The Chip Kelly era in Philadelphia has been a thrill ride to say the least and the best part is, we’re only just getting started. With so many off-season moves, this has easily been the busiest off-season since Chip joined the team and whilst there’s a lot of expectation for the Offense to perform this season and the success of the team could well be judged on how effective it is, it’s the Defense that could be the most pivotal.
In the last two seasons, the Eagles ranked 29th and 28th in yards allowed per game. In the pass, things weren’t much brighter as they ranked last in 2013 and just one space higher last year.
Whilst the Offense has had numerous parts interchanged, it’s the Defense that has gone for a makeover and come out looking like a supermodel. From the signing of $63 million free-agent cornerback Byron Maxwell to the trade for inside linebacker Kiko Alonso, Kelly has entered this off-season trying to bolster every weak link with an upgrade. In fact, he spent every draft pick bar his first on Defense..that says a lot in itself. But how do they compare to last years Eagles Defense?
In Pre-Season, the signs were promising. Here are some interesting stats from all four games combined:
Interceptions: 7 4
Sacks: 6 7
Tackles: 293 263
Turnover Ratio: +5 -4
Fumbles: 5 4
So as you can see, this years Defense was slightly more efficient..but why does this matter? The team managed all of this with limited/no action from:
Brandon Boykin (traded).
In the opening three games, the Eagles only conceded two plays in which they lost 20 or more yards in the first half.
Last year the Eagles were 23rd in points allowed. In Pre-Season, they held the Ravens, Packers and Colts to a combined total of 53 points. The secondary looks like an entirely new unit. With Eric Rowe potentially lining up at safety as well as corner and Curry playing at both DE and OLB, it’s obvious that this unit is more versatile. Facing Julio and Roddy White in week one before facing the NFC East’s elite six times is certainly a trial by fire, but it could be a trial the Eagles pass with flying colours.
Kiko Alonso will join one of the most efficient pass-rushing units in the league and bring a whole new threat. Not only do you have the Sacks leader in the NFC to deal with alongside Fletcher Cox, but now one of the most tenacious linebackers in the NFL. Thurmond, Maxwell and company have their eyes set on the prize and as a team have shone in pre-season. Even signings such as Denzel Rice have been exciting to watch as the Eagles seem to have most threats covered…forcing Joe Flacco into two turnovers on his opening two drives is hardly the easiest thing in the world..
The Eagles have invested heavily in their Defense and the early signs are already pointing int he right direction. It was the “X-Plays” that cost the team last year but the simple plays that humiliated them. With the secondary looking much more efficient, this could finally be the year in which the Eagles Defense is once again feared by the remaining 31 NFL teams.We know the Offense puts up points, just look at where it’s ranked in the league since Chip’s arrival. But there’s no point in scoring 24 if you concede 27. It wasn’t as if the team was bad as a hole on Defense..there were just gaps. It’s like having a Ferrari with the Carburetor and exhaust missing…the rest of the car works perfectly but won’t move anywhere without those parts. Once you insert the right pieces..you’re good to go.
A complete renovation in the Secondary will look to correct the problems the team faced in 2014..and if they can patch up the holes then we may just have the team Chip has been trying to build since his arrival. Malcolm Jenkins is the only returning starter in the secondary..the rest are all players Chip has bought in now that he has full control over front office operations, from draft picks to signings.it’s all on the head coach. He sees something with this Defense, he believes in it.
It’s a new look, a new hope, the same goal. Take the Eagles to a Superbowl.