Better Defense

Posted: July 1st, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 37 Comments »

Most people agree the Eagles defense will be better in 2014. Whether the defense will be good, mediocre or bad remains up for debate. Those who have faith in Bill Davis see reason for hope. Others, like Bob Brookover, are focused on the Eagles young talent.

The Eagles defense couldn’t stop anybody at the beginning of last season, couldn’t stop the Minnesota Vikings with Matt Cassel at quarterback near the end of the season, and couldn’t stop the New Orleans Saints on the final drive of a first-round playoff loss at Lincoln Financial Field.

The only new starter figures to be safety Malcolm Jenkins, a free-agent addition who has created little excitement among the people who love to spell their team’s name out loud.

Don’t worry. The defense will be better. In fact, it might even be more improved than the offense, which, as you may recall, lost its top receiver.

Here’s why: the Class of 2012.

That group, the last one selected in the Andy Reid era, has a chance to be the best draft class in franchise history. Other than Foles, it is a class dominated by defensive players.

Brandon Boykin might have been the best slot cornerback in the league last season, and he’s going to be better in 2014. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks developed into a playmaker in his second NFL season and he’s going to be better in 2014. Fletcher Cox, the first-round selection in 2012, is going to be better, too.

They know it and you’ll see it.

“I would compare it to just kind of like being a freshman in college and everything is just fast and you’re trying not to just learn your way on the field, but also around the whole organization,” Boykin said. “Once you get settled and calmed down on the field, you are able to home in on the fundamentals and the techniques, and that’s kind of what I did in the offseason going into my second year. That’s why I got better.”

For Kendricks, the experience was similar.

“The leaps and bounds you make between your first and second year, they’re phenomenal,” the linebacker said. “Once you learn the language, the schemes, and the concepts, and you have that down, you can focus on the little things that make you better.”

It’s important to remember, of course, that Boykin, Kendricks, and the rest of the defense had to learn a new system last year. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis introduced a 3-4 defense, and Kendricks said it wasn’t until the middle of last season that everything started to click for him individually and for the defense as a whole.

“This may not run well with a whole lot of people, but I consider last year my first year, just personally,” Kendricks said. “My first year wasn’t really one to remember in terms of personal achievements. Even though I had a great time with the whole experience . . . it wasn’t until the second year that I really had fun and felt like I made a difference with my play. I felt like I did what I got drafted to do.”

I think Brookover makes good points and has a logical take here, but he’s awfully sure of these young players. I’m confident in them, but not quite as much as him.

He did get me to thinking about not just 2012, but the last rookie classes (drafts + UDFAs). Look at the defense the team is building.

DE Fletcher Cox
NT Bennie Logan
DE Cedric Thornton
OLB Marcus Smith
ILB Mychal Kendricks
ILB Jake Knott
OLB Travis Long
S Earl Wolff
S Ed Reynolds
CB Brandon Boykin
CB Jaylen Watkins

There are others with potential. Joe Kruger and Taylor Hart could be good backup DEs. Vinny Curry is a gifted role player. Beau Allen could be the backup NT. LB is thin. That’s an area where the Eagles still need work. There isn’t much depth behind the DBs that are listed.

My point isn’t to make the list above look like Gang Green, Pt. 2, but just to show that the Eagles have the framework of a good, young defense. Some players will pan out, others will fail. Some will get hurt. Others might become firemen. Oh wait, that’s only O-linemen.

Out of the list above, Cox, Smith and Kendricks are probably the 3 key players. Cox can be a difference-maker up front. He showed that at times last year, but needs to be more consistent. The light went on for Kendricks about midseason. The 3-4 needs a playmaker in the middle of the field. And Smith is pretty obvious. The 3-4 needs LBs that are outstanding pass rushers. If he can be disruptive off the edge, that helps the DL and the DBs. If Smith is more of a try-hard guy who can’t regularly affect the QB, the 3-4 won’t be all that effective without heavy blitzing.

I really am curious to see how this defense comes together in the next year or two. There is potential. More talent definitely needs to be added, but there is potential.

_


  • knighn

    “Others might become firemen. Oh wait, that’s only O-linemen.”
    If an O-line coach can become a Defensive Coordinator, any player could become a fireman!

    • GEAGLE

      Smh grown men playing with fire trucks… What are the odds that Danny Watkins has a Dalmatiion? Speaking of Danny…it’s national Canada day, or “Canadia” as I prefer

      Any word yet on lane’s drug test? Important to find out exactly what he was busted for…

      The only game that we really really needed him for was the Niners game. I want to beat them so bad. Then again, I’m sure Aldon smith will be suspended. Lane will miss the colts game, but Robert Mathis is also not playing, and it expect FOles to not let us lose against lucks colts. We can beat the LOLskins without Lane. Trent Murphy won’t scare anyone..

      • knighn

        No definitive word on Lane yet.
        Don’t pick on (free agent) Danny Watkins too much. The Eagles might still need him (Uh oh).

        • GEAGLE

          It’s ridiculuos that when that jackass goes to his ATM, there are millions in his account! WTF has he ever done that is worth even one million dollars? Has he ever provided a million worth of anything? Tom spending his time educating eagles fans is worth more than anything Danny provided to this franchise. And then when you factor in the opportunity cost of the stud players that got drafted after him….it’s insanity that this dude has millions in his account….dude should be forced to donate every dollar he made from Lurie to the national fire fighter association

          • Bert’s Bells

            Worst post ever. And that’s really saying something.

          • Maggie

            Thanks. Here’s Watkins salary in 2013. $555,000 USD.
            Doubt he made any more the previous couple of years as he was on a rookie guard contract. Watkins most egregious sin was having the NFL, in general, consider him a first round pick. The second worst thing was that somewhere in the disgusting mess of the last 2 years of Andy’s reign, he lost his interest in playing professional football. Becoming a professional firefighter was the passion in his blood, not football. Yes he enjoyed it, yes he got paid. Just like thousands of others who never play more than a year or two before moving on.

          • Bert’s Bells

            He’s a guy who would run into your burning house to save your stuff -but he no like to play football so he need face punch.

          • A_T_G

            …and just like millions who do their job because they can and because it pays the bills, without loving what they do.

          • Maggie

            You’re preaching to the choir here. I spent my whole working life as an underling. Just glad my children don’t have to. They all work and seem to like their jobs or careers.

          • Maggie

            Here’s a pic you might enjoy.

          • Bert’s Bells

            Aww. Poor bats. They’re all dying from invasive fungus. Thanks, humans.

      • Ark87

        You just had to call him Bane Johnson, the only villain who’s super-villain power is pumping up on roids.

        • GEAGLE

          I just posted something similar, on the last thread!! I hate ,myself!!! Hopefully he still looks like that when he returns…

          Dying to find out what the suspension was for…if it was some stupid obscure substance that could pop I’m some supplements, or did he g popped for straight Roids…I’d prefer if it were just weed or adderel..

          Either way it’s bad, because he now has one under his belt so next time he fails a test we are screwed!

          • Ark87

            We need to figure out Andy’s secret so that there won’t be a next time.

          • GEAGLE

            It’s really fishy how few drug tests are failed in this organization.. Like really fishy

          • Ark87

            Well respected guy around the guy like Andy in charge, weed all over and nothing ever happens. Hot shot college guys like Pete Carrol and Chip come in, make the old guard look stupid, drug suspensions galore. SHENANIGANS! I cry Shenanigans!

          • A_T_G

            Don’t be too hard on yourself, we all blame you.

            But I think I have a plan.

            From now on, all ideas for nicknames should be posted in three consecutive posts to allow for peer review.

            Any possible negative karmic repercussions noted during the review process will be sufficient cause to ban the potential nickname from being used while the player is an Eagle.

            If there are no objections, the nickname will become available for use beginning with the following post.

            Of course, this process does not absolve you of responsibility for bad play, injuries, or suspensions by the nicknamed player. You will still be blamed.

  • GEAGLE

    I was confident in these young players and defense this time last year coming off a historically bad defense… How could I not be jacked up going into this season? I did it last year, and I’m going to stand by it:
    ,.
    We already have 70%(this years I’d say that’s up to 85%) of the personel in place for what will eventually be a top 10 defense.. Sounded crazy a year ago, also sounded crazy when I said we probably had the best defense in the division….doesn’t sound so crazy now.

    ILL Guatentee that the Eagles defense will be one of the national stories…just have so many talented young Thoroughbreds, I don’t see how it’s possible that two or three don’t take that next step and arrive as BIGTIME players. A few will make drastic improvements.Cox, Kendrick!Curry, Boykin. take your pick. And I don’t think it’s only the 2012 class. guys we drafted last year like Bennie and Wolff, I bunch together with 2012, because they all only have 1 yr of experience in this defense..
    ….
    I just don’t think we have seen any defender play his best ball yet. . That’s just not possible when you are learning a new defense. Only way someone doesn’t improve is if age catches up to someone, but so far we haven’t seen that happen yet…..LAst year they were all scrambling to learn the meat and potatoes of the new defense. In year two you start to understand the concepts, know what the other positions do on each play and you get to work on the subtle intricacies of playing the position that make all the difference. Even veterans like Barwin, Meco and Cole should show display an upgraded level of play this year….we like to talk about the 2012 class of Boykn n Kendrick…but in reality, this entire defense is so young and new, that we can count on everyone to be a little better than they were last year. We take a guy like Cedrick Thornton for granted because he is so solid, but he isn’t that experienced either.. And then there is the dynamic of the drastic improvements in defensive depth, will free up some of our key defenders more. So guys like Kendrick and Barwin won’t be hand cuffed in coverage as much. We now have other options to match up in coverage so instead of makng MK and Barwin do the dirty work, we can unleash them more to go make plays…I think Kendrick being freed up to blitz is huge. Think Curry and Cox wll be monster pass rushers on 3rd down…think we will see Barwn provide more pass rush now that we have alternatives in coverage….our presnap disguises and blitz packages should be sharper…the addition of Jenkins should cut down on broken coverages and miscommunications,.. There is just so many reasons that will contribute to defensive improvement that I think it will be a more drastic improvement than the gradual improvement many expect

    I really think the play of Billy’s defense will be one of the stories of the year. People will be pleasantly surprised.?…by the end of the year, there are NO QUESTIONS left about our defense, and we will go into the following season as a top ranked unit…

  • GEAGLE

    Think Curry can be a big time weapon, even as a “role player”. Kid is making a lot of sacrafices to be successful in philly…a young man his age, playing Dline typical aren’t making the dietary sacrafices that Vinny is making. If he is THAT Commited to become a quality player that he would stick to this crazy diet for over 3 months, who knows how hard he works in the weight room, film room, practice field..
    ..
    He said he is down like 3 waiste sizes, yet he is at 280lbs and last year he played at 283…. For him to be down so many pant sizes, but be at the same weight he was playing at last year means he turned a bunch of fat and turned it into healthy athletic weight… If he was explosive playing with all that excess fat, imagine how much more explosive he will be this season…

    I’m telling you this is VC’s year… Cox and Curry as the interior DTs in our 4 man nickel lines will be QB terrors this year
    ..
    I’m setting the over/unders for Vinnys sacks this season at 7
    Cox over/under for sacks is 6
    Barwins is 7
    Cole is 8
    Marcus Smith 3.5
    Logan 4
    MK and Meco both are 4

    • Tumtum

      over
      under
      under
      over
      over (iffy!)
      push
      under meco
      just over MK

      • GEAGLE

        Over
        Over
        Under (makes up for it with Batfed balls)
        Under
        Over (with 4)
        Push
        Push
        Over

  • Tumtum

    Color me silly, but to my casual and very untrained eye, last years defense was the best this team has had since 08′.

    • A_T_G

      Done.

    • Ark87

      Surprisingly in early 2012 the defense was pretty good early on. (the offense floundered badly on our 3-1 start, it was the D that carried at first)Heck even 2011 the D was statistically top 15. No one was terribly impressed because it was thought to be less than the sum of its parts (on paper that team was considered to be stacked). 2010 Reid and McDermott did a pretty nice Saints impression. We sold out to create turnovers, and to McDermott’s credit, he did that pretty well. Problem is when the turnovers dry up, you lose.

      By the eye test at the very end of the year, you might be right though. Either way it was very impressive for a new D greatly exceeding the sum of its parts.

  • bsuperfi

    I think the optimism is for all of the above reasons cited. E.g. youth development, playing in the same system. But I’m especially optimistic because they’re happening together – young players will develop in a system. They’ll grow in just the right ways.

    I think a player like Nate Allen had some talent, but he was seriously hindered by the changing systems (on top of being hung out to dry by the frankenstein defense at the beginning of his career). It’s like having a QB who never develops because the beginning of his career was submarined by instability in coaching.

    Coaching stability is key for maximizing young talent, and young talent is key for maximizing coaching stability. This whole idea ties back into Kelly’s team level vision. Organizational coherence is crucial.

    • GEAGLE

      Continuity is everything…not enough fans and analyst factor the effects of continuity into the equation…not only will guys like Nate benefit from some continuity and stability in a scheme/role.. But young players will also improve once they get continuity playing with the same team mates..so while Nate Allen is improving in his role, improving on the details and nuances of the position, Boykin will also be improving, and Wolff will also be improving as individuals, but they will also improve in terms of gelling and playing together..Continuity with the same teammates is just as important as continuity in the scheme and role…
      ,..
      There is a good chance the Malcolm Jenkins and Meco Will get us into the right defense the majority of the time, drastically cut down on the breakdowns in coverage and miscommunications. We should improve in terms of disguise, and holding the disguise without tipping your hand until the moment the ball is snapped…our players should be able to play faster compared to all the thinking they had to do in a last years new scheme..and we only changed one starter, so we should play as a tighter, gelled unit… We have the right defensive QBs(Meco/Malcolm so we should be able to play faster and play together, while cutting down on the mistakes…

      If we can get off the field on 3rd down at 33% improvement rate from last year, it would make all the difference in the world..
      One of the things You see in FOles that makes you feel good about him, is usually he takes advantage of defense getting a turnover…when the defense gets him the ball, he usually gets aggressive and gets us a score…..I think our 3rd down defense will be much improved And that will make all the difference in the world and turn us into a contender

      • BobSmith77

        So Allen is really going to improve dispute arguably playing worse in the 2nd half again last season? Ryans & Jenkins (not the defensive coordinator) will be responsible for a noted improvement in player positioning and & a noted improvement on 3rd down? Yeah sure.

    • Maggie

      Agree. The Steelers have had only 3 Head Coaches since 1969! Many assistants have gone on to very good careers. Six Super Bowls and numerous trips to the playoffs. How many Pro Bowlers and HOFers? Stability.

  • ACViking

    Re: 2012 Draft — Best Ever for Birds?

    Way to soon to tell. By at least 5 years.

    Right now, the Eagles’ 1973 draft — with 2 of the first 6 picks — is easily the best in franchise history.

    Five of the Birds’ draftees played a combined 61 NFL seasons.

    New head coach Mike McCormack (who ironically traded the next 5 years of Eagles 1st-Rd picks) made the selections. And he did damned well.

    These five players, besides playing 61 seasons, combined to appear in 8 Pro Bowls, garner many All Pro/All Conf honors, play in 5 SBs, and win 1:

    Rd 1 (#3) — Jerry Sisemore, OT from UTexas. 1973-84 w/ Eagles

    Rd 1 (#6) — Charles Young, TE from USC. 1973-76 w/ the Eagles (traded to the Rams for QB Ron Jaworski), 1977-85 w/ LA, SF (SB win in ’81), and SEA.

    Rd 2 (#28) — Guy Morris, C from TCU. 1973-83 w/ Eagles, ’84-’86 w/ NE (anchored the Patriots O-line that the Bears dismantled in the ’85 SB).

    Rd 3 (#55) — Randy Logan, S from UMich. 1973-83 w/ Eagles.

    Rd 12 (#288) — Joe “Bird” Lavender, CB from SD State. 1973-75 w/ Eagles, ’75-’82 w/ the Washington team. Lavender was 6’4″ 190 lbs, the kind of CB Chip Kelly would die for.

    Rd 13 (#315) — Stan Davis, RB from UMemphis. Only spent 1 year with the Eagles before retiring to Dallas, TX to become a sheriff. He didn’t do much in Philadelphia, but he’s left his marks on folks in Dallas.

  • Finlay Jones

    Cox needs to actually show his potential this season

    • GEAGLE

      That’s what she said

      • P_P_K

        I was going to write, “It took me a minute to figure it out.” Then I realized you could offer the same response.

  • GEAGLE

    Joel Embiid is the best kid ever drafted into this city. He has been a sixer for less than a week, and what does he do? He tweets Lebron James and asks him to join the sixers.. Bwahahahahahahah Embiid the man. 5 days into his career, dude is trying to bring a parade to philly

  • GEAGLE

    Hahahahahah DESPERATION KICKS IN!!!! Cowbpys trade a 6th round pick to the Ravens for a 7th and maniac Ronaldo McClain hahahahahahahahahah
    Dude will probably quit before training camp

  • Insomniac

    So uhh..who’s going to Shady’s birthday party? Or am I too tired and am hallucinating the ad for it on Tommy’s blog.

  • BobSmith77

    Defense was better in the 2nd half than I expected but they also got their share of turnovers and more importantly had almost none of their starters miss time last year including the least amount of time missed by their starting front 7.

    There is more depth in the secondary which is nice to see although I was completely indifferent to the Jenkins signing. When your coach says the best thing about a veteran player is his ‘versatility’ that just means he doesn’t do anything particularly well. Really wanted Byrd and 6-10 turnovers he creates annually although he is a real injury risk after the lingering foot/back issues including back surgery on a bulging disc in March.

    Most excited to see what Kendricks does too this year although his erratic performance was maddening to watch at times last year. No player on this roster seems to have as much upside/downside even during the course of a game than Kendricks. If the defense is going to take a real step forward this year, it is because Kendricks becomes the best player on it by a decent margin & is easy a Pro Bowl nod this year. Don’t think anyone on this defense including Cox has nearly his upside including Boykin who is a more a skilled specialized role player.

  • hrtak

    We are missing Dion Jordan and Kiko Alonso from last year I think…