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Eagles Mailbag: Philadelphia's defense has the potential to be very good under Jim Schwartz

Eagles Q&A.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the latest edition of the BGN Mailbag. Each weekend I'll be taking some of your Philadelphia Eagles questions and answering them here. As always, thanks to everyone on Twitter who sent in a question. We already answered some of your inquiries on the latest episode of BGN Radio (click HERE to listen). Now I'll be getting to some of the ones we didn't already address. Let's get started. To the Q&A ...

@DanielRichwine asks: Predict the Eagles defense this season, ranking in yards, points, and DVOA.

The Eagles' 2015 defense finished 30th in yards, 28th in points, and 17th in DVOA. Despite these low ranking, the Eagles' defense actually played really well at times last season. They ranked No. 2 overall in DVOA at one point prior to completely collapsing down the stretch. Philadelphia's yards and points rankings should improve simply with Chip Kelly's fast-paced offense being gone. In theory, at least, the defense won't be playing as many snaps as they've been forced to play over the past couple years.

The addition of Jim Schwartz is obviously huge. Here's a look at how his units have ranked during his last three seasons spent as a defensive coordinator.

Jim Schwartz Yards Points DVOA
2014 Bills 4 4 2
2008 Titans 7 2 5
2007 Titans 5 8 1

As you can see, those are some very impressive rankings. But can Schwartz turn around the Eagles' defense in just one season? There are some reasons for optimism. Philadelphia's pass rush should be improved with Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, and Brandon Graham returning to the 4-3. The linebacker corps of Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, and Mychal Kendricks should be good if they can stay healthy. Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod combine to form one of the NFL's best safety tandems. The cornerback picture is sketchy, but Eric Rowe has potential and Leodis McKelvin has looked good so far this spring.

I know some people get scared about the wide nine, but the fact is that this is a much different situation from 2011 and 2012. The Eagles have much better defensive personnel than they did back then. Schwartz is infinitely more qualified and accomplished as a defensive coordinator than Juan Castillo.

The Eagles should be at least an above average defense this year. I'm going to conservatively say they finish something like 13th in yards, 12th in points, and 10th in DVOA. So just on the cusp of being a top 10 defense.

@mariozmd asks: Do you fire Howie Roseman this year if Eagles stink? Does Jeffrey Lurie?

I wouldn't expect Howie Roseman to be fired after this season unless the Eagles end up being REALLY bad. Like 0-16 or 1-15 kind of bad. I expect them to go 4-12 at the very worst. My realistic prediction is 6-10. I think 8-8 is a reasonably optimistic projection.

I think Roseman's job security is relativity secure in the short-term. His long-term future is tied to the performance of both head coach Doug Pederson and potential future franchise quarterback Carson Wentz. If both of those guys are flops, I don't see how Lurie can justify keeping Roseman around for yet another coaching change. I don't think we'll be able to fully gauge both Pederson and Wentz after just one season so I wouldn't fire Roseman and neither would Lurie. Again, that could change if this year's team proves to be a total disaster.

@herbicidel asks: What's the max guaranteed and average salary you would give Fletcher Cox in his contract?

It was reported earlier this offseason that Cox turned down a deal worth $60 million guaranteed, but his client denied that. Then it was reported the Eagles and Cox were close on agreeing to a deal worth $52 million guaranteed, but that was nearly two months ago and nothing has been finalized. That $52 million number doesn't look too off-base to me because it's about halfway between Ndamukong Suh's guarantee worth nearly $60 million and Marcell Dareus' $43 million. I'm guessing the average salary would end up in the $17 million range.

If I were the Eagles, I'd basically pay Cox anything he wants (within reason). He's a complete player who hasn't even hit his prime; he's still only 25 years old. Pass rushers are worth premium assets and Cox is very good at getting after quarterbacks. He'll be even more deadly in Schwartz's 4-3 scheme. The Eagles have to do whatever they can to keep him.

@Spectpooheagles asks: Would you rather have Christian McCaffrey and Carson Wentz or Carson Wentz and Nick Chubb for the 2017 season?

I can't blame Eagles fans for looking ahead to next year's running back class. The team's current running back situation is very uninspiring. The good news is that the 2017 NFL Draft should be loaded with rushing talent. I can't say I haven't watched McCaffrey and Chubb extensively yet, but I could see the Eagles really liking McCaffrey. They want running backs who have big play ability and can catch the ball out of the backfield. McCaffery checks both of those boxes. I've also seen him compared to Brian Westbrook. Seems like a good fit for Andy Reid disciple Doug Pederson.

@JosephFrazierj1 asks: How has Nigel Bradham looked in OTAs?

We talked about Bradham and Eagles linebackers a little bit on BGN Radio. I can't say I've noticed him a lot, good or bad. I think he could be a guy who shows up more when the pads go on in training camp and things get more physical. Bradham had a good season under Schwartz in 2014 so I'm expecting him to be a quality starter on this defense.

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