Free agency started less than a week ago, and already Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles are creating serious competition at key spots on the team.
People like to say "competition breeds success" or "competition makes players better." If either of those statements are true, then the Philadelphia Eagles are likely to have a much-improved secondary unit. As I have stated several times, I am calling the defensive backs the "Raptor Cage." In case you are not aware of the reference, it comes from one of the most famous scenes from Jurassic Park. As the paleontologists and Jeff Goldblum are inspecting the park on a tour, they stop at the Raptors cage and here is what happens:
As you can see, the cage gets very active when a cow is introduced to a cage. Now, pretend the cow is the competitions for cornerback and safety.
The Eagles have brought in four players that are proof that Chip Kelly wants fight and grit and hunger in his players. Adding the likes of Pat Chung, Kenny Phillips, Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams is a jolt of energy, talents, toughness and competition to what was, to say the least, a dismal group last year.
Let's take a look a the talent currently on the roster:
|Kurt Coleman||S||5'11"||195||Ohio State||3||24|
|Nate Allen||S||6'1"||210||South Florida||3||25|
|David Sims||S||5'9"||204||Iowa State||1||26|
Safety has been a mess since Brian Dawkins and to a lesser extent, Quintin Mikell, left the team. The way to build it back up is through competition and talent. Adding Pat Chung and Kenny Phillips, spearheads the effort. At strong safety, Chung is likely to take on the reigns and will almost definitely be the man, who at the very least, has a leg up in the competition for the job. He was benched last year on a bad secondary in New England and has battled several injuries in his four years in the league. Chung is a very big hitter and a very smart player who needs to stay healthy and prove he can play in the box at his size, consistently. Listed at the same height on the Eagles website, Chung is 15 pounds heavier than Kurt Coleman and weighs as much as Nate Allen, who is two-inches taller. Chung is the type of smash player that Eagles fans will definitely appreciate. Good luck, Kurt.
The free safety position is the definition of competition, with Allen returning for a less-than-stellar two seasons following a leg injury and the newly added Phillips, who is looking to prove he can stay healthy and be the safety we all thought he could be coming out of Miami. Phillips is here on a one-year deal and Allen is on the last year of his, so these guys are literally fighting for the right to stay and be on the NFL radar. The addition of Phillips is a warning shot to Allen. If he doesn't take it that way and step up his game, he likely could be cut or benched.
Overall, I expect the Eagles to add at least one safety to the bunch, with Colt Anderson, Kurt Coleman, David Sims and the rookie fighting for one or two spots. Coleman and Anderson have proven that they are hard workers and stay grounded, so they will definitely be game. Sims doesn't want to go back to picking up trash and a rookie is going to want to prove himself, so you can count them in too.
|Brandon Hughes||CB||5'11"||185||Oregon State||4||26|
|Curtis Marsh||CB||6'1"||197||Utah State||2||25|
|Eddie Whitley||CB||6'0"||191||Virginia Tech||1||23|
The cornerback group was reeling heading into the offseason, but now there is new life. Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher are joining a group that was seemingly empty just days ago, but you really look at the entire leftover group, you can see there are guys ready to prove they can play. Brandon Hughes, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Boykin and Trevard Lindley all showed flashes under Andy Reid, and while they aren't likely to be counted on to be number one guys, they will fight for jobs. Boykin is likely the starting nickel cornerback but he has said he aspires to play on the outside. Marsh and Hughes have been on the team for a while and have been buried on the depth chart because of lazier veterans but more talented veterans like Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. It is their time to prove they belong or they can hit the bricks. In particular, Marsh seems to have the size that Chip Kelly desires in his secondary pieces (considering the size of Fletcher, Phillips and Williams). He will likely compete with Boykin, a mid-round rookie, Boykin and Fletcher for one of the spots.
While I believe Williams was brought here to start, there is no reason to believe he will be the guy facing the other team's top wide receiver. Williams has talked about wanting that responsibility so he will have to stay chippy and hold off the other guys. Williams as noted several times by other Eagles writers and the national media, plays with an edge and is likely to rub off his attitude on others in the locker room, which can only mean good things (or at least different attitudes from last year).
So with all the additions in free agency and more likely coming in April's draft, do you think the Eagles have already improved their defensive backfield?