Improving the Defense

Posted: March 26th, 2022 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on Improving the Defense

The Eagles defense was highly erratic last year. They had some terrific performances, but also struggled in a big way when facing good quarterbacks. It was obvious that they needed help, specifically speed.

Signing LB Haason Reddick was a good start. And now he’ll have some help.

Let’s start with White. He is a converted safety who just turned 26 last week. White led the Chargers in tackles last year (144), starting all 17 games. He’s got 37 career starts and is an ascending player. I’ve been surprised at his lack of interest on the free agent market. Sheil Kapadia had White as his #52 free agent when the offseason began. It is possible teams saw him as a “one year wonder”, with 2021 being his only year as a full-time starter.

The Eagles didn’t sign him for a lot of money.

“Up to $5M” means the Eagles got him cheap. White is rolling the dice that he can have another good year and hit the market next season. He’ll still be in the prime of his career and may find more of a market for his services. Teams would be more likely to see him as a proven commodity with consecutive years of starting under his belt.

The Eagles get an athletic LB who can cover ground, something that was missing from last year’s defense in a big way. TJ Edwards is a good run defender and has his moments in coverage, but he’s not going to make plays sideline to sideline.

The Eagles now have a solid trio of LBs in Edwards, White and Davion Taylor. No one will confuse them with Seth, BE and Willie T, but this is an improvement. Gone are Eric Wilson and Alex Singleton. Wilson was awful last year. Singleton was productive, but not good.

Jonathan Gannon likes to keep his safeties deep. That means his LBs have to cover a lot of ground. White and Taylor have the speed to do that. Edwards isn’t fast, but he’s instinctive and that helps him to play faster than he times.

I still expect the Eagles to draft a LB. This is a deep draft class. None of the Eagles LBs is a stud so you keep looking until you can find one of those guys.

The return of Barnett is interesting. He’s been disappoining when looked at as a Top 15 pick. I don’t think anyone would dispute that. The flip side is that he won’t turn 26 until this summer and he’s been an effective player.

Too often we mix up a bust and a disappointment. Marcus Smith was a bust. He never started an NFL game and totaled 6.5 sacks in five years. Barnett has started 45 games and has 21.5 sacks. Barnett is back as a backup and I’m fine with that. He can be effective in this role.

As with White, Barnett didn’t find much of a free agent market this year. Barnett was coming off his worst season. Adjusting to Gannon’s scheme did not bring out the best in him. We don’t know the terms of his deal, but that fact tells you he signed cheap. Agents always get details out when they want the media talking about the deal.

Let’s take a look at the defensive depth chart.

DE Josh Sweat …………… Derek Barnett
DT Javon Hargrave ……. Marlon Tuipulotu
DT Fletcher Cox ………… Milton Williams
DE Brandon Graham …. Tarron Jackson
LB Kyzir White ………….. Davion Taylor
LB TJ Edwards ………….. Shaun Bradley
LB Haason Reddick ……. Patrick Johnson
SS Anthony Harris ……… K’Von Wallace
FS Marcus Epps
CB Darius Slay ……………. Tay Gowan
CB Zech McPhearson ….. Kary Vincent
NB Avonte Maddox …….. Josiah Scott

The Eagles could still make more veteran moves before the draft. They could sign a CB if the right vet is cheap and interested. FS remains a big need. They could focus on the draft, but there are still some potential FA targets.

It feels like the defense is headed in the right direction. Reddick can be an impact pass rusher. White adds speed in the middle of the defense. Barnett offers depth up front. The defense is certainly better than it was at this time last year. Some of that is on the draft, some free agency and some on player development.

The Eagles still have enough cap room to make more moves if the right opportunities present themselves.




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