It’s no secret that the Seattle Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom” defense was an instrumental part of the team’s victory in this past February’s Super Bowl. With all of the rule changes and focus on offensive, “fireworks” football, good defenses didn’t always get the same kind of love from the media and from fans alike. Today, the defenses you tend to hear about are the ones that bring an attitude and an identity to their on-field play. Rewind back to the Philadelphia Eagles’ defenses of the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Under the direction of the late defense coordinator Jim Johnson, the Birds D become known for exotic blitz, pressure packages, and an imposing will that opposing teams had to contend with. Over the last couple of seasons, in the transition away from the Andy Reid-era, the Birds defense lost the swagger and imposing will that was a trademark for many years.
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis need their defense to find a new identity. Years back, former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins helped to lead the defense, giving it a meanness on the field. Current Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans joined the team in 2012 as a trade from the Houston Texans. He brought some of the swagger back that was sorely missing, even during the 2011-2012 “Dream Team” seasons that resulted in Reid’s departure, and a revamp of the team. As Kelly and Davis worked to put a 3-4 defensive scheme in place (Reid and Johnson favored a 4-3), they brought in additional pieces, including Eagles corner back Cary Williams. Williams brought with him a defined edge that helped to bolster the entire defensive unit. The results took time to develop, due in part to a new coach, new players, and a new scheme.
Throughout last season, fans were treated to a defense growing before their eyes. While some would have wished for the newly retooled unit to gel right out of the gate, that was an unrealistic expectation. But now, with a season under their belt, and some new toys courtesy of the draft, Davis must continue to innovate and develop his scheme and his players. Much like the offense, the defensive players have bought in to the new concepts that came with the new coach. The results on the field showed that. The team weathered a variety of controversies this past year, and displayed a tremendous resolve within the locker room to keep pushing forward. But the defense still must find its true identity on the field. The Eagles must develop that edge, the “IT” factor that elite teams bring. Perhaps the 2014 season, with only a little over a month away from the start of training camp, will showcase a team with some angry birds pointed in the right direction. It’s one thing to have individual attitudes that don’t gel – it’s another to put it together and demoralize opponents from the opening kickoff. That’s what separates great teams from champions. The Eagles can get there!