Aug 9, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; The New England Patriots offense and Philadelphia Eagles defense line up for a play during the second half of a preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field. The Patriots won 31-22. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Defend Our City!
It seems like a long time since the Philadelphia Eagles have a had defense to brag about. We know that is not the case, since we’ve had a top ten defense as recently as 2011, and a top 3 defense as recently as 2008.
But what we had in our defense was the ability to stop the other team from scoring on that winning drive. What we had was the ability to mix blitzing with coverage in such a delicate balance that the defense oftentimes dictated the game’s outcome. What we had was toughness. It was wonderful.
The defense is graded collectively. There is no individual grades that trump a group’s performance. If the team has a bad defensive year, few give weight to an individual that had shiny moments on a dark season. Occasionally it happens where a player’s quality is discernible, but that is an oddity rather than a rule. So when we look at the Eagles defense, we see a true tale of two cities. On the running defense, the Eagles were the fifth best defense on a yards per carry basis. But when you couple that with the fifth most carries faced in 2014, the overall rush defense landed them at midpoint, or 15th in the NFL. On the passing side, the team faced the sixth most number of passes, and surrendered the sixth highest yards per pass in the NFL. This combined to give the Eagles the 31st ranked pass defense in the NFL.
So, despite the herculean efforts of Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry, and even Brandon Graham to get to the quarterback, the defense was not very good against the pass. Can that change in 2015? I think it can. The top difference was the signing of Byron Maxwell to the Eagles. If you saw his play against the Eagles receivers in Philly, you know that he can play very well indeed on an island. And just like outside linebacker Graham has finally been announced as the starter for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015, Brandon Boykin may very well be the starter on the other side. That likely pits Thurmond in the slot, and Carroll as a rotational relief player and the dime corner.
The assumption I am making here is that Cory Undlin, with no previous experience with the Eagles, will simply let the best player take the field. And with a track record of success with the Denver Broncos, he’s got some validity in who he decides plays back there. But part of the story is his willingness to commit competition to the process. Drafting a cornerback in round one did not mean an instant starter. The Eagles could take advantage of that same fundamental, and bring open competition to the process that will give the team the most likely chance of fielding a good defensive backfield.
Next: Year Three: Billy Davis Has Never Been Here Before