Eagles may have already found their next defensive coordinator

NFL: OCT 07 Dolphins at Bengals
CINCINNATI, OH – OCTOBER 07: Miami Dolphins Defensive Coordinator Matt Burke looks on during an NFL game between the Miami Dolphins and the Cincinnati Bengals on October 7, 2018, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire)

Ahead of a week 17 clash with the Washington Football Team, the Eagles were blindsided by news that their defensive coordinator, Jim Schwartz, was going to let his contract expire at the end of the season and take a year off from coaching. With a huge void to fill, this would presumably send the front office into a frantic foray to find his successor…but that may not be the case.

Say hello to Matt Burke

Back in January of 2019, the Eagles on-boarded a familiar face to Jim Schwartz. At the time, the move seemed confusing, but now the stars may finally beginning to align.

The man in question is Matt Burke. At the time of his hiring, he was coming off of a stint as defensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins. Miami ranked near the bottom of the league in just about every category under his tutelage, allowing 6,257 total yards and an average of 391 yards per game in 2018.

Burke was the first in the firing line after two disappointing defensive seasons but quickly poached by the Eagles as a ‘top aide’ to Jim Schwartz. Why would the Eagles go after someone who struggled to keep the seams together on the Dolphins’ defense?

The history

Way back when Jim Schwartz was the defensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans, Burke signed with the team as a quality control coach. He remained with Tennessee throughout the reign of Jim Schwartz and eventually followed his coordinator to Detroit when he was hired as a Head Coach.

Burke was hired as a linebackers coach, helping names like Stephen Tulloch (for Eagles trivia purposes), DeAndre Levy, and Tahir Whitehead, harness their full potential.

After a year in the shadows of the Philadelphia locker room, Burke was given the keys to the defensive line as well as becoming the run-game coordinator. Phillip Daniels was relieved of his duties and Burke, who had never coached the position before, was given a clear coaching role once again – his road to redemption.

Coaching the Eagles defensive line

It made sense in one area – familiarity. If there is anyone who knows what Schwartz wants out of a defensive lineman, it’s somebody who spent ten years working alongside him.

While this was another decision that didn’t make much sense at the time, Burke’s defensive line helped the Eagles to fourth in the NFL when it comes to sacks per game and eighth in third-down percentage. Brandon Graham finally earned his first Pro Bowl nod, Josh Sweat took a huge step forward, and we saw a gradual incline in production from the interior pass-rushers.

Allowing over 127 rushing yards per game isn’t ideal, but with such limited linebacker resources available, it’s not entirely on Burke’s shoulders atfer a strong start.

Burke now has a rapport with the area of defense where this scheme places its cornerstone. He’s proven he can coach individual talent both young and old in this City and withstand adversity.

A future Eagles defensive coordinator

Matt Burke will likely be a frontrunner for the new defensive coordinator vacancy and with good reason. Not only does he have previous experience, but he has spent more time helping to build this scheme than anyone else in-house.

It would make sense for Burke to get the nod, showing a clear line of progression from his appointment as an advisor in 2019, to DL coach, to defensive coordinator.

Whether or not this was the plan all along or not is truly anybody’s guess, but it’s hard to ignore that a promotion for Burke would not only be deserved but logical. It keeps the fundamentals of the scheme identical, and builds on the blocks he’s laid over the past two years without having to blow everything up and rebuild a defense with such a strong core.

Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire