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When word first came down on BGN that Billy Davis was the new Eagles DC, I posted a link in the comments section to an excellent analysis of the 4-3 Under utilized by Pete Carroll and the Seahawks, written by Danny Kelly over at Field Gulls. You definitely want to check it out, as it is must read material.
After reading the article myself, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to try and match up guys already on the Eagles' roster to potential positions in the 4-3 Under. It turned into a rather lengthy comment, but it was well received and some suggested that I turn it into a FanPost. So, here we are!
I have quoted the Field Gulls article portions relating to characteristics needed in players for this type of defense, and then I suggest who on the Eagles' roster could fill that spot.
Let's get to it...
The LEO can be a little bit smaller than a normal DE and Pete Carroll tends to like a more athletic and versatile body type for his Elephant position; a guy that can speed rush the QB but also react quick enough to control his gap. Must also be able to drop back into coverage occasionally in zone blitz situations.
Possible LEO/Elephant candidate for Eagles? Trent Cole, excellent pass rusher, but also stout against the run. Has dropped back into coverage at times in zone blitz schemes in the past. Brandon Graham could get a look here as well, and maybe Vinny Curry.
The strongside defensive tackle can be short and squat but must be able to take on a double team consistently.
Possible Strongside DT candidate for Eagles? Mike Patterson, depending on his health, could fit in this role.
The weakside defensive tackle, the 3-tech, must be your premiere interior pass rusher and have an explosive first step. His main job is to pressure the QB and stop the run in his weakside B gap.
Possible Weakside DT candidate for Eagles? Fletcher Cox, who is a rising star, could shine here. Building on an excellent rookie campaign, in which he led all Eagles defensive linemen with 85 combined tackles and tied for the team lead in sacks with 5.5.
The 5-tech defensive end can be a bigger guy and must be great against the run.
Possible 5-tech DE candidate for Eagles? Brandon Graham, who is fully back from injuries and had a solid year, could fit here. Does very well against the run. Another candidate could be Cedric Thornton if they're looking for "a bigger guy," or Cullen Jenkins, who played 3-4 DE in GB.
The SAM linebacker needs to be athletic and rangy; great against the run but able to run with tight ends and running backs in pass coverage.
The WILL linebacker is going to get a lot of tackles and in Pete's system is typically a faster, smaller linebacker with range.
Possible WILL linebacker candidate for Eagles? This spot has Mychal Kendricks' name written all over it.
The MIKE linebacker needs to be the field general; very instinctual and savvy. He needs to be quick enough to drop back down the middle third of the field in pass coverage in the Tampa-2 coverage.
Possible MIKE linebacker candidate for Eagles? DeMeco is the guy here. May have a few issues from time to time dropping down the deep middle, but his leadership, instincts and savvy will again be invaluable.
The free safety is a guy that's going to move around a lot and be very instinctual as well. He's going to come up to the line a lot and will get a lot of tackles.
Possible Free Safety candidate for the Eagles? As has been mentioned by many, Kurt Coleman is a good 3rd Safety and Special Teams player, but you shouldn't be relying on him as a starter. Position must be addressed either through Draft or FA.
The strong safety has to be good against the run but like the free safety, will move around a lot and have to defend against the deep pass a lot. He will need to be fast and have some ball skills.
Possible Strong Safety candidate for Eagles? I'd be willing to give Nate Allen one more chance here. Although, that's not to say that if an opportunity to upgrade came along, you wouldn't consider it.
Finally, the cornerbacks need to be physical and long. They will get involved in run defense a lot so they must be good tacklers. They are protected over the top a lot of the time so typically they're not all-world defenders but need to be pretty fast.
Possible Cornerback candidates for Eagles? Nnamdi and DRC just don't fit here. Although, you may be willing to give it a try with DRC under a new coaching staff and see if he can step up the physicality in run defense. Marsh could warrant a look here, as he flashed some skill during his limited snaps. Prefer to keep Boykin in the slot and continue to develop there. Cornerback is another position, as we know, that needs to be upgraded.
So, the Eagles definitely have some players that could be plug-and-play in the new defense. The question becomes, will they be able to acquire the pieces to fill in the gaps and upgrade the positions that the BGN readership knows must be addressed, like safety and cornerback?
Acquiring those players could be the final step in completing the defensive puzzle that, for the Eagles in recent years, seems to have been little more than scattered pieces.