"Also a lot of confidence within the Eagles [organization] that their secondary will be a night-and-day improvement from last year's 31st ranked unit. Why the Eagles are confident: New coaches (Undlin & Harper), new players (Maxwell, Thurmond, Rowe), and a strong on-field leader (Jenkins)."
The Eagles aren't wrong to feel confident about their new-look secondary. Byron Maxwell was a very good player for Seattle. He's looked like the real deal in training camp. He's a big upgrade over last year's starting duo of Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher. Starting opposite of Maxwell will likely be veteran cornerback Nolan Carroll. Some question why Carroll didn't play more on the outside last season, which is fair. Bill Davis admitted he should have been playing Carroll more often, however. Eagles players and coaches alike have raved about how Carroll has had a great offseason. Second round pick Eric Rowe has shown encouraging promise despite a few rookie struggles.
As for the safeties, Malcolm Jenkins returns after a solid season in 2014. The team really does value his leadership on and off the field. Lining up next to Jenkins will be Walter Thurmond. Thurmond is entirely new to the position as far as actual game experience goes, but he's had a good summer as well. He's made a lot of plays on the ball whether it's been interceptions or forced fumbles.
The Eagles also feel they made an upgrade on the coaching staff. Former defensive backs coach John Lovett is out and former Broncos secondary coach Cory Undlin is in. Eagles players have raved about Undlin because they feel he's done a great job of teaching technique. There might be some evidence Undlin is making an impact. Veteran E.J. Biggers struggled with Washington and Tampa Bay but has looked good so far this summer. Denzel Rice was the Eagles' lowest ranked undrafted free agent but could find himself pushing for a roster spot due to making plays in camp.
Of course, there are still legitimate concerns about Philadelphia's secondary. The nickel cornerback position is unsettled after the Eagles traded Brandon Boykin away and JaCorey Shepherd suffered a season-ending injury. The safety depth behind Jenkins and the injury-prone Thurmond is highly suspect. Carroll might show why he didn't get on the field more last year and Rowe could struggle as a rookie. The Undlin hype could prove to be fruitless.
Still, the Eagles' starting four of Maxwell, Carroll, Jenkins, and Thurmond has the potential to be a clear upgrade over last year's unit. Combine Philadelphia's improved secondary with their already strong front seven, and perhaps the Eagles are looking at a pretty good overall defense this year. At the very least, we now know the team feels good about their chances.