One could argue that the safety position for the 2013 Eagles was their weakest group. Philadelphia gave up the most passing yards per game (289.8) and allowed a league worst 4,636 total passing yards. Teams were effective throwing the ball on the Eagles throughout the year, and much of that is attributed to the shaky Philadelphia safety play.
But, Philadelphia has had one of the best free agency periods thus far. Many agree with me in that the adding of safety Malcom Jenkins was an important piece and will fix the Eagle’s safety problems. Also, I think signing cornerback Nolan Carroll was a great move as the 6-foot-2, 205 pounder has the size and versatility to match up well with big wide receivers.
As solid of an offseason the Eagles have had, though, I still believe they have one defensive gap which needs to be addressed, and that’s their pass rush. The Eagles were 20th last season with just 37 sacks. The team sack leaders were outside linebacker Trent Cole with eight and fellow linebacker Connor Barwin who had five. Defensive end Vinny Curry with linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks all had four sacks each. Outside of those five players, seven other defensive players registered any sacks at all.
In looking at the numbers, one could argue that Philadelphia’s 2013 last ranked passing defense was directly attributed to the lack of quarterback pressure. I believe the Eagles will be looking to improve their pass rush via the draft. While many consider the number one pass rusher in the draft to be South Carolina’s defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, there’s next to no chance that he will be available for the Eagles at their 22nd first round draft position.
Philadelphia got virtually no pass rush from their defensive tackles, so perhaps a better answer to the pass rush woes may be to pursue a pressure applying DT. One guy who the Eagles may consider is Pittsburgh’s defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Donald’s 6’1” 285 lbs is slightly undersized as a 3-4 DT, but his outstanding 2013 season coupled with great performances at the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine have scouts believing he could be an elite player in the NFL.
Because of his fantastic showing, however, Donald is shooting up draft boards, so again, he may not be available for the Eagles at 22.
Regardless of who’s available, the Eagles would do well drafting a defensive end or defensive tackle, as I believe they need to improve their pass rush first and foremost. Their potent offense coupled with a sack producing defensive line and nasty secondary could have Philadelphia on the path to a deep playoff run in 2014.
Follow Matt Thornton on Twitter: @MattThorntonNFL