4-3 Under Defense, In-House Solutions and Potential Candidates

Ok, it's been quite a while since I've gone and written a fanpost here. It's pretty long so thanks in advance for taking the time to read it. Anyway, I recently have been reading/re-reading this post by Jhn about our new defensive coordinator Billy Davis' 4-3 Under defense. In that post, Jhn draws from this post by Danny Kelly over at Field Gulls to explain the defense and the players we currently have on our roster who would fit this particular defense. I'm going to be drawing from their work that explained the 4-3 under position by position to go through potential candidates(free agents/draft prospects) who fit certain roles within the scheme.

The names I list are not who I assume/know/think the Eagles will go and pursue but they are the names I've looked up and see a role they could fit in our potential defense so naturally, there will be disagreements. Keep in mind that this isn't a mock draft or offseason, just throwing thoughts out there on who I think can fit where and why.

The 4-3 Under base alignment would look like this (this is the same alignment Pete Carroll used at USC, courtesy of a google images search)



Now, this isn't really a mock offseason or mock draft or anything like that, so I don't want anyone to read this and reply as if it were one. This is just my opinion on the ideal prospective players who could fit, where and how.

Positions addressable in this system via FA/Draft:

LDE, the Elephant: my ideal Elephant candidate, though some are content with Brandon Graham (rightfully so, he's coming into his own and I'm excited to see him play more.) is Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon. Dion Jordan is listed 6'7, 240lbs so he'll more than likely have to bulk up at the next level. Yes, he may be a reach at #4 overall, and I'm not saying go out and draft this guy at #4. I'm just saying he could fit this role. He's a good pass rusher and has the ability to drop back into coverage. He can play with his hand in the dirt or standing up, even has the ability to go out in the slot and cover. As a run defender, Dion Jordan is questionable, but he always gives chase downfield to make a tackle if the runner gets by. He relies more on speed to make a play than power when rushing the passer, though he is powerful his hand game or "kung-fu" is more about quickness than strength so he'll need to work on that at the next level.

Do we pick him at #4? No, I doubt it, but should we trade back a little then I think Dion Jordan is more than worth a pick outside of the top 5 or 10 in my opinion.

Other option(s): Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia yes he may be the top-rated pass rushing OLB who draws comparisons to Von Miller, but spinal stenosis is not something I want any of my starters, let alone potential top-5 pick to have. Also, although Jarvis Jones is a highly touted pass rusher, seen by many as the best in this years class, I think Dion Jordan is more adept in coverage. This does not mean I would be upset should the Eagles select someone like Jones, although the whole spinal stenosis thing is very scary.

Paul Kruger, OLB, Ravens could be another potential choice, although I'm sure the Ravens would be highly inclined to re-sign him. He can get after the QB and can drop back. 42 tackles, 9 sacks, 6 passes defended and 1 INT. Bottom line, Kruger shows up to play.

SLB: Now, the SLB in this system mainly has outside contain against the run but he also needs to cover or at the very least run with the Tight End. Sure, Jamar Chaney could assume this role. It's likely that he does at the start of the 2013 season. Unless we were to sign LB Brad Jones, free agent-to-be from Green Bay. Green bay does look to re-sign him and he would play inside opposite Desmond Bishop, the other inside linebacker there. Brad Jones really came on when given the opportunity in 2012, registering 27 total tackles over the span of 3 straight division games, MIN (6 solo 7 total), DET (8 solo, 12 total), CHI (6 solo, 8 total) weeks 13 to 15. Has college experience at SLB though primarily in a 3-4 and was evaluated to have solid coverage skills, not to mention he's only 26.

Again, not saying we sign him but he's a valid candidate in my opinion for the SLB in a 4-3 under.

Other option: Chase Blackburn, MLB, Giants now, sure, Chase Blackburn is a middle linebacker from the Giants 4-3, but he's another guy who can surprisingly run with the tight end and make sound tackles. I'm sure he could make the move to SLB wrestling the job away from Chaney.

Strong side DT:

Your strong side DT needs to command double teams consistently, so you need a big body. Jonathan Jenkins from Georgia could be that. He's a big body who can and will draw double teams but wouldn't be expected to offer much rushing the passer (Cullen Jenkins would likely relieve Johnathan on 3rd down). He's graded on CBS as a 1st to 2nd round pick so he could fall into the second round or maybe we could trade back into the first round for him? I'm not sure, but I have a feeling Jenkins could certainly be plugged in at strong side DT.

Jenkins' stock could very well rise though providing he has a good combine though, putting him into the mid-late first round rather than late first-early second.

Other option: Brandon Williams, DT, Missouri Southern State is projected to go between the second and third round. He's a big body who can also eat space and draw double teams but is also a solid pass rusher. He could certainly turn out to be a solid pick for whoever selects him because he knows how to play NT, DT and 5-tech DE. He did bump his stock in the senior bowl and it could rise even higher if he has a positive showing at the combine.

Strong Safety: Jonathan Cyprien, SS, Florida International Cyprien is a very good strong safety. He can come up & deliver the hits in the run game and has ball skills to make plays in the passing game. Has the ability to come up to the line and make plays in the run game from the line as well as over the top. In 2012, he recorded 93 tackles and 4 INT's. I know he's sort of a BGN sweetheart, I've seen a lot of people on here very high on Cyprien, as well as on twitter, etc. so Cyprien is surely on the rise and may prove difficult to nab in the draft if the Eagles want him.

Other option: LaRon Landry, SS, Jets we know LaRon can get smoked, but you can't deny his willingness to come up and make tackles successfully. 8 Passes defended and 2 INT's isn't too bad, considering he was second on the team in tackles with 99 total tackles (75 solo). Not an attractive signing, nor one would I be very happy about but he's a FA who fills a need.

Free Safety: Jairus Byrd, FS, Bills this is one player that I hold highest this free agency. We need a player like Byrd in our secondary playing Safety. Buffalo isn't going to pay him so we certainly should. Byrd can tackle and cover, something our current safety play is lacking heavily in, not to mention he's only 26. Byrd can not only upgrade the safety position upon arrival, but also elevate CB play with Byrd playing behind them. I feel like this move has to happen, at least I hope like hell it does. Hopefully it does and we compliment Byrd by selecting Cyprien, although signing Byrd alone would make me content.

Other option: Phillip Thomas, FS, Fresno State, Thomas is an excellent ball-player and another fan favorite or at least that's what I've noticed. He's flown under the radar, probably because of his injury and because of the weaker conference teams he's face but his Senior Bowl performance has bumped his stock a little, so it'd be interesting to see where Thomas is selected in April.

There are positions in this defense that can be addressed in-house as well.

MIKE: Some think that Demeco Ryans should, maybe even will, be traded. I disagree with that, though I can see why some would think that way. Even then, though, we got him for a 4th round pick. What could we possibly net in return? Demeco is older, yes, but he is a valuable player to have. He's a leader, too. Demeco may not be able to drop back as much as one would like, but he's a sure tackler and a good run defender. I'm under the belief that Demeco Ryans should and will be the starting MIKE linebacker for the Eagles in 2013.

WILL: Certainly would have to be Mychal Kendricks. He would be playing behind the Elephant or the 5-technique DE -depending on the side of the strength- who would, in the run game, feed him tackles and opportunities to make plays provided the Elephant can consistently control his gap and rush the passer. 75 Tackles in a rookie season on a struggling defense next to fellow bright spot and team leading tackler, Demeco Ryans (113). Pretty good if you ask me. Put Kendricks in this position and watch his numbers increase.

Weakside DT: Fletcher Cox. Fletch is a force as a pass rusher and was really coming on in his rookie year. In this system, I look for him to build on that and continue to develop into a force as an inside pass rusher. Very excited to see Fletch play in 2013 and hope he stays healthy the entire season.

5-Technique DE: Brandon Graham. I know, this is a spot reserved for larger guys but Brandon Graham is good against the run and good when it comes to rushing the passer. In my opinion, Graham can play either this or the Elephant role, although the point of this post was for me to entertain the idea of him being a starter here while the Elephant position is addressed via draft or FA.

Cornerbacks: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie & Nnamdi Asomugha. I know that everyone also thinks that DRC is the only one worth keeping and even that is a long shot. I think we keep them both. I think the addition of solid players at the safety position, which I'm sure we all hope happens, boosts their play. Nnamdi was accustomed to having safety help in Oakland and looked like he was always having to clear something up with Allen or Coleman. The potential/hopeful Byrd signing would make Nnamdi's job easier as Byrd is a proven Safety who can provide adequate safety help for Nnamdi. I think DRC still is too good to let walk and gets franchised then competes for a contract which, if he can utilize his full potential under Billy Davis, he'll earn.

This is really it for this post. Would like to see what players, whether they're FA's, draft prospects or in-house solutions you guys would like as candidates for positions in a 4-3 Under that the Eagles could possibly take a look at. I used this post primarily to discuss starters/potential starters but would also be interested in discussing the depth or lack of depth at some of these positions.

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