Thursday, January 18, 2007

How I would Fix the Eagles Defense

There are many question floating around about what needs to be done to address the defensive deficiencies that cropped up this year with the Birds...was it our D-Line? or LB, and over-rated secondary? Well, I honestly don't know. Every area showed flashes of promise and big splashes of incompetence, so figuring out the right formula is not easy.

Diving right in:

1. At its most basic, I believe Coordinator Jim Johnson needs to adapt his defensive philosophy a bit. For too long the Eagles have coveted speed above all else. The result is a smallish defensive that relies completely on technique and leverage but one that routinely gets pushed around and out of position too easily...Moreover, a defense that was grossly deficient against the run, and as a result consistently had trouble getting off the field in some of our most critical games. As for the adaptation....please stop making your DTs weigh-in...I don't like to believe it, but part of the reason our First Round Draft Pick Broderick Bunkley got in the dog-house was his weight....Look JJ, some beef in the middle IS NOT A BAD THING...consider what happened to your quick, light (290-range) DTs this year - THEY GOT THROWN ABOUT...perhaps if someone weighed as much as the OG they went against we wouldn't have our D-Line getting pushed around so much. Solution: Come to realize that it is the combination of speed AND size AND talent that creates great Defenses (see Baltimore, Chicago and San Diego for assistance), not just adequate ones (see Philly and Indy for details).

2. We need to add another play-maker at the LB position. The Eagles got diddly-squat from its LB corps all year. It was pathetic. OG (Omar Gaither) emerged as a real "baller" but other than that lone bright spot....very little contribution from the linebackers this year. That includes one of my favorite Eagles leaders, Jeremiah Trotter...Trot lost a step this year...I thought during the 6-10 season that Trot and Dawk were trying to do too much and that hurt the D...This year, its clear that Trotter's game is severely limited. He is a downhill MLB, who can flow to one side of the field and that's about it....He is not a sideline to sideline guy, he ain't chasing anyone down on the backside anymore, and he is a dreadful liability in pass coverage (witness the fact that when Shawn Barber went out with an ankle injury in the N.O. Playoff game, Trot was forced to stay in on passing down and Payton whipped him like a rented mule with a 3rd string TE Billy Miller). Solution: Go get a FA Linebacker. I don't care what one (Briggs, Thomas, Edwards, London Fletcher, somebody) but there are some good ones available and this groups needs a proven commodity. We do not need to hear that last year's third-round pick, Chris Gocong, a college DE who JJ is converting to OLB is the answer to our play-maker needs...

3. Resign S Quintin Mikell and CB William James and DRAFT the heir apparent to Brian Dawkins. The Eagles have a LOT of free agent DBs this year. Rod Hood and Michael Lewis are goners, they believe they are starters and they are not likely to get that chance in Philly. 'nuff said. As for the two others, I believe that both can be contributors to the D. Mikell has already proven his worth, but I don't think he labors under any illusion about being a starter...Mikell was a valuable role-player and special teams captain, it'd be nice for the ST to have some continuity, plus if both Mikell and Lewis depart, we get real thin at safety real for Will James, my jury is out on him, didn't really see a whole lot from him, but he's got decent size and he was a starter in this league. I think he could be a reasonable insurance policy, and think about it: he was a mid-season pick-up and then injured...If he stays healthy, we would benefit from having a decent nickel-CB who is already well-versed in the system. As for the safety position, we need to realize that despite having a Pro-Bowl and All-Pro caliber season our Hall-of-Fame-caliber safety Brian Dawkins is 33. We've got him for two more seasons, but with only Brian and Sean Considine on the roster for next year, NOW is THE TIME to go out and draft Dawk's heir apparent...According to Mel Kiper, this year is an exceptionally deep draft for lets go get ourselves one...My strategy: if it looks like the safety you want won't be there when the Birds first round # will be called, see about dangling a player to move up...We used OG Artis Hicks and Hollis Thomas in that capacity last year, draft day moves....could Sam Rayburn be in that position this year?

4. Cut Dhani Jones, Matt McCoy, Jerome McDougle. Those are easy calls. None of them deserve a spot on the roster...some folks would argue to keep Matt for special teams, I guess I could live with that, but truthfully I am of a mind to cut our losses, admit failure on the 2nd rounder and move on....if we need a suicide-squad guy how about Tank Daniels or Roper...

5. Shift some the D-Linemen. In addition to adding some bulk, I would do the following, use Rayburn to move up somewhere on draft day or to acquire an additional second day pick. We already have his replacement with the team: Lajuan Ramsey. Let Darwin Walker move outside some (not all the time but give him some reps there)....I am tired of having every DE on the team weigh less than 275 lbs....Whatever happened to having a DE with some size??

What about Free Agent Juqua Thomas? I think JT played himself onto another team, but in the good way. I just don't see how, with all the hefty contracts we already have on the D-Line that the Birds will be able to keep Juqua...people took notice this year (if we did, they did) and he will get offers. Perhaps we could restructure Jevon's contract to keep his buddy Juqua around...perhaps....Either way - my starting D-Line next September goes like this: Darren Howard, Mike Patterson, Broderick Bunkley, Jevon Kearse...Trent Cole is my next guy in, but I think using him primarily on passing down would really help keep him fresh...He will be our fastball guy if Juqua finds greener pastures. My depth guys: Walker, Ramsey and a new guy, dunno who (maybe a FA find like we had with JT a couple of years ago, maybe Juqua, who knows)

Well there you have it, five things I would do to improve the Eagles Defense....

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