Image Courtesy fansided.com
With New England’s 28-24 Super Bowl victory over Seattle last Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles have officially started their offseason. Now facing the Birds are many questions, the first of which starts with Chip Kelly. If the Patriots and Seahawks Super Bowl taught us anything, it’s that the Eagles still have a long way to go…on defense.
The old adage says that defense wins championships. In 2014, the Seahawks proved that they had an all-time great defense by suffocating the record setting offense of the Denver Broncos. Seattle followed their Super bowl championship with a return engagement to the big game, this time facing the Patriots. The Seahawks defense continued to stifle any and all opponents, including the great Tom Brady, for the first half. But the Patriots victory story has been about Tom Brady when it should be about New England’s own impressive defense.
Against the Seahawks, in the biggest game of the season, the Patriots, minus perhaps their best defensive player Jerod Mayo (who was lost during the regular season), New England limited Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson to 247 yards passing on 12/21 throws. Furthermore, Wilson did not complete a pass to a wide receiver until five minutes left in the first half. When push came to shove, it was the New England defense that shut down the dynamic tandem of Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch in the fourth quarter, as Seattle was shut out in the final frame (candidly, in part to head coach Pete Carroll’s questionable play calling at the end of the game). Nonetheless, both Super Bowl combatants won this season with strong defensive performances.
Which brings us back to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles boast one of the youngest and most dynamic defensive lines in the NFL. Fletcher Cox is on the cusp of being a pro bowl player and Vinny Curry continues to excel in his role as a limited pass rusher. The linebacking corps has a wide range of players of varying degrees of attributes, from Mychal Kendricks’ all-around ability to Connor Barwin’s sack prowess. Despite Trent Cole being long in the tooth, the defensive stalwart still managed 6.5 sacks. The murky future of Demeco Ryans, recovering from a season-ending injury, and the unknown potential of Marcus Smith will weigh heavily on the future of the Eagles defense.
The secondary is the most pressing need of this Eagles team if they want any chance to compete. Looking back at the Super Bowl participants, the Patriots used free agency to build a strong back end, with the additions of cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. Seattle, on the other hand, built through the draft, as they can boast the best secondary in the NFL. These are the two teams that the Eagles must copy in an effort to improve and contend.
As of now, the Birds have just two and a half competent pieces. Brandon Boykin is a stud as a slot corner while Cary Williams is an adequate enough cornerback to start in the NFL. Safety Malcolm Jenkins, despite his play falling off as the year progressed, was a good addition last season, and adds leadership to the team. To be deemed a successful offseason, however, the Eagles must sign and draft a combination of two safeties and two cornerbacks.
The Eagles will see a plethora of free agents available who can fill the voids in the secondary. While choosing 20th overall in the first round, the Birds will have many options among the top players available. What the team, and Chip Kelly, must understand is that to succeed and compete in todays NFL, it is important to build a complete defense. The Eagles have the makings of a good defense. Their front seven is almost as strong as any in the NFL. All the team must do is address the backend and let everything else fall into place. If the Eagles fail to address the secondary once again, they expect an early first round pick in the 2016 NFL draft.