Philadelphia Eagles Defense Transformation

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Sep 15, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver

T.Y. Hilton

(13) lays on the ground as Philadelphia Eagles safety

Malcolm Jenkins

(27) intercepts the ball at Lucas Oil Stadium. The result was a controversial play in the game. Philadelphia defeats Indianapolis 30-27. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Eagles Defense Transformation:  Safety

The process started the moment the 2013 season ended, when head coach Chip Kelly and defensive coordinator Billy Davis sat down and assessed what the Eagles defense did and did not do successfully in the season.

When you look at last year, some events jump out at you.  The Eagles did not have enough quality defensive backs to compete against spread offenses.  If they faced an offense in a four wide receiver set, they simply ran out of quality defenders.

The first order of business was the safety position.   In the Eagles scheme, both safeties are tasked in pass coverage.  The Eagles had hoped to address their needs in converting to a 3-4 by signing former New England Patriot Patrick Chung and New York Giant safety Kenny Phillips.   While Phillips never grew healthy enough to play for the Eagles, Chung was hoped to shore up the secondary tackling and pass coverage.   Some things do not work out, as Chung seemed to have more proficiency in tackling Eagles defenders than offensive opponents.   Chung’s pass coverage was lacking as well, and his performance for 2013 was a major flaw in the Eagles defense.   His 2013 counterpart, safety Nate Allen, was not good by any means.   But it had improved significantly as the Eagles focused safety play on pass defense.

Fixing the defense meant addressing the Eagles needs.   They needed a pass defender safety who could roll with offensive formations.   Ideally, they hoped to get someone who was as smart as athletic.   The Eagles struck gold when they mined safety Malcolm Jenkins from the New Orleans free agent list.   Jenkins himself had a poor 2013 showing, but was a victim of a defense that asked him to do too much in order to feature the play of others.    Jenkins was himself a former cornerback, and was proficient in matching up with the extra receiver.

Jenkins also brought an IQ.   His study of opponents and film folded beautifully into the role both Kelly and Davis pictured, as they needed someone to call out coverage schemes   Jenkins was virtually a perfect fit for this defense.  But Jenkins was just one player, and the Eagles had need for two safeties.   In a not-so-surprising move, the Eagles resigned Nate Allen to a one-year contract.   With Jenkins and Allen, the team hoped to generate some chemistry that was absent in 2013.

Jenkins has immediately emerged as a true fit.  At the bye week, Jenkins is tied for the NFL lead in interceptions at three.   After four weeks, Jenkins has been rated as the third best safety in the nation.

Allen is not as proficient.  By week four, opposing quarterbacks have rated 144.5 for passes thrown in his area.    While the season remains early, I would not be surprised to see safety Earl Wolff promoted after the bye week.