Can History Repeat Itself? Eagles Defense Hopes So

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Jan 4, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles defensive players and New Orleans Saints offensive players huddle during the 2013 NFC wild card playoff football game at Lincoln Financial Field. The New Orleans Saints won the game 26-24. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time.    The 2014 NFL season will be here before we know it.   Anyone and everyone will have ideas on who the Philadelphia Eagles need to sign, who to cut, who to draft, who to pay more to, and even who to negotiate salary down with.  But what is the goal?  Only a person deeply embedded in the staff of the Philadelphia Eagles can say.    Some may let a few thoughts escape to the media – rumors of a player sought, or of an imminent signing.  For the most part, we’re just guessing at what the team REALLY wants to do.

Or are we?  The “phrasology” of Bill Davis is not abstract to NFL historians.   His approach to the defense is very similar to the approach of the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers took in their Super bowl season.    That 2008 defense was statistically the head of the class, particularly when it comes to yards allowed per game (237.2) and yards allowed per play (3.9).   When you think of the “great defenses” of the NFL,  it’s easy to overlook the 2008 Steelers.

That 2008 Steelers defense  did not have many “stars”.   That defense was more scheme-driven than personnel-driven, courtesy of the brilliance of Dick LeBeau.  The defensive coordinator established himself as  one of the premier game-planners and play-callers in the league, thanks in part to that 2008 team.   The only true “star” of the defense was strong safety Troy Palomalu.      But that’s not to say the defense did not have stand outs – as both outside linebackers:  LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison, combined for 27.5 sacks, two interceptions, four fumble recoveries, and 161 tackles.   Harrison was particularly noteworthy, having gone undrafted and cut by the Ravens and the Steelers before finding success in this scheme.  Finding a scheme that placed defensive players in a position to succeed was a LeBeau trademark.  That philosophy has found its way into the defense of today’s Philadelphia Eagles.

“My main job is to take the players that are on the roster — and that’s really our staff’s job — take the players on the roster and at the end of the day, line them up in a configuration that the best 11 are on the field and go attack the offense from there.” – Bill Davis

So how far off the mark are these Eagles, using the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers as the gold standard? Not as far as you think.

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