How Will The Eagles Defense Look In September?BREAKING NEWS, Eagles, News Saturday, February 16th, 2013
Chip Kelly held a press conference on Monday afternoon to discuss his new staff made up of 21 assistants. He hinted multiple times at the defense but was still noncommittal, or at least publicly, about the defense remaining a 4-3 or being switched to a 3-4. The 3-4 is becoming the new norm in the NFL as many teams are switching to that scheme.
“I’m not caught up with labels,” Kelly said. “I think it’s going to be a defense that creates a lot of turnovers and gets the ball back to our offense.”
Turnovers would be a welcomed change for the Eagles defense who finished tied for last in the league in takeaways (13) and turnover differential (-24).
Kelly said that he would implicate an adaptive defense, one that could look entirely different on third down than it did on second down. He also slipped when he said “I like the 3-4 better.” He covered himself by saying that it helps special teams by having more linebackers on the roster than defensive linemen.
A move to the 3-4 would fit Chip Kelly’s whole ideology towards football perfectly. Speed. In the 3-4 defense, once passed the defensive line, the linebackers are much quicker and more athletic than in the 4-3 counterpart. With DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks already on the roster, both of whom have 3-4 experience, the Eagles may be ready for the switch with just a few more roster moves.
Trent Cole, one of the most athletic players on the Eagles defense, has ideal size (6-3, 270) for an outside, rushing linebacker in the 3-4. Toward the end of 2011, then-defensive coordinator Juan Castillo set Cole and Jason Babin in the two-point stance on certain packages and Cole seemed to thrive. No stranger to tackling the quarterback, with 71 career sacks, Cole had his first season since 2005, his rookie season, with fewer than eight sacks in 2012. The Cincinnati grad would fit nicely into the role of a pass-rushing outside linebacker with a full offseason of work in the system.
The defensive line, which the Eagles currently have 13 defensive ends and tackles, faces more questions. With such a committee, it will not be hard to find a group of defenders who can make up the line. While many players such as Brandon Graham, Cullen Jenkins, and Fletcher Cox, could fit into the 3-4 defensive end position, there is no standout candidate for the nose tackle position. When looking around the league, names like Haloti Ngata, Casey Hampton, and Vince Wilfork are guys that dominate the nose tackle position. Currently on the roster, Antonio Dixon is the player that most closely fits the physical description (6-3, 322) of an ideal nose tackle, but lacks the talent that the previously named behemoths have shown in their careers.
Free agency yields no standouts as far as nose tackles and very few 3-4 linebackers. Pre-Combine and free agency, the Eagles could answer one of those questions with their 4th overall pick. Georgia’s Jarvis Jones, whose stock seems to be falling, could be had at 4th overall if the Eagles choose to go in that direction. Utah’s Star Lotulelei is likely to be a high pick as well and could be the middle force at nose tackle. Moving back a few picks with a team looking to move forward might best help the Birds who are, admittedly or not, in a rebuilding mode.
The Eagles new staff, while remaining noncommittal, has given the media all the signs towards a switch to a 3-4 or some version of it. The defense for 2013 will have plenty of new faces and tons of new looks different from the 2012 crew. Heck, from the sounds of it, the defense will have new looks from first to second down.
The defensive situation is very fluid and we will be hearing new things in regard to scheme, personnel, and packages as the offseason progresses. With free agency looming and the draft quickly approaching, more and more questions will be answered. Fasten your seat belts fans because this offseason is going to be exciting!
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