Five keys for the Eagles defense

Posted: September 05, 2014

Here are five keys to defensive success for the Eagles.

1 Malcolm in the middle: The biggest difference between the 2013 Eagles defense that was last in the league in passing and this version is the addition of free agent safety Malcolm Jenkins. Jenkins will take charge of the back end and usher in an era of tackling and coverage consistency - at least, that's the plan. Not sure he really lived up to that billing in New Orleans, but this is a different defense and he says this role is a better fit.

2 What’s the rush?: The Eagles were near the bottom of the league in sacks per snap last season; that was one reason for their coverage troubles. Not being able to get off the field on third and long — an odd problem to have, really, like a pitcher who gives up 0-2 home runs — is usually because you’re not getting through the quarterback’s protection when it matters most. Trent Cole turns 32 next month, first-round rookie Marcus Smith right now is much better in coverage than coming off the edge. A few months back, people wondered if there were roster spots for Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham. Now, I’d guess Bill Davis is trying to figure out how much he can get them on the field.

3 Out of their depth?: Most Eagles fans didn’t know Travis Long from Travis Pastrana or Col. William Barret Travis before last week, but before Long tore his right ACL in the final preseason game, he was going to provide crucial depth at both outside and inside linebacker this season. The Eagles did not draft an inside linebacker, so right now, if something happens to DeMeco Ryans or Mychal Kendricks, there’s Najee Goode, and there’s Casey Matthews. That’s it. Meanwhile, Marcus Smith might not be ready to play yet, but with Long gone, it sure looks like he will, if anything happens to outside linebacker Connor Barwin.

4 Laying it on the line: The Eagles were OK up front last season, nothing special. It would be nice to be special. Can Fletcher Cox really be a difference-maker, two-gapping in a 3-4? One thing we thought we saw in the preseason was improved depth, headlined by Brandon Bair at end and seventh-round rookie Beau Allen at nose tackle.

5 Cornering the market: The addition of Nolan Carroll ought to allow the Eagles to play more dime coverages this season. Carroll also should push starters Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams, who are adequate, but unspectacular. Will Brandon Boykin, the secondary’s best athlete, develop into a star, if he remains limited to the nickel role?

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|