One of the biggest reasons for the Philadelphia Eagles' collapse late last season was due to their lackluster secondary. The Eagles allowed 72 plays of 20+ yards, which ranked as the third most since 1991. Starting cornerback Bradley Fletcher was burned in coverage on numerous occasions. Cary Williams wasn't much better. Nate Allen was also a liability. In response to these struggles, Eagles fans here at Bleeding Green Nation identified the secondary as the biggest need heading into the 2015 offseason.
The Eagles also identified the secondary as an issue and made a lot of changes this offseason to rectify it. The team essentially fired former defensive back coach John Lovett and hired Cory Undlin to replace him. Philadelphia invested big money in free agent cornerback Byron Maxwell along with taking a flyer on the versatile Walter Thurmond. The Eagles drafted cornerback/safety Eric Rowe in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft before also adding JaCorey Shepherd and Randall Evans in the sixth round.
After all these moves, the Eagles reportedly felt confident about the team's secondary being improved this year. They were right. After seven games through the 2015 NFL season, the Eagles have one of the best secondaries in the NFL. From Pro Football Focus:
As mentioned above, some teams are stronger in one position group compared to another, based more often than not on their defensive philosophy. While the resource allocation strategy could be debated, especially given the big free agent contract given to Maxwell, it is clear where the Eagles’ strength lies. Based on our PFF Season Grades, the Eagles have the best safety tandem in the NFL, with Jenkins at No. 2 and Thurmond at No. 7. Maragos comes in at safety, and Jenkins goes to the slot in the nickel, where Jenkins has only allowed an NFL QB rating of 79.1 in coverage. Maxwell has begun to rebound after getting torched in the first two games of the season, with positive grades in two of the last three games.
In addition, the Eagles allow the fifth least yards per pass attempt. Their pass defense ranks No. 4 overall by Football Outsiders.
And yet, despite the team's biggest perceived weakness being fixed, the team is still struggling. It turns out the Eagles weren't just a secondary away from being good, as some may have theorized. Instead, it's been the offense that's holding the team back.