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Eagles Move to 3-4 Is A Risky One

Tom Pennington

When it comes to any coach in the NFL, you have to judge him not by what he says, but what he does.

Chip Kelly has talked at length about how he will coach this team based off of the personnel and will not try to force a scheme on this team that won't work. It is that mentality that leave many to believe Nick Foles will be given a chance at quarterback. He has already shown he is willing to adjust to the NFL game by bringing in Pat Shurmur, a more traditional offensive minded coach.

Which is why the rumor that the Eagles may move to a 3-4 defensive alignment is a curious one.

The success of a 3-4 in the NFL can be debated. As with any scheme, the players running it are just as- if not more- important than the scheme itself. But at the very least, it is safe to say that you can have a successful defense in any alignment. The 3-4 defense definitely allows for a faster defense, which in today's NFL, might be an advantage, but it is not required to have a successful defense.

When it comes to the Eagles, however, the move might be one that goes against what Kelly has said he stands for- forcing something on the team that hurts it more than it helps. This group of Eagles defensive players have shown over these past few years that they don't take change well and frankly, they have shown they have trouble learning basic schemes. Time and time at the beginning of last year players told me that they felt better going into this year because they were comfortable with the scheme after getting a year under their belt. That showed at the beginning of the year as the defense played great at times. When things changed with Todd Bowles at defensive coordinator, the team collapsed. Assignments were missed and the defense completely fell apart. So completely changing the scheme is definitely a risky move.

It can also be debated if the Eagles have the personnel to run a 3-4. Both Trent Cole and Brandon Graham played in a 3-4 alignment in college, but at this point that doesn't mean much. Cole has not played in a 3-4 in eight years and Graham in three. The idea of Cole having to stand up and rush the passer after a season in which he showed he might be slowing down is a questionable one at best.

Graham may have the speed and size to play in a 3-4, but after the growth he showed last year, why would the Eagles want to risk it? ProFootballFocus had Graham ranked as the 2nd best DE in football last year. Whether you agree or not, the fact is he showed real progress last year and is one of the few players on the team to be excited about next year. True, defensive schemes should not be decided based off of one player. But changing things on a player you have invested heavily in- and need to succeed- is risky and probably not worth it.

In addition to Graham and Cole, the Eagles really don't have many players who fit into the 3-4 scheme. DeMeco Ryans could do it, but he played so well in a 4-3 last year it's silly to expect his production would go up in a 3-4. Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks might be the only two that fit the bill. The secondary is not greatly affected by the move, but the idea of seeing that secondary defend the pass with even less pressure on the quarterback this year then last year is a scary one.

Moving to a 3-4 also seems to be limiting the Eagles in which coach they hire. With all of the holes on this defense the Eagles need to get the best coach regardless of scheme. Yes his unit struggles last year, but if stubbornly sticking to a 3-4 prevents the Eagles from at least talking to Steve Spagnuolo, then Kelly is doing this team a disservice.

Really the only argument for moving to a 3-4 is "well, it can't get any worse"- and there is some truth to that. In my opinion tho, the move is not a smart one and goes against how Kelly said he is going to coach this team.

Do you think the Eagles should move to a 3-4?

Follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks

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