There was a lot of room for debate when it came to the Eagles last season..but there wasn’t much at all when it came to the Eagles secondary..the reason? It was terrible. But why? Was it the players as everyone thought or was there something going on behind closed doors?
As a fan last season, there was nothing more heartbreaking than watching someone as explosive as Dez Bryant or as elusive as DeSean Jackson run by cornerback Bradley Fletcher with ease for a touchdown. It looked easy on the field and it was reinforced by the stats. The Eagles allowed a massive 72 passes that were longer longer than 20 yards with almost 20 longer than 40 yards..they were ranked worst in the NFL for both statistics.
Chip Kelly wasn’t oblivious to this though, that was evident when it came to the off-season. He showed the majority of his starting secondary the way out and went on to sign three defensive backs in free agency before drafting three . The signings included ex Seahawk, the optimistic Byron Maxwell, who in an interview said that the the Eagles will make the Superbowl this season. So it may be a bit farfetched but at least they have the drive to be better than last season..
So are these signings going to fix the Eagles secondary or is there a deeper issue? One talking point was that the players last season weren’t actually terrible, but there was a deeper issue and simply swapping out the wrong part isn’t going to fix anything.
Safety Malcolm Jenkins didn’t say Maxwell was the most efficient signing of the offseason, nor did he give that honour to first round pick Nelson Agholor. In fact, he gave it to Cory Undlin..a member of the coaching staff.
Defensive coordinator Bill Davis mentioned something similar when discussing Fletcher’s sub standard season. But little do people know that prior to his exit, the Eagles were actually close to giving him a new contract that reflected his ability. Not only does this make him extremely interesting to follow this season for his first year in New England but it also thickens the plot. If the Eagles were going to perhaps give Fletcher an improved deal, does that show faith in the player and lack of faith in the system?
The big game that defined Fletcher’s season for me was against Dallas. It’s the big game. One of the most heated rivalries in all of sport. If you fail to perform out there, you will be hated and slated by fans for seasons to come. When Dez Bryant ran rings around the second season Eagle and caught three touchdown passes, it must have sent a severe drop in self confidence through his veins because his performances were anything but consistent after that.
Here’s the bottom line though: Fletcher is likely going to start for the Superbowl victors, Cary Williams is now with the previous years Superbowl Champs and Nate Allen signed with the Oakland Raiders. If all of those players breakout, or even one for that matter..there’s a huge problem that might be overlooked. If Bradley Fletcher especially does well under a new scheme and more notably a better coaching pool on paper following his dreadful year, what does that say about the Eagles’ current state?
A $63 million six season deal for Byron Maxwell is all well and good, but now it’s up to the two defensive co-ordinators Davis and Undlin to make sure the Superbowl ring bearer is comfortable in the system and not just performing well but extremely well. If he just has a mediocre season, that won’t sit well with anyone. Likewise if he loses his confidence, or his mojo just as Fletcher did, then we’re going to be in very familiar territory. The same goes for Thummond and the remaining signings that Kelly has inducted into the system. History could well repeat itself, if it does..there’s no real advantage to the money splashing..it’s the same story..just a lot more expensive.
One would hope that the new signings will soar in Philadelphia and revive what was once a great defence. One that is once again formidable and feared by teams across the NFL. But if these players don’t perform up to standard and the now Ex Eagles are the players under the spotlight..then there’s a much more serious issue at hand.