Thursday, August 4, 2011

Why The Eagles Blew Up The Defense

So now that the smoke is starting to clear from the Eagles' offseason moves -- they only signed safety Jarrard Pace and OL Ryan Harris and Evan Mathis today, which is to say three possible starters, and would have qualified as a heck of a day in most years, and barely made the wires today -- people are starting to wonder why they've gone to such lengths to try to upgrade the defense over last year's unit. That was a top 10 outfit by some statistical measurements, and we all know that continuity is a major asset in defensive play. Aren't they just winning the free agent season, like the Redskins have done for years, only to set themselves up for major disappointment this season?

Well, possibly; Major Disappointment is always a possibility, and given the talent and scrutiny they've achieved in the last week, anything but a parade is going to be bitter for most fans. But the appealing thing about the moves is this: they recognized that last year's team stunk on ice on defense, and that inaction was not an option.

Start with the secondary. Last year, we actually kind of talked ourselves into not-ready rookies, five year special teams gunners and retreads as options at CB2 and CB3. It got so bad that teams stopped killing us at TE, simply because there were better targets farther down the field. Teams like Minnesota, with WR3 Joe Webb at the helm, won road games late in the season against this team, and the red zone performance was particularly horrific. Only the potency of the offense, which seemed to take poor field position as an opportunity to raise their per catch yardage rates, masked how bad they were. I don't remember a year in the Reid Era in which the secondary was even close to as bad as the 2010 unit.

But that wasn't all. The LBs were horrid in space against RBs; I'm convinced we made Jahvid Best a viable fantasy player through the unit's timely generosity. The line didn't get pressure if Trent Cole didn't get it, and once CB Asante Samuel was hobbled, it was pretty much a pinball game every game.

The fact that over half of the starting line up will be comprised of new starters... just means they were watching the same film as I was. Stats be damned; this was a terrible defense that had a couple of decent games (Atlanta at home being the big outlier), and benefited from a weak schedule (two games against Washington, one game against Cowboy scrubs, one game against Joe Webb and Co., getting their hands handed to them by the previously moribund Bears in Chicago, etc.).

On talent, scheme and desire, they were lacking. At least one of those is fixed now, or at least, much better.

Now, will they be better? Probably; Nnamdi really is a beast, and some of the other noobs can play, too. Which doesn't mean they will necessarily have better numbers, or start the year like gangbusters. But they should be playing from ahead, with more teams forced to go near a CB they'd much rather avoid, and health permitting, could get a lot better ass the year goes on. That's the plan, at least. And it's a lot better one than anything we could have hoped for a week ago.

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