Nate. The #Eagles and Nate Allen have agreed to terms on a one-year deal pic.twitter.com/qkJn5zkyOn— Eagles Insider (@EaglesInsider) March 17, 2014

    • Frencheaglesfan

      Such a smart move

    • eagleyankfan

      puke. hope he can play special teams.

    • Weapon Y

      Damn it, no!!!!!!!!!!

    • EaglesHero87

      I’m liking the guys and depth at our safety spot.

    • ICDogg

      Kind of expected, but I guess this is the time where both teams and players start to realize they’re not going to get exactly what they want and settle for what they need.

      • Ig_l

        Kind of like 1:40 AM at the club.

        • ICDogg

          *before* they turn on the light and see how scary everyone really looks.

    • Tumtum

      Yippie.

  • nicolajNN

    A bit of a funny aside, the Nate Allen signing is a good example of Spuds knowing about moves before other, two days ago he said on twitter he wasn’t sure he saw it happening, then earlier today he called it possible and complimented his play in 2013

  • austinfan

    Most teams improve more with young players already on the roster than FAs and draft picks. If you’re not producing 2-3 starters out of last year’s backups each year you’re in trouble in the long run, because most draft picks don’t play much as rookies, it’s the 2nd and 3rd season when they shine. And the reason you sign a lot of SFAs is they have talent, they were just too raw or a bad fit to stick on a roster their first year or two.

    Eagles defense was much better than people think, they had a combination of a tough early schedule while they were assimilating a new defensive scheme, and this lead to really ugly statistics the first four games. But if you look at the last 13 games (including the playoffs) the pass defense was somewhere between 10-15, and the run defense was top ten. So we’re not talking a defense that was in the pits and has to be rebuilt from scratch.

    Guys who could really step up in 2014:
    Thornton – a top run defender who needs to develop some pass rush moves
    Logan – people get down on a rookie playing a position few rookies are ever starters, because they usually need a year or two in the weight room to handle NT. Look for him to be improved at 320 lbs next year.
    Cox – he turns 24 in December, which makes him about 6 months older than most of the DL who will be drafted (and younger than Hageman). He is filling into his body, should eventually fill out to a legitimate 310 lbs, and is very athletic, played the most snaps but is just learning the position.
    Curry – learning how to play 3-4 DE, if he isn’t traded, should be a bigger player this year
    Kendricks – slow start but was really coming on the second half
    Cole – while there’s a question how much he has left in the tank, clearly was more comfortable at WOLB the second half, 9 sacks his last 9 game.
    Wolff – a full year under his belt

    Wildcards
    Kruger – supposedly up to 290 lbs, we’ll see how much of his quickness and explosion he retained, great workout at 269 lbs, he’s only 22 and could fill out naturally.
    Keelan Johnson – has great size/speed numbers, very similar to Wolff, can he translate it to the field
    Najee Goode – very fast, a bit straight line, but flashed explosiveness when he got a change to play
    Travis Long – two years away from the knee injury, was a solid all around 3-4 OLB in college
    Braman and Maragos – brought on as ST guys, both were raw college players who have starter athleticism, can they be coached up?

    • Arby1

      Well, I do want to congratulate you for calling Riley Cooper’s big step up last year while I had my doubts. I hope you’re correct about the above players too.

  • Ben Hert

    I think the definitive opinion around here recently has been either that the Eagles will be Superbowl contenders, or will regress in another “rebuilding year.” TLAW, I think you bring up an interesting point when you talk about being able to fully evaluate our key players at the end of the year to determine their future in our system.

    I think best case scenario, all our moves work out, and all of our key defensive players take a big step with a year in the system, and we are legitimate superbowl contenders this year. Worst case, we regress as an offense, and find a lot of our key players, like Kendricks. Wolff, Cox, Logan, etc. whom we are depending on the be the building blocks of a good defense, don’t pan out as we hoped, and we are back in rebuilding mode.

    I think the most likely outcome is that we’re somewhere in the middle. For example, maybe we find that Wolff isn’t starting caliber safety material (Remember Nate Allen year 1?), but Kendricks becomes a reliable playmaker at ILB, Cox comes into full effect (giggles), but Logan just can’t put it all together in the middle and we have a hole at NT. It seems like right now, we have a LOT of question marks at key positions on the defense. Lots of bets hedged on if this or that player will break out and play to the potential we saw when we drafted or signed him. I think its fair to assume some will work out, and others won’t, and we won’t be up a creek without a paddle, nor will we challenge for a SB next year. I’m sure we all hope for the latter, but I think looking at it realistically, this year, if anything, will be great for answering all those questions Tommy raised about the key players we need to see step-up, and go from there.

    • Tumtum

      My only contention with this entire post is the contention for a Super Bowl. If you are good enough to make the playoffs you have a REAL shot at the Superbowl. In my humble opinion; if you are a playoff contender you are a Superbowl contender. There is no difference.

      • Ben Hert

        I get the sentiment, and I’m pretty sure I agreed with you a few days ago in the comments, but did the Bengals or Chiefs really have a realistic shot of making it to the Superbowl? And they didn’t even have Seattle or the Niners to compete with. I think if your team is built a certain way to defeat teams like the Seahawks, then you have a realistic chance, but to use a blanket statement like that is a bit misleading.

        • Neil

          Last year it was pretty clear that only about 3 teams really belonged, and they belonged all season. Still, at this point, do we know that it’s going to be the same way this year? The Giants D became extremely dominant at playoff time. They belonged in their respective years despite being eh regular season teams. So I think it’s fair to say you never really know.

          • Ben Hert

            Couldn’t agree more. I just hope we’re one of those three teams come December next year.

        • Tumtum

          The Chiefs peaked early, but I really though the Bengals had a chance to make a run. Yes, when it got to the playoffs it certainly seemed like SF DEN or SEA would be winning it all. Very easily SF could have taken the place of SEA.

          Of course I didn’t think anyone was going to beat the Patriots in 07′. They were the only team on that level that year, but they still managed to lose to the Giants who barely made the playoffs.

          I think my whole underlying point, which you didn’t really address in your original post (remember I liked ALL but one little part!), is that you have to build for now as well as the future. When I hear things like “rebuilding year”, etc. I just get an uneasy feeling. Build for present and future, because you just never know what could happen.

      • Ben Hert

        I also think for statements like that, you have to look at the competition. I think in previous years when there weren’t super teams, that statement might work, but last year, you had to beat two Super teams just to even get there. Then deal with Manning in full effect.

        • Tumtum

          Yeah I almost mentioned that. Each year is it’s own beast and those 1 seeds were very tough last year.

    • bsuperfi

      My biggest worry here is really that Cox and Kendricks don’t become top shelf players. I think either could become great, but there’s no guarantee. Like Tommy said, this is a critical year for both. I think that after this year, we’ll know what we have with them.

      If they don’t step up, I think they’ll both be nice pieces. But if they’re not serious impact players, we’re talking about these positions come FA and the draft next year.

    • Call Me Carlos the Dwarf

      Of course I remember Nate Allen year one. He was far, far better than Wolff. It isn’t particularly close.

  • Tumtum

    Speaking of OLB:

    You know come to think of it they must actually think fairly highly of BG. I imagine he could of been traded fairly easily. There is still a guy like Rob Jackson out there who is a true 3-4 OLB and they have not shown any interest. He would legitimately be able to push Cole and could be the top back up at either spot.

    Of course I could be over estimating the value of Rob Jackson. As we get farther into FA his price will drop and we shall see.

    • Neil

      If people are only offering you a 5th or 6th, there’s no reason not to wait on Graham.

      • Tumtum

        Unless you think he is really a square peg in a round hole. It shows that after a year in the scheme they feel he has value in this defense. Wasn’t disagreeing with the thought, just musing at what their actions tell you about what they are thinking.

        • Neil

          But I’m saying they might just want to wait to see if a better offer comes. They might be willing to accept peanuts, just later.

          • Tumtum

            Ahhh gotcha. Good point.

    • TheRogerPodacter

      yea, i’m a little surprised we haven’t shown any interest in Rob Jackson. I think he could be a decent depth pickup, but would really just come here to compete with BG to backup Cole.
      maybe your thinking is right – they think enough of BG to not bother spending the money to bring in another guy? but then i think that Chip values competition so much that why wouldn’t he want to bring in someone like that?

      i still get the feeling that BG may be a draft day trade if we get another OLB early in the draft. if we don’t get another OLB, there is no reason to trade him, except for another OLB, not draft picks. However, if we do get an OLB on day 1 or 2 of the draft, i could see BG getting moved for a later day 2 pick, a couple of day 3 picks, or even some picks for next year.

      • Tumtum

        2015 picks would probably be the most appealing to me in a draft day scenario that would net you picks. Next year picks are always so under valued on draft day.

        Now is there a team who has recently gone from 3-4 to 4-3 with the same issue we have with BG, in reverse? Dallas? Not really. Anyone else come to mind?

    • A Roy

      Let us not forget Graham would be a $3.4M cap hit.

      • Tumtum

        I was unaware what the number was. Figured it would be fairly significant since he is late in his 1st round contract. That is probably double the number I was thinking though.

      • BreakinAnklez

        Still think we save a couple hundred thousand by cuttin him

        • ICDogg

          On this year’s cap, it would be a 37K extra cost to cut him as opposed to keeping him. So I don’t think it’s really a factor in their decision.

          • A Roy

            Base salary is only $1.6M according to EaglesCap. Is there something I’m missing?

          • ICDogg

            His cap number for this year is $3,378,000. Includes base salary of $1,670,500 and prorated signing bonus of $1,707,500. If he were traded this year next year’s portion of the signing bonus, another $1,707,500, would get pushed into this year. The base salary, of course, would not be paid. So against the cap, 37K more for this year.

            (If he were cut, as opposed to traded, they could designate it a June 1 cut, so that 1.7 could be against next year’s cap.)

          • A Roy

            I’m still confused by this. Let’s assume he gets traded. Phila saves the 1.67 salary, but has a cap hit of 1.7 (2014) and 1.7 (2015) which gets rolled into 2014. Seems like a cap hit of 1.73.

          • ICDogg
          • A Roy

            I think that’s if he’s cut. They’d then take a cap hit of 1.7 next year. Unless he’s cut after Jun 1, in which case it would roll up to this year. I still think, if traded, there’d be a 1.7 hit this year.

            In any case, while I might think they would hesitate with a 3.4 cap hit, if it’s only 1.7 they would pull the trigger on a trade to improve the team or get additional draft picks.

          • ICDogg

            In Graham’s case I don’t expect cap to be a factor. There is no reason not to trade him.

  • BobSmith77

    The issue with the defense is the complete lack of depth almost everywhere. There wasn’t a single starter who missed any kind of meaningful time last year and in most games they had all of their projected starters on the field. That won’t happen again.

    Secondary on paper is slightly better with Allen back and Jenkins being an upgrade (still think slight) and signing Carroll at CB. Just don’t see though that unless they nail 2-3 players in the draft who are able to contribute right away this year how the defense is going to take another leap forward this year.

    • Tumtum

      I don’t know I feel like there is okay depth. Considering the state of the starters the backs ups don’t seem like a huge drop off.

    • Finlay Jones

      wolff and fletcher both missed a fair bit of time.

      • BobSmith77

        Wolf wasn’t a projected starter and Fletcher only missed portions of 3 games.

        • shah8

          We win SD if Fletcher wasn’t injured…

  • GEAGLE

    Good stuff. My biggest pet peeve when talking eagles with people is that they talk like they expect our young players to be the same exact players they were this past year. You can’t like Mykal Kemdrick yet not expect him to be a better player next year. This is going to be the first time we see these talented young players in the same scheme with the same coaches two years in a row…I also don’t think fans realize that when you talk about playing in a new scheme, often you are using completely different techniques then you where using before. It’s like learning to play the game a different way. its foolish to think you can just switch schemes and that’s the best it will ever get from our players,,,I think we could have done nothing and still expected to improve on the defense side of the ball…Jenkins isn’t a game changer, he is like adding the safety version of Barwin, with Meco’s QB ability..so while he isn’t that stud playmaking safety we all wanted, can’t expect him not to improve us..for crying out loud who the hell was QBing the secondary these past years, who the hell was making the checks? Nate? Chung? Just his QB of the secondary improvements should help cut down on breakdowns that lead to big plays
    ..
    Since we signed Nate, bring experience in the scheme to our bench for dirt cheap, and maragos! I’m ok with not addressing safety high. I’m almost at the point where I hope to just see us add 3 athletes to the front 7 and then take a safety late..we are kidding ourselves if we think Chip isn’t going to draft some offense,,give me 3 front 7 additions, a safety in the 7th and Chip can draft two WRs for all I care.
    ..
    very excited about finding out who our puppies will grow up to be

    • Mitchell

      Heard that!

  • ACViking

    Re: Versatile Defenders

    T-Law was good enough to recap how the Eagles acquired most of the starters from the great 1991 Gang Green Triple-Crown winning defense — who are still remembered principally for the havoc they wreaked under Buddy Ryan. (Any Giants-Eagles game from ’88-’90. The “Body Bag” Game. “Who the Hell are the Cowboys” game.)

    It’s not been discussed much, and maybe it’s been apparent. But Buddy Ryan’s defense depended on versatile defensive players. Especially on the D-line and LB.

    DE Reggie White? He could line up anywhere along the line and dominate. Principally, he was a DE and the 46 NT. DE Clyde Simmons? In the 46, he’d slide outside as the RDE where he played a 9 technique and sometimes dropped into coverage. DT Jerome Brown? He could play 1-gap or 2-gap DT. He could line up on the nose, over a guard, or in the gap. Explosive first step, incredibly strong.

    At LB, the Eagles didn’t quite have the talent that Buddy coached on the Bears (OLBs Wilson and Marshall and MLB Singletary). But in Seth Joyner, Buddy had a guy who could run with WRs, run sideline to sideline, and rush the passer. And the 46 was built around the pass-rushing ability of at last one of the OLBs. At MLB, Byron Evans had to cover slot receivers, TEs, and the deep midldle.

    In the back 4, CBs had to be able to play man-to-man. Unfortunately, the Eagles only had 1 CB, Eric Allen, who could do that for all but Buddy’s last season, when he drafted CB Ben Smith in Rd 1. (Hence, the nickname “Toast” for Izell Jenkins.) The Eagles’ safeties played LB in the 46, centerfield in 1-coverage, man-to-man in 0 coverage, and the occasional 2-deep-man-under.

    Buddy built a defense around the versatility of his players, which I’d not really thought about.

    In this regard, Buddy was way ahead of his time. He invented and then constructed the 46 in the early ’80s in Chicago, where the defense had a host of great athletes among the front 7: DEs Richard Dent, HOF D/NT Dan Hampton, OLBs Wilbur Marshall and Otis Wilson — both 1st Rd picks, fast, explosive, very good pass rushers — and MLB Mike Singletary.

    With Eagles, Buddy ran into a couple of problems. First, he never had two OLBs of the quality the Bears had. (Joyner was among the best OLBs I’ve seen in 50 years — at least during the ’89-’91 period. But Buddy couldn’t find a bookend.) Same at MLB.

    Second, Buddy’s defensive schemes were eventually outdone by Washington’s Joe Gibbs’s offensive schemes — with his H-Back and bunch formations.

    Anyway, the point here is as wacky as Buddy could be at times, he did have a method to his defensive madness. And it was about “versatility”.

    • TheRogerPodacter

      excellent, excellent post.

    • bsuperfi

      I think there are probably a few reasons why the versatility is important: (1) It’s hard to predict what the unit will do, (2) it’s hard to scheme up serious mismatches, and (3) really smart coaches can make really good use of versatile pieces.

      As for the last point, perhaps the principle is that some of the best squads have lots of versatile players and a scheme that highlights their versatility. I dunno, just throwing it out there as food for thought.

      • ACViking

        b–

        The points in your first paragraph are certainly true NOW.

        But back in the early ’80s? The defensive schemes being run were vanilla (compared to today, barely vanilla). Turn on highlights of the Eagles’ 1980 SB team and watch the 3-4 defense they ran under Marion Campbell. Very conventional, very unexciting compared to what we see now.

        And that’s what made Buddy Ryan’s defensive scheme so innovative. He made his scheme a near-offensive weapon because he maxed-out the skills of his players. Especially at LB.

        Ryan’s 46 only worked with versatile players because of the breath of his scheme. Compared to what the Eagles were running at the same time (early ’80s), Ryan looked Chip Kelly-esque.

        Today? Ryan’s 46 would just be another of the many exotic schemes out there. But I think, in the early ’80s, Ryan was ahead of the competition.

  • Iskar36

    Extremely Off Topic:

    I’m not sure if anyone else has commented on this, but is anyone else annoyed with the new Discus voting system where downvotes are no longer displayed? Particularly on a website like this that overall the conversation is often very civil and for the most part (with some exceptions) people don’t troll others and downvote comments just for the sake of downvoting them, the system of not counting downvotes makes zero sense to me. Even on my own posts, I appreciate seeing downvotes. I will often comment when I disagree with someone, and while I do my best to disagree and develop an interesting conversation, I like to see if people generally agree with me by upvotes, or if my ideas are bad, seeing a bunch of people disagreeing with me with downvotes. Also, a lot of interesting ideas on here end up being ones where there are mixed feelings so there are lots of upvotes and downvotes. For example, the conversations about DeSean Jackson being traded or going after Jared Allen I’m sure would have provoked conversation with votes in both directions. It just frustrates me that we have lost that feature, especially because I don’t think it was a feature that was often abused here.

    Ok… off the soap box and back to your regularly scheduled NFL Offseason conversation.

    • Tumtum

      ditto

    • GEAGLE

      I much prefer downvotes…people can just hate on you, without being forced to write some nonsense to hate on you…actually think downvoting keeps things more civil.

    • Cafone

      I concur

    • TheRogerPodacter

      on that same trend, i don’t like how i can’t see who else has upvoted until I upvote. Sometimes i’m just curious to see who upvoted my own posts without having to be that guy that upvotes his own post lol

      • ICDogg

        If you refresh, you will see

        • Mac

          But not on some phones.

        • A_T_G

          I had a fortune cookie that said that.

      • Tumtum

        We all know you are buffering your own up votes!

      • GermanEagle

        Ha! Same here. What I do is upvote my own post before deleting it shortly afterwards. Brilliant, right?!

    • D3FB

      I tried to downvote this :(

      • Iskar36

        I upvoted your attempted downvote.

    • Call Me Carlos the Dwarf

      Downvotes are dumb and reduce actual discussion.

      • D3FB

        Sometimes thought discussion isn’t really an option. When a commenter leaves multiple rambling, ridiculous, barely coherent comments, it’s a way for the community to voice their displeasure without getting into a stupid argument with someone who will automatically disagree, oftentimes in a series increasingly nonsensical retorts. Discussion is great. Arguing with a brick wall is not.

  • Sifter

    It’s an interesting argument really. Tommy says the players need to step up now they know the scheme. I agree, but I would also argue it’s the same for the coaches. They would have been reluctant to try things too quickly last year while the scheme was installed. Now they have no excuses – the players are familiar with the concepts, and the coaches need to get the scheme firing.

    While our loss to the Saints was disappointing, I think it’s worth reminding everyone that the D really did play a lot better in the back half of the season. If we can start the year at that standard, that’s a great building block.

    I also reiterate my argument about this obsessiveness about the pass rush. We got 37 sacks last year. Bengals got 43, 10th in the league. Seattle got 44. Are we really kvetching about being 7 sacks short of the SB champs, 6 short of top 10? I’ll never say no to a better pass rush, but I think Eagles fell down in coverage more than pass rush last year.

    There is also an argument about how to fix said pass rush. The fans want a super awesome ROLB. I’m not sure it’s that easy. To my eyes, Cole was about the only guy getting consistent push last year – and Graham when he played. I think the others in the front 7 need to step up more on the pass rush, rather than placing all our faith in the ROLB position. The D-line didn’t get much joy outside Vinny Curry’s brief cameos. Barwin should have had more pressure. Ryans got a handful of sacks, but generally was ineffective on the blitz I thought. Cole’s future successor must be found, but finding improvements in the other 6 positions is important in my view.

    • bsuperfi

      I’m sure someone has crunched the numbers on this, but I’d also like to see how well the Eagles fare compared to these other teams under a broader metric of pass rush (sacks + pressures or something).

      But broadly speaking, I think you’re right on about other positions being important too for overall pass rush. I’d think it’s necessary for Cox and Kendricks to make the leap this year in this respect. Barwin is probably at or close to his ceiling, but Ryans ILB spot may be one where we could improve in this respect. I love his leadership. I’d like to groom someone behind him who can add to the pass rush (and cover better too). Given where Logan and Thornton are at, this ILB spot seems like the most high leverage one to me in terms of upgrading the D.

      • Sifter

        I’d like to see those numbers too, not sure if PFF has done something on those lines.

        But to your larger point – yes I’d agree with you. I’d argue we’d get more out of upgrading DeMeco than upgrading Cole. Ryans seemed a step off last year and it’s only going to get worse with age. At very least, a more athletic player at ILB would let us play that 3-3-5 nickel package with a bit more confidence. Perhaps a draft pick to learn from Ryans and play nickel in Year 1, before taking over in 2015 – or sooner if Ryans falls away more abruptly.

  • Cafone

    Oh hey look, the BS Kempski made up about DeSean Jackson is actually becoming an issue now:
    http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/eagles/DeSean-Jackson-concerned-about-lack-of-communication-with-Eagles-report-says.html . Who couldn’t see that coming?

    I wish there was some sort of Hippocratic oath taken by those who write about Philly sports so they felt some sort of obligation to not hurt the team. Of course they need to report things about players that may not be favorable, like LeSean McCoy’s past mishaps, but when they publish their asinine spit-balling under the banner of the legitimate press there should be some sort of responsibility to not screw the team we love.

    This wasn’t a thing until Kempski dreamed it up and reported it as if it was.

    • Iskar36

      You may enjoy this exchange with Les Bowen and Brian Solomon:
      https://twitter.com/LesBowen/status/445565283739369472

      https://twitter.com/LesBowen/status/445568826542145536

      The fully agree with you about the DeSean Jackson stuff, but the only thing that bugs me is that Kempski keeps talking about it as if he has heard something. Having read his stuff for a couple years now, that doesn’t seem to be his style to theorize a trade and then keep pushing that idea the way he has without good reason.

    • GermanEagle

      I can feel Desean. This bull is getting on my nerves lately.

      Time for the Eagles FO to come out with a clear re-assurance so we can put this silly idea to bed.

      • A_T_G

        Didn’t you dismiss the idea of the Eagles making a statement just yesterday?

    • SteveH

      there’s a difference between reporting the news and creating the news. It can be a fine line to walk sometimes, but in sports journalism it seems to get blurred quite a bit.

    • Neil

      I think we have to consider the possibility the eagles got caught. Sucks to have such smart journalists if so.

    • ACViking

      C —

      I don’t see Kempski as typical of the kind of reporter who’s worked in these parts over the past 50 years. (I get the desire for an “oath,” but — unlike Spadaro — the Eagles aren’t paying Jimmy.)

      JK’s a very bright guy and brings, in my way of thinking, a genuine curiosity to the job. (Not the usual “regurgitation without close examination” characteristic of too many local beat writers around the U.S.)

      On D-Jax, JK pieced together some facts and drew a conclusion. Call it a hypothesis or premise or theory if you want.

      But I don’t think Jimmy ever offered his theory as “news.”

      That’s the fault of reporters who don’t read carefully enough to know, or don’t care to know, the difference. They just want hits on their articles.

      • D3Center

        To piggyback off of what you’re saying, Kempski isn’t really a journalist in my eyes. I still see him as a blogger, which I mean with no disrespect as I read him everyday. So he shouldn’t be held to the same standard as other writers and is allowed to write pieces like the one on DJax

        • ACViking

          Great point. I agree.

          And, again, I don’t believe he was “reporting” — which is consistent with your premise.

          • D3Center

            No neither do I. I completely agree with you that he wasn’t “reporting.”

        • Cafone

          I’d agree when he’s “just some guy with his own blog.” But when Philly.com hires him to write, even if it’s still just blogging, it’s under the Philly.com banner and his writing instantly gains a credibility that in this case it certainly did not deserve. Other reporters don’t re-report “oh some guy nobody ever heard of that has his own blog said this”, but they do re-report “Philly.com blogger Jimmy Kempski reports the Eagles may consider trading DeSean Jackson”.

          And that’s how this BS gets started and picks up steam: the incessant re-reporting of something controversial that had no reliable sources behind it from its inception.

          • D3Center

            But Jimmy never purported to have reliable sources from the inception. It’s not his fault that other reporters were passing off his theory as a fact or a report with sources.

  • Mike Roman

    I’ve been so immersed in the Eagles lately .. did anyone else realize that there’s been a plane missing for 11 days?

  • GermanEagle

    Looks like the Giants will be toughest divisional rival next season. They just signed DRC to a 5 year contract after signing Thurmond from the Seahawks.

    Another reason to NOT trade DeSean…

    • D3FB

      We can throw bubble screen at DRC. You can force DRC to make a tackle or just send Cooper or Ertz to run him over. DRC is extremely athletic but he doesn’t like to get physical.

      • Mac

        My favorite DRC memory is when he let Dez Bryant slow dance him into the endzone. In hindsight though, if you can’t tackle a guy you may as well not look like a fool trying to tackle him?

    • ACViking

      GE:

      With respect . . . DRC’s best season (IMO) came when he wanted to prove his bona fides. And when he needed money.

      He’s now secured a nice contract (on paper at least).

      In past seasons when DRC had money burning a hole in his pocket, WRs were doing the same on the field — not always, but enough to drag down his performance.

      I’m not saying to trade D-Jax. Only that, as the editor so eloquently put it in *The Man Who Killed Liberty Valence* . . . “when legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

      • A Roy

        You’re not as old as I thought. It’s “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence.” John Ford movie. John Wayne. Jimmy Stewart. And an excellent supporting cast.

        • ACViking

          A Roy:

          I actually am *That Old* . . . which is why I screwed up the title.

          I can’t believe I did that!!!!

          I’m embarrassed.

          • A Roy

            If you’re “that old” you should remember Gene Pitney singing the title song.

        • ACViking

          Speaking of the cast . . . how ’bout that Vera Miles and a young ex-Marine who’d later lead the “Dirty Dozen” named Lee Marvin?

          Also, the actor who played “Pompey” . . . Woody Strode — who broke the NFL color barrier in 1946 with the Cleveland Rams.

          A great cast for sure.

          • A Roy

            Y’know, IMDb is fantastic. Just read that John Ford was a notorious ball buster and kept getting on John Wayne about not being in the military like Stewart and not being good enough (injured) to play football like Strode.

  • ICDogg

    http://overthecap.com/nfl-cash-space.php?Year=2014

    Eagles are spending more cash than any other team!

    • Cafone

      wow, $9 million more than #2.

      And according to that same link (click cap spending then reorder by cap space) they are 8th in the league in available space with $18,805,669 available.

      That’s great management.

  • ACViking

    Raiders sign Packers WR James Jones.

    Are the Eagles playing laying in wait for the Panthers?

    Who’s out there to play WR for the Panthers . . . besides FA Kenny Britt?

    Will the Panthers have to make an offer the Eagles can’t refuse?

    That’s not exactly how the Godfather would explain it . . . but the question works as worded, I think.

    By the way . . . here’s a story along these lines. Former mob capo Phil “Milwaukee Phi” Aldeserio made an offer once to a buy a business — intended to be used as a money-laundering vehicle.

    Anyway, the owner respectfully said “no, the business is worth more.” So Milwaukee Phil *lowered* his offer by 20% . . . and told the owner “there ain’t gonna be any more ‘negotiations’.”

    Phil took ownership the next day.

    • BreakinAnklez

      Panthers have no idea what they are doing. DJax is such a weapon…I really, really hope we don’t trade him. Mac is still an unknown after injury, I don’t want Cooper as a #1, and rookie receivers rarely come in and be a force immediately. Trading DJax won’t make this team better.

      • ACViking

        BA:

        No disagreement. None at all.

        From where we sit (outside of NovaCare), I see what you see.

  • Dragon_Eagle

    Off topic: Brandon Weeden. :)

    Long live Jerry Jones!!!!

  • SteveH

    Giants paying DRC 16 mil over the first 2 years of his deal. Good on you NYG.

    • Tumtum

      Can’t wait to see him mail it in vs the Eagles.

  • SteveH

    Presenting, the Dallas Cowboys newest quarterback.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8SsCqpa-Lk

    • Insomniac

      As long as they don’t sign Melton, LONG LIVE JERRY.