I won’t spend too much time re-litigating how horrible the Eagles looked on Sunday night. God knows you already feel that. What has consistently been a problem for Philadelphia and stood out most prominently against Dallas, though, is how sluggish the Eagles look on both sides of the ball, particularly on defense.
The lack of speed on defense, especially the back seven, is really palpable against teams like the Cowboys and Vikings that are loaded with offensive playmakers. The Eagles need speed and splash plays on defense. Not that those things are necessarily synonymous, but they are absolutely complementary.
I think linebacker is a decidedly glaring hole on defense, especially when it comes to speed. Yes, guys like Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nate Gerry are both converted defensive backs, but you’d never know with how slow they are to react and attack on defense. Getting “functional” speed close to the line of scrimmage is incredibly advantageous for a defense because it can mitigate dangerous tight ends, running backs and slot receivers in the passing game. Teams with great coverage linebackers can stay in base defense against three wide receiver sets and defend against being spread out and run on, or getting killed in the short game (which the Eagles are).
One draft name to keep an eye out for is Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons. He is hardly the missing piece in the Eagles defense because no doubt the unit needs a significant overhaul. However, Simmons is a bonafide star at linebacker, athletic as hell and a playmaker to boot. The junior linebacker is a fantastic run defender and blitzer, piling up 10 TFLs and six sacks only seven games into the season. He is a versatile player who never has to come off the field. Simmons was a fringe first rounder to start the season and has looked like a top ten pick at linebacker since.
Clemson Linebacker/Safety Isaiah Simmons is everything modern football is trending towards. pic.twitter.com/dP0UPsL0xH— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) October 19, 2019
Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons last 4 games against P5 competition this season:— Joe Marino (@TheJoeMarino) October 19, 2019
37 tackles, 10 TFL, 6 sacks, 2 FF, 2 PBUs
Top 10 talent is heating up.
There are lots of directions the Eagles could go in the 2020 NFL Draft and tons can happen between now and then. However, as it stands, there is a total lack of speed and impact players on the Eagles defense and that hole will have my (and many others) eyes peeled for a playmaker coming from the college level.