Philadelphia Eagles Can Fix Defense Denver’s Way


May 8, 2014; New York, NY, USA;

Bradley Roby

(Ohio State) is introduced as the thirty first overall pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft by the Denver Broncos during the 2014 NFL draft at Radio City Music Hall. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles Can Fix Defense Denver’s Way

By now, you’ve already surrendered to the fact that the Philadelphia Eagles did not improve, did not show progress. In fact, in terms of their defensive backfield and their quarterback, they’ve encountered a bit of a backslide.  That’s disappointing to a fan base which was familiar with the perennial pro bowl appearances of Troy Vincent, Lito Sheppard, Sheldon Brown, Asante Samuel, Michael Lewis, Bobby Taylor, and (deep breath) Mr. Philadelphia himself, Brian Dawkins.

But as the disappointment of a year gone south fades once more , the fact remains that the Eagles are in pretty good shape going into the new season. Several questions remain, but fewer questions than recent history. Offensively, the team has the talent to move the ball and score on practically any defense. But they need to stop shooting themselves in the foot.  And while many have taken a love or hate viewpoint of Billy Davis, the Philadelphia Eagles have not yet gone all in.   2014 was more of a “dangle their toes in the water” when they resigned safety Nate Allen, signed newcomers safety Malcolm Jenkins and corner-back Nolan Carroll, and drafted project outside linebacker Marcus Smith II.   Not content with the results, Billy Davis called in a favor from former star outside linebacker Kevin Greene to coach up the linebacker squad.  What resulted was a huge surge in pass rushing ability from practically the same squad of guys as the previous year.  But the defense continued with an Achilles heel, the deep pass.  Can Philadelphia fix defense short-comings?  Yes.

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On defense, they have a good core of players in the front seven to work with. Yes, Brandon Graham was a superb role player for the team, but his objective will likely be a starting role on a 4-3 defense as a defensive end, and his reward will be that 4-3 defensive end starting salary. The Eagles can absorb his defection. Trent Cole is more than adequate, and with another year under their belts, the team can look towards infusing some youth.  I have taken an unpopular perspective of Smith.  Just like so many who labeled Brandon Graham “bust” right out of the gates, they have turned their thumbs down to Smith.    I think that is premature.  Cracking the outside linebacker position on the Eagles roster is not easy.   Trent Cole and Connor Barwin are two of the leagues finest.

But another team with a very potent offense and a bad defense, the Denver Broncos, were in a similar situation in 2013. They had some free agent defections, a bad position in the NFL draft, and were motivated to match their offensive prowess with a defense that would compliment their efforts. What they did in summary was turn the 19th rated defense in 2013 into the third best NFL defense in 2014.

How did they accomplish that noticeable turnaround? How did they go from “meh” to “Whoa!”? Let’s examine their moves:

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  • Free Agency – Silver Bullets:

    The first step towards a commitment to their defense began in their free agency.  The Denver Broncos were not flush with cash to spend, so they set a budget and stuck to it.

    Losses:   They lost cornerbacks Domanique Rogers-Cromartie and Champ Bailey, defensive end Shaun Phillip, defensive end Robert Ayers and linebacker Wesley Woodyard.

    Gains: They signed cornerback Aqib Talib, safety TJ Ward, LB/DE Demarcus Ware.  Ignore the names for the moment.    The quality lost was average to above average starter.  The quality they signed was an upgrade to each position.   DRC and Bailey were about average for the Broncos.  Talib was much better.

    Draft – More Bullets:

    The second step towards committing to the defense was the draft.  Of six picks, three were defense.  But the very important first pick was defense, where they drafted cornerback Bradley Roby.  They filled out their defense with a pair of outside linebackers Lamin Barrow and Corey Nelson.


    With the addition of Talib, Roby was given the task of backing him up and coming in for the nickel package.   The personnel office knew what they were doing.  With the exception of weakside linebacker Brandon Marshall, the defense was led in tackles by Ward (74 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions), Roby (65 tackles, one sack, two interceptions), Talib (63 tackles, one sack, four interceptions).  Tenth on the team was pass rushing specialist defensive end Ware, whose 40 tackles and 10 interceptions showed that he still has gas left in his tank.

    The fact is that the team did not just go out and “BUY” a championship.   They had a plan,   Their vision was clear and deliberate, and to realize that vision they did not hesitate to bring in the talent they so desperately needed.  And while the results of their post season was not what they had hoped for, they did not fail on defense.  They did allow 24 points, but intercepted Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck twice and held the Colts running game to 99 total yards.

    The Eagles can replicate that process.   By drafting for QUALITY (which is not necessarily the most expensive) defensive backs and then augmenting those selections with quality talent in the draft, they can fix the issue virtually overnight.   The depth of the defensive front seven takes some pressure off retooling the entire defense.  Perhaps third time IS the charm in Philadelphia.   It’s clear what needs to be done now.


    With the hiring of new head coach Gary Kubiak, he will likely bring his own compliment of coaches and coordinators.   Broncos defensive back coach Cory Undlin is reported to be taking a similar role with the Philadelphia Eagles.  What a break!  The same guy who fixed the Broncos defensive backfield whoas tasked with a similar “fixer upper” in Philly?

    "Broncos defensive backs coach Cory Undlin is expected to take the same position with the Philadelphia Eagles."

    It couldn’t get any better than this, could it?

    Will Philadelphia be up to the task?    See you after the draft.