The development of the defense - now and the future.

Im sorry for the long post, it was not meant to be this long, but I got carried away. I hope people still wants to read it and comment on it.

After 3 games I think it is save to say the defense is what we thought they would be.

The defense did look better against the Chiefs despite not forcing any turnovers, but there is still some problems on defense that needs to be fixed.

Before we can begin to talk about what needs to be fixed and how we can fix those problems, we need to understand what type of defensive scheme Bill Davis and Chip Kelly wants to install.

Bill Davis is from the Dick LeBeau and Dom Capers school of defense. The base defense are what many now just refer to as the Steelers defense because of the extended amount of success they have had running that defense under LeBeau. The Steelers defense is a 3-4 defense where the DL is asked to 2 gap.

What he 3-4 2-gap look like this on paper:



Remember this is only as a base defense. Due to todays rules and the amount of 3 WR set, this defensive front is only played on around 25-40% of the snaps depending on the opponent (Eagles NT Sopoaga have played 35% of the snaps).

In base downs (like 1st and 10), the job of the DL is to hold the point of attack and hopefully the 3 guys upfront are big and strong enough to demand at least 4 blockers against those 3. The pressure in this defense does then has to come from the 4 LBs depending on who is blitzing and who is dropping.

So what is the strengths and weaknesses of this type of defense (remember still only talking base defense).

Instead of me trying to explain what the strengths are, I am instead gonna quota this really great post (seriously go read the full series)

The 3-4 gave coordinators the flexibility to blitz or drop into coverage without changing personnel. Versatile linebackers like Lawrence Taylor or Robert Brazile or Rickey Jackson or Ted Hendricks could rush the passer or drop into coverage effectively. Teams could disguise their blitzes and coverage easily and disrupt the timing and rhythm of the passing attacks that were gaining favor in the league. The outside linebackers could walk up to the line of scrimmage and create a five-man front of sorts to help contain the big, quick running backs of the day. Stars like O.J. Simpson or Franco Harris found it a little more difficult to get outside against the 3-4.

Not surprisingly, the flexibility of the 3-4 front is driving its resurgence today. The versatility of the 3-4 makes it attractive when defending the pass-heavy attacks of today’s offenses, both in the number of coverage and blitz combinations it supports, as coordinators don’t have to rely on the success or failure of the four-man rush. All 3-4 fronts are not the same, however. While the 3-4 front is traditionally thought of as a 2-gap front, there are two major families of 3-4 in use across the league today.

The only real weakness of this defense is simply getting those 3 big men upfront while also getting those OLB. While it is true that almost all defensive schemes can succeed with the right personnel, the 3-4 2-gap does not have any weaknesses if executed right with the right personnel, compare the 4-3 with the 3-4. In the 4-3 unless it was coached by Jim Johnson (and Sean McDermott who actually dropped Trent Cole into coverage a lot), the OL pretty much know which 4 guys is rushing and they just have the figure out if they are sending an extra blitzer where in the 3-4 the OL have no idea which OLB is rushing, or if they are both dropping, which creates some confusing up front.

Now that we know the basics of the 3-4 defense, lets take a look at where the Eagles can improve and what positions are fine:

Lets first look at the DL:

So far our two starting DEs are doing a very good job run defense and Fletcher Cox has also managed to get some pressure in nickle situations (2 sacks in 3 games for a 3-4 2-gapping DE is very good). Overall the depth here also seems to be fine with Bennie Logan and Geathers, with Curry providing some good nickle rush potential. We also have an intriguing player on the practice squad in Joe Kruger. I really doubt this position will demand much attention in FA or the draft unless there is a player with too good of a value.

Starting NT. Sopoaga is simply not a super effective NT anymore and I dont expect him to be here next year. This would mean that going into FA the starting NT would be Bennie Logan with recently benched Damion Square behind him.

I think Logan once he is able to put on some more weight (he is currently around 310, but Kelly have said they think he could easily carry 325 pounds) and strength can be a good NT for us. I expect we might try to bring in a guy to challenge Logan in FA. In the draft there is currently two options; Louis Nix III or Daniel McCullers. Louis Nix would be the ideal 3-4 NT in the mold of a Vince Wilfork, but he will most likely be drafted top 10 in next years draft and it can be discussed if it is worth it to invest a high 1st round pick in a player there might only play 40% of the snaps.

Moving on too the LBs. Outside of Kendricks having some problems, this unit have played better than expected for me, but we still do not have any OLB depth and Cole isnt getting younger and Graham does not seems to be the future (he isnt good at dropping into coverage). Upgrading OLB in FA will be tough with Brian Orakpo as the only OLB worth anything, but I expect him to be signing by the Redskins before FA (I know Anthony Spencer is also becoming a FA, but he will be too expensive for minimal upgrade). In the draft the best OLB prospect is Anthony Barr (Clowney is not a 3-4 OLB) followed by a couple others. Getting Barr would require a top 10 pick and even maybe a top 5 pick.

Secondary and especially the safeties are the Achilles heel of this defense. As we saw with Brandon Fletcher back, the trio of Fletcher, Williams and Boykin is good enough, but the depth needs upgrading. Now at safety, what a mess Andy left us with here. Allen and Coleman will be gone, Chung is a placeholder and Wolff is only a rookie with promise, but there is hope. In FA next year there is 3 potential safeties lead by Jarius Byrd followed by Chris Clemons (the safety) and TJ Ward. In the draft the safeties is lead by Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix (Is name is really Hasean, but he is called Ha-Ha), followed by Ed Reynolds and Craig Loston. Clinton-Dix looks like a top 20 pick, where the other two are most likely 2nd round draft picks.

This means that if we have a top 10 pick, we could come away with a combination of Louis Nix or Barr in the first followed by an Ed Reynolds in the 2nd.

A little note to end this. Remember it takes time to build a good defense. Just remember Buddy Ryan and the Eagles defense. Ryan took over in 86 and it wasnt until 89 before the defense really began to show its true nature and it wasnt until 91 and 92 that it truly dominated.