More than four months have passed since the Philadelphia Eagles lost Super Bowl LVII. Perhaps the strangest thing about that statement is how eerily similar that game was to their Super Bowl LII victory.
Philly led by ten at halftime in both games. In both instances, they struggled to limit the New England Patriots' offense and the Kansas City Chiefs during the final two quarters. There was one difference, and it was major.
Unlike the game versus Tom Brady and company, the Birds never found that second-half stop versus Patrick Mahomes and K.C.'s offense. One stop would have delivered a second Vince Lombardi Trophy, and you can best believe everyone has been thinking about that all season
No one knows that better than Philly, so this offseason, they went to work. They lost several starters. Many of whom play on the defensive side of the ball.
Javon Hargrave, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Marcus Epps, T.J. Edwards, and Kyzir White are all gone, but they utilized five of their seven NFL Draft choices on defensive talent. Before they did that, however, they made sure they locked up, Darius Slay and James Bradberry, one of the best cornerback duos in the NFL. They also added three safeties and two cornerbacks by way of free agency or the draft. Despite the roster turnover, watching eyes are impressed.
The Eagles' impressive secondary lands in the top five of a recent Pro Football Focus ranking.
They're praised and criticized, but regardless of what side of the fence you are on, it's hard to ignore Pro Football Focus and the amazing content they produce. Sure, they confuse us with some of those statistics. Some of what they say is spot on, but they always create conversations. In all honesty, that's what it's all about.
Recently, PFF stacked every NFL secondary. Slay, Bradberry, and company landed third, behind two AFC East squads. The New York Jets took the top spot. The Miami Dolphins finished second. Here's what they said about each unit.
We begin with the other 'Gang Green' (technically, that name belongs in Philly).
"The Jets secondary returns four starters from a season ago and is led by 2022 Defensive Rookie of the Year Sauce Gardner, who is PFF's top-ranked cornerback for 2023.- John Kosko, PFF
This group was the glue that held the Jets defense together amid quarterbacking turmoil. If Gardner can repeat his rookie success, this secondary will have almost no weak holes, as D.J. Reed and Michael Carter II also thrived a season ago, earning 70.0-plus coverage grades over the year."
Jalen Ramsey has deterined that he's going to take his talents to South Beach and join the Miami Dolphins. That upgrades what was already an outstanding unit. That's a fact that isn't lost on the writer of this one, John Kosko.
"The addition of Jalen Ramsey has significantly improved this unit's outlook. The eight-year pro has had some high-profile losses over the past two seasons, but what isn’t highlighted is his down-to-down dominance and consistency — over the last three seasons, Ramsey ranks second among 57 qualifying cornerbacks in PFF coverage grade (90.4), and he has allowed less than a yard per coverage snap over that span.
Add that to an already talented group coached by Vic Fangio — one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL — and we have the makings of something special."
The Birds have a lot of bodies at cornerback as training camp nears. We expect Slay, Braberry, Avonte Maddox, and Kelee Ringo to make the squad, but trust us on this one. The competition will be intense all summer. Here's Kosko's take on the Birds.
"The Eagles lost two safeties in the playmaking C.J. Gardner-Johnson and the reliable Marcus Epps but reloaded in the draft and free agency. Slay was dominant at times this past season and ultimately earned the seventh 70.0-plus coverage grade of his career. The rest of the unit played consistently excellent football for most of the year, leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl.
If one of the rookies steps up in 2023, the unit will be a force once again."
It has become a bit of an annual tradition to debate whether or not the Eagles are significant enough at safety. Rest assured. They are.
Reed Blankenship is expected to take another step, and we believe he'll be viewed as one of the better undrafted rookie free-agent signings when his time is done. Until then, expect quality play.
Terrell Edmunds is going to be better than many realize, and if Sydney Brown can pay dividends quickly, this defensive backfield is going to turn a lot of heads, especially if everyone can stay healthy.