FanPost

Are the Eagles moving back to a 4-3 defense?

Like many other Eagles fans, I am mystified by the fact that after releasing Chris McCoy, there are only three outside linebackers left on the 53 man roster (Connor Barwin, Trent Cole, and Brandon Graham). In reality, there is only one, Connor Barwin, who has any experience in a 3-4 scheme. Howie Roseman has stated that, in a pinch, Vinny Curry and Casey Matthews could play OLB, but is there any evidence that these two players have even practiced this role in training camp or the preseason? Forget the secondary for a minute, OLB is the most pressing issue on this defense right now.

Billy Davis has publicly stated that the Eagles are in the process of moving from a Wide-Nine 4-3 to a 3-4, and that where they stop will be a function of the personnel. Well, right now the defensive roster looks a hell of a lot more like a conventional 4-3 than a 3-4. If you were an outside observer with no inkling as to what the scheme was supposed to be, wouldn't you conclude that it looks like the Eagles are preparing to play a 4-3?

Connor Barwin is the only player who jumps out at you as a fit for the 3-4, but he also has experience as a 4-3 defensive end. Could he be a linebacker/end hybrid player like Mathias Kiwanuka? It's not much of a stretch. I can envision him playing SAM LB on first and second downs, then switching to DE/Joker on passing downs. Let's look at what the defensive line would look like as a 4-3:

DE

DT

DT

DE

Trent Cole

Fletcher Cox

Cedric Thornton

Vinny Curry

Brandon Graham

Bennie Logan

Isaac Sapoaga

Connor Barwin

Now the linebackers:

WLB

MLB

SAM

Mychal Kendricks

DeMeco Ryans

Connor Barwin

Casey Matthews

Najee Goode

Jake Knott

Remember that Najee Goode has experience in a 4-3 scheme and that he replaced Acho, who is strictly a 3-4 ILB.

How about the first line Nickel defense?

LB


Kendricks

Ryans


DL

Cole/Graham

Cox

Logan

Barwin

I feel a lot more comfortable with this grouping of personnel, then a 3-4 that is dangerously thin and inexperienced at OLB. I am probably completely wrong about this, since the stated goal of the defense is to implement some variety of the 3-4 (or 4-3 Under), but perhaps Billy Davis has concluded that the Eagles are not yet equipped to make the leap to the 3-4 base defense, which has been borne out by their uneven performance in the preseason. This could be one more surprise up Chip Kelly's sleeve. Or, more likely, a result of too much over-thinking on my part.

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