The Philadelphia Eagles secondary was downright embarrassing the first two years of head coach Chip Kelly’s tenure. Once he was given full control of all personnel decisions this offseason, he wasted little time addressing the team’s dreadful secondary. But while many people are focusing on the players that Kelly has added in both free agency and the draft, one move he made before all of that may prove to be the biggest difference maker.
All the way back in January, it was reported by Mike Klis of The Denver Post that Denver Broncos defensive backs coach Cory Undlin was “likely to take the same position with the Philadelphia Eagles.” Sure enough, Undlin has joined Kelly’s staff in Philadelphia and his impact should immediately be felt on the defensive side of the ball.
Of course the signings of free agents Byron Maxwell, Walter Thurmond, E.J. Biggers and the Eagles also drafting Eric Rowe, JaCorey Shepherd and Randall Evans are all contributing factors to why the team’s secondary should be much better in 2015. But the hiring of Undlin will help all of those players as they begin their respective tenures with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Undlin may not be the biggest name among “defensive gurus” in the NFL but he’s slowly built a very good reputation. Specifically during his time with the Denver Broncos as their defensive back coach for the past two seasons. Before Undlin took over that position, cornerback Chris Harris Jr. played primarily in the slot. But once he took over, Harris started playing on the outside more and actually finished the 2014 season as the highest rated cornerback in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Harris was an undrafted player out of Kansas and Undlin helped develop him into one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league, that’s pretty impressive. Although he’s just 5’10”, 199 lbs., Undlin gave Harris a shot to play full-time on the outside and it turned out to be a great decision. The hiring of Undlin may also be a reason why the Eagles and Kelly are willing to give “smaller” cornerbacks such as Brandon Boykin, Walter Thurmond and JaCorey Shepherd a chance to play cornerback on the outside.
He also helped rookie cornerback Bradley Roby during the 2014 season, who got off to a rough start, giving up six touchdowns in his first 11 games. But Roby ended his first year on a high note with five consecutive games with a positive grade from Pro Football Focus and allowed just one touchdown in those final five games. It’s clear Roby improved as he got more playing time and Undlin’s coaching may have had something to do with that.
Another impressive thing Undlin has done during his tenure in Denver was deal with talented “divas” at the cornerback position and turn them into outstanding players. Both Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Aqib Talib had career years under Undlin’s tutelage. Especially “DRC” who had an awful tenure with the Eagles, as we all know way too well. But he signed a one-year deal with the Broncos following his run in Philadelphia and had the best season of his career in 2013 with Undlin as his positional coach there.
Here’s an interesting video of Undlin breaking down game film while he was the defensive backs coach for the Denver Broncos:
Although he may be considerd “young” compared to most coaches, at just 43 years old, Undlin has a vast amount of experience. He played safety at California Lutheran University for four years from 1990 to 1994. He returned to his alma mater as a linebackers coach in 1998. After coaching at a few other colleges, Undlin got his professional coaching start with the New England Patriots as a defensive coaching assistant under the great Bill Belichick.
He then followed another great defensive coach, Romeo Crennel to the Cleveland Browns where he manned multiple coaching positions during Crennel’s tenure there. Once the Browns fired Crennel, Undlin joined the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2009 as a defensive assistant and then became their defensive backs coach in 2010. Once the entire Jaguars’ staff was fired in 2011, Undlin joined the Denver Broncos which of course eventually led to him being hired by the Eagles.
It’s clear that Cory Undlin has the experience and the resume that head coach Chip Kelly wanted to add to his coaching staff. It’s time for the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense to take it to the next level, specifically the pass defense and their secondary. The hiring of Undlin was an under the radar move that should pay off big time for the Eagles during the upcoming season.
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