Sep 9, 2013; Landover, MD, USA; Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Damion Square (77) reacts after the Eagles recorded a safety against the Washington Redskins during the first half at FedEX Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly filled his final position with the hiring of defensive coordinator Billy Davis in early February 2013. Vanessa Williams succinctly summed up this hire 21 years earlier with her signature song, “Save the Best for Last”. In the short time since Jim Johnson’s unfortunate passing, Philadelphia Eagles fans have clamored for a defensive mind that could create chaos in the opponent’s backfield and uniformity in the defensive backfield. Unexpectedly, both the Eagles and their fan-base might have found a long term solution to arguably one of the most important coordinator jobs in the NFL.
Allow me to tell you a story about the Eagles’ defensive coordinator that got hired by Philadelphia’s new head coach. First and foremost, while he had previous experience as a defensive coordinator in the NFL, his last job was a linebacker coach. Unfortunately for this prospective coordinator, the previous coaching staff was released as a new coaching staff was going to take over. A primary contributor to the release of the coaching staff could fall on the defense allowing over 5,600 yards. While the unit performed admirably in fantasy statistics such as sacks, pass deflections, and interceptions, it is difficult to win games when you break more than you bend. While this defensive coordinator’s first season in Eagles’ green didn’t produce a top ten defense in terms of yardage or points allowed, a foundation was set for future success. What I have neglected to include in this paragraph is that the aforementioned defensive coordinator is not Billy Davis, but rather former Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson.
Following Jim Johnson’s first season as defensive coordinator, the Eagles would have a top ten defense in points allowed for the next five consecutive seasons. Philadelphia would also go on to make the playoffs each of those five seasons, holding their first playoff opponent to 17 or fewer points in each of the five seasons. In case anyone missed it, the Eagles had a stretch of nine consecutive games this season holding opponents to 21 or fewer points. While I don’t want to insinuate that the Eagles will be a top ten defense for the next five seasons, it’s not a stretch to believe that continued improvement is not only possible, but probable.
Aside from Philadelphia Eagles safeties Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman, defensive end Cedric Thornton is the only contributor on defense set to become a free agent in the 2014 off-season. Fortunately, Thornton is a restricted free agent and should be able to re-sign with the team. Should the Eagles be able to address the safety position in the off-season as well as add depth to the defensive line and secondary, there is no reason to believe that this defense cannot become an elite unit and contend in a very strong, and defensive, NFC. While the exact player personnel will remain a slight mystery until the conclusion of free agency and the draft, the man leading the defense will, and should continue to, remain entrenched as our defensive coordinator for the foreseeable future.