The Eagles defense wasn’t terrible last year. While frustrating for many games in 2021, the Eagles defense still found a way to finish in the top ten overall. This was all without a top edge rusher, quality linebacker, or dominant safety.
When you think about the lack of talent the defense had this past year, being in the top 10 overall is highly impressive. As the team focuses on improving the roster, defense is a major need in both the draft and free agency.
The real need for the Eagles defense is simple: they need their new face, their new Brian Dawkins in this upcoming draft.
Players like Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, and Darius Slay, are all very solid fan favorites. But they are all over 30 years old and are only getting older. If the Eagles are to truly go from playoff appearance surprise to championship contender, a new, younger and fierce face must be taken to lead this next run at the title. There are a few players in this upcoming draft that could fit that nicely, but it all depends on what the Eagles are looking for.
It’s no secret that this class has a player at every position group to take that mantel in Philadelphia.
Linebacker – Nakobe Dean
Personally, this is my pick for the Eagles when you’re looking at a young leader, fierce competitor, and excellent production.
Dean was the heartbeat of the Georgia defense, the same way Dawkins was at Clemson. Dean has good athleticism, instincts and can set the tone at any given time. The Eagles have a desperate need at linebacker and Dean would not just fill the hole, but would do so in a way that the franchise hasn’t seen since Seth Joyner.
Forget other LB options, the Eagles need a true face for the entire defense and Dean is the perfect fit for that.
Secondary – Kyle Hamilton
Do I think Hamilton will go well before the Eagles pick at 15? Absolutely. But Derwin James fell to the 17th overall pick when several teams expected him to go in the top 10 in 2018. Could Hamilton fall because he is a safety? Absolutely.
Just imagine a player like Hamilton on the Eagles’ defense. A franchise longingly looking for their replacement to Malcolm Jenkins and Brian Dawkins and drafting the perfect blend of both players. Hamilton would walk into training camp as the most talented player on the defense and secure the secondary being as solid as it was in the early 2000’s.
If James can fall all the way to 17, there’s a chance Hamilton falls as well. And if he does, the Eagles must take a shot at one of the best defensive players in this draft.
Defensive Line – Kayvon Thibodeaux
A month ago, there was no way Thibodeaux was falling outside of the top five. Since then, however, we have heard nothing about character concerns from the Oregon standout. There hasn’t been much evidence for this type of character concern but it opens the door for Thibodeaux to fall in the draft. Whether it’s outside the top 10 or top 15, it opens the door for Philadelphia to jump up in the draft and get a player like Thibodeaux.
The Eagles have a need at every level of the defense but edge rusher is certainly the largest need on the entire defense. A player like Kayvon Thibodeaux would step in and not only improve the defense exponentially, but it would open the door for him to be the best player the team has drafted since they took Flecther Cox in 2012. Cox isn’t the player he was when he came out of college, and Thibodeaux would take over for Graham and Cox when they eventually retire or leave the organization.
It’s easy to say the Eagles need to draft their next spiritual leader like Brian Dawkins. It’s another thing to figure out who would fill that role and be able to let that player develop. It has become increasingly clear though, that Philadelphia needs to find its next leader on the defensive side of the football.
And the sooner they find that player, the sooner they become Super Bowl contenders again.
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire