Most of the talk surrounding the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason has been about the quarterback competition, getting the offensive line healthy and the explosiveness of Chip Kelly’s offense.
Although, no one seems to be talking much about the switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4 defense under new coordinator Bill Davis.
One thing that will help the Eagles significantly in this switch to the 3-4 defense is the added ability to use players to their strengths — allowing the defense to act more as a complete unit.
Basically, this means that long gone are the days of the wide-9 technique which focused mainly on pressuring the quarterback, and allowing the run defense to struggle.
Last season, the Eagles were ranked 30th out of the 32 NFL teams in run defense by Pro Football Focus (subscription required). They ranked 23rd overall in rush yards per game (126.3). They gave up over 2,000 rushing yards in the 2012 season — that’s like facing Adrian Peterson every week.
The Eagles now have a defense which allows the scheme to cater to their personnel’s strengths.
Pass-rush specialists Trent Cole and Brandon Graham have now transitioned to the outside linebacker position. These two players have tremendous bursts off the line of scrimmage and will make fantastic edge rushers in the new scheme. They will also be put in a better position to help stuff the run when the ball-carrier bounces to the outside.
There is a brand new look on the defensive line as well with the departures of Cole and Graham to linebacker.
New defensive ends are now the size of previous defensive tackles. This gives the defensive line far improved gap-stop ability. Fletcher Cox will be manning one defensive end position, and Cedric Thornton will be across from him. These two big bodies on the outside of the defensive line will be hole-fillers.
They will plug up their gaps which will create less space for a ball-carrier, and allow the linebackers to close in on a runningback’s position even before he approaches the line of scrimmage.
Also, do not discount the versatility of third-round selection Bennie Logan. He has the size and ability to be versatile on this defensive line — he can line up either at nose tackle or at the 5-technique.
All of these dramatic differences will be one of the most important changes for the Eagles as a team in 2013.
Many coaches and NFL pundits will tell you that it all starts in the trenches. Good teams win with solid lines on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
The Eagles have certainly done their due diligence this offseason. They spotted a major weakness on the defensive side of the ball and made significant corrections to set them in the right direction.
We still have yet to see what this team will look like under new head coach Chip Kelly. However, he certainly seems to have things well in hand, thus far.