Most agree the Philadelphia Eagles defense was the team’s biggest weakness last year. The Eagles D ranked 17th in the league in points allowed and 29th in total yards allowed, with much of those yards given up through the air by the 32nd ranked Philadelphia secondary. I argue the lack of pressure on opposing quarterbacks by the defensive line which generated just 37 sacks carries much of the blame for the woeful secondary play, but either way the defensive backfield wasn’t great.
The team sack leaders were outside linebacker Trent Cole with eight and fellow linebacker Connor Barwin who had five. Defensive end Vinny Curry and 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.
Another factor which contributed to Philadelphia’s secondary allowing those 289.8 yards per game through the air, and the league worst 4,636 total passing yards, was the lack of production from the safety position. The team struggled throughout the season with safety Patrick Chung’s injuries and his replacement rookie Earl Wolff learning on the job.
There are some bright spots; however, when looking ahead at the Philadelphia Eagles second season under defensive coordinator Bill Davis. The Youngstown, Ohio native Davis took over the reins of a defense in transition to a 3-4 scheme last year, while the team also installed a brand new offense under head coach Chip Kelly.
Many of the Eagles defensive players had never played in the 3-4, so they were learning on the fly. Linebacker DeMeco Ryans said this week of his second season with Bill Davis,
“It’s another year of understanding each other a lot better and understanding what Billy is trying to do defensively. I think the relationship has grown a lot.” Ryans continued, “I kind of know what he’s thinking and what he’s going to call in certain situations, and I think overall the whole defense has grown because we’re more comfortable with what we’re doing.”
In addition to having a year of experience playing in Davis’ defense, the secondary was bolstered by the addition of veteran safety Malcom Jenkins. Jenkins is an incredibly versatile player who can stand up at the line of scrimmage and blitz, and has the speed and athletic ability to line up as the slot cornerback. Malcom’s special teams abilities were also showcased this week in OTA’s when he lined up as the “gunner” during drills. Jenkins brings a stability and leadership to the Eagles defense, and his teammate DeMeco Ryans had this to say about him,
“Malcolm is going to be the leader in the back end. He’s a guy who gets the guys in the right position. He can make the plays you want to make. He’s a great addition to our secondary.”
The Eagles roll into the new season with a year of experience in the 3-4 scheme, a better understanding of Bill Davis’ expectations, and finally a shored up secondary with the addition of Jenkins. The 2013 season was a year of substantial change for the Eagles defense, which makes the club’s NFC East title that much more impressive. If the defensive line can apply consistent pressure against opposing quarterbacks, Philadelphia’s D could rank tops in the league in 2014.
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