Philadelphia Eagles Build 2015 Defense On Shoestring Budget

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Nov 3, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator

Bill Davis

during the game against the Oakland Raiders at Coliseum. The Eagles defeated the Raiders 49-20. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports


Philadelphia Eagles Build 2015 Defense On Shoestring Budget

Two day ago we discussed how the Philadelphia Eagles could approach the 2015 NFL draft with little salary cap and only eight draft picks and come out with a team with solid depth to make a run at winning to and through post-season.  Today we will focus on the strategy needed to turn the Eagles defense into one of both depth and high caliber play ready to get to and win in the post season.

Make no mistakes, the Eagles know two things this year:  The team cannot win consistently with Chip Kelly “making do” with players on the roster.  That explains the wholesale roster turnover which has resulted in top skill players coming off banner career years and yet leaving the Eagles with nothing in return, or nearly nothing.  And while the offense has demonstrated that it has the ability to move the ball up and down an NFL field, the defense has only shown the ability to stop the opposition from doing so on the ground.   In fact, the Eagles run defense was impressive in 2014.  But the team could not shut down the other team’s passing attack.

Enter 2015 and the rebuilt defense.

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With cornerbacks Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher both gone, as well as safety Nate Allen, the team is in full scale rebuild in less than three years.  Since the team had already discarded safety Patrick Chung the previous year, the team has a full scale turnover from the defensive backfield that started in 2013.    Considering the results of the past two years, that is a good thing.   But before our feet leave the ground, the team cut Cary Williams after a season where he was not “that bad”.   The team made no effort to resign Nate Allen despite his leading the team with four interceptions.  It’s clear this time around that average or below play is not going to be acceptable to a team now in year three of a five year plan.   The key to this defense is whether defensive coordinator Billy Davis can coach a squad to elite level.  While I’ve heard some who lay this at the coach’s feet, I do not.  The shutout of the New York Giants when their offense was running on all cylinders was evidence that the man CAN coach a good defense.

So the trick is to get a good defense.  Will he have it in 2015?   Well, let’s examine what the team has now and what they need to do to get enough depth to rock in 2015.   We looked at the 2014 defense at this time of year and our expectations were pretty good.   You can check out last year’s projection here:

Philadelphia Eagles Build 2014 Defense on Shoestring Budget

Much of the action this off-season began when the Eagles signed former Denver Broncos defensive backs coach Cory Undlin. Undlin oversaw the refurbishment of the Denver defense, when the team made a nice blend of free agency and the draft to bring their pass defense into the upper ranks of the NFL.  Similar to the Denver rebuild, the Eagles said farewell to 2014 personnel, even on their better years, and have already begun restocking the shelves with new faces.

The first good news is that the Philadelphia Eagles resigned outside linebacker juggernaut Brandon Graham.  Paired with Connor Barwin, the Eagles outside looks awfully impressive.  With the return of injured inside linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks, the Birds have added the one-hit wonder Kiko Alonso.    While many believe the team will be shopping a veteran, I’m comfortably convinced that three players coming back to run a defense that sees over 1000 plays (that’s 2000 defensive plays for the pair) will have plenty of snaps for each player to make a significant impact.

The team has restocked the cornerback slots with a pair of former Seattle Seahawks corners in Walter Thurmond and Byron Maxwell.  They will be joining former teammate safety Chris Maragos.  They also made a huge push to persuade New England Patriots safety Devin McCourtney to sign with the team, but the Patriots head coach answered the goodbye phone call and astutely worked to keep the safety.   After the smoke cleared, the team has lost veteran outside linebacker Trent Cole, and a surprising resurgent safety in Nate Allen.   With no salary cap room to “just sign” someone, the team now must face the arduous task of building the 2015 defense on a shoestring budget.

Let’s look at the three squads: defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs.

Next: The Shoestring Defensive Line