Abracadabra......New news from Chip Kelly....

Posted January 27, 2013
Eckel: Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly's latest move By Mark Eckel/The TimesThe Times, Trenton
on January 27, 2013 at  8:00 AM, updated January 27, 2013 at  8:16 AM Print

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  It appears as if San Francisco 49ers defensive backs coach Ed Donatell will be the Philadelphia Eagles next defensive coordinator.Associated Press  

It doesn’t matter how spread the Eagles offense is, or what kind of defense they play, the team has its share of needs.

They need at least one, if not two, more offensive linemen; they need a quarterback, and they need some depth at wide receiver and tight end.

Defensively, the needs are even greater. They need a defensive tackle, another linebacker, at least two cornerbacks and two safeties.

And that’s if they stay in their current 4-3 alignment.

If the Eagles, as rumor has it, are going to change to a 3-4 scheme those needs increase greatly.

As the roster currently stands there is not a big-time 3-4 nose tackle on the roster, not enough 3-4 ends or 3-4 linebackers.

Sure a couple of those spots could be filled through the draft and maybe free agency, but then what about the cornerbacks, the safeties and the offensive linemen. Where are you going to get them?

The Eagles haven’t played a 3-4 defense since Marion Campbell’s last year as head coach back in 1985 and maybe it should stay that way.

When Buddy Ryan replaced Campbell and brought the “46’’ defense to the Eagles, the team has remained in a 4-3 set through coordinators Bud Carson, Ray Rhodes and Emmitt Thomas, Jim Johnson, Sean McDermott, Juan Castillo and Todd Bowles.

Chip Kelly hasn’t named his coordinator yet, although reports are that San Francisco secondary coach Ed Donatell could be named after the Super Bowl.

Donatell coordinated a 4-3 defense in Green Bay in the early 2000s, but has also worked in 3-4 defenses such as the one the 49ers currently employ.

Could the Eagles successfully make the switch to the 3-4? Sure, but it’s going to take a lot of work and cost a lot of players’ jobs.

Let’s start up front where if the Eagles stayed in the 4-3 their likely front would include a rotation of Trent Cole, Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry at end, and Fletcher Cox, Cullen Jenkins, if he is kept, and Cedric Thorton plus a draft pick inside.

That actually isn’t a bad group. On a 4-12 team with holes everywhere, the line is probably the strength. Switch to a 3-4 and all that changes.

In a 3-4 you want big men up front. Ideally in the 6-foot-4 range and at least 300 pounds for the ends and then a massive nose tackle in the middle.

Cole, who is coming off the least productive season of his career and will be 31 in October, is not a good fit in the 3-4. He’s too small (6-3, 270) to stay up front and may not have the speed at this stage of his career to be a stand-up outside linebacker. Then again, maybe the organization is looking to move on from him anyway.

If the Philadelphia Eagles switch to a 3-4 defense, Trenton Cole is too small to stay on the end.Michael Perez/Associated Press  

Curry, the team’s second-round draft pick who played well when given a chance late in the season, at 6-3, 266, is also a bad fit in a 3-4 scheme. It’s why the teams who play that defense stayed away from him in the draft.

Cox, 6-4, 298, and Thorton, 6-4, 309 could do well as the ends. Jenkins, 6-2, 298, is a tad short but played well as an end two years ago when Green Bay won the Super Bowl. The change could buy him another year.

The only player on the current roster who could qualify as a nose tackle is recently-signed Antonio Dixon, who was cut last year. But certainly another one would be needed.

At outside linebacker you want players who look and play like Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware (6-4, 260) and Green Bay’s Clay Matthews (6-4, 255).

Brandon Graham, 6-2, 265, doesn’t fit that exact size, but could drop some weight, add some speed and might be OK. There were several scouts who thought, and still think, he’s better as a 3-4 rusher.

That’s one, you need four.

There isn’t anyone else on the current roster, who figures as an outside linebacker. They may try Curry, but again 3-4 teams, desperate for pass rushers in last year’s draft, stayed away from him for a reason. He’s a 4-3 end.

Inside, the Eagles would likely try Mychal Kendricks, who might not be bad at all, with DeMeco Ryans, Jamar Chaney and Casey Matthews.

Ryans remember was traded by Houston to the Eagles, because he did not fit well in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme. And to be honest, Chaney and Matthews are backups no matter what system you play.

In his introductory press conference, Kelly made it clear he would fit his system around his players, not force players to do what they cannot do. It’s hard to look at the Eagles roster and see the makings of a 3-4 defense.

Linebacker Mychal Kendricks (95) should be able to play in a 3-4 defense.Chris Faytok/Star-Ledger  

• MY BAD: You leave out one word and it changes everything, and 100, or so, readers point it out to you. In Thursday’s column it read that Baltimore’s Joe Flacco was the first New Jersey native to quarterback his team to a Super Bowl. It should have said South Jersey.

Joe Theismann, as the readers informed me (and I knew it) was born in South River. Also Jim McMahon (Jersey City) and Neil O’Donnell (Morristown) hail from our Garden State. Flacco is the first, however, from the southern part of the state.

1. SAN FRANCISCO (13-4-1)
2. BALTIMORE (13-6)
3. ATLANTA (14-4)
4. DENVER (13-4)
5. NEW ENGLAND (13-5)
28. DETROIT (4-12)
29. EAGLES (4-12)
30. OAKLAND (4-12)
31. KANSAS CITY (2-14)

Contact Mark Eckel at meckel@njtimes.com

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  • a 3-4 defense would be worse than the wide 9. Its not in the Eagle culture
  • Chip Kelly is going to do what is best for the defense. I think a hybrid is probably more of a reality than a "4-3" or "3-4" base. He will utilize the personnel on the team to maximize the talent and neutralize the opponent.

    If the Colts were able to get longtime DE's Freeney and Mathis to play OLB. I don't see it being much of a difference putting Trent Cole and Graham in the same situation. Especially since BOTH of them played linebacker in College. Cole might have to slim down a bit, but this could increase his speed and agility (he is also a year younger than Freeney). Graham was compared to Steelers OLB Lamarr Woodley coming out of Michigan, so it would be no surprise for him to step into the OLB/3-4 Role.

    Fletcher Cox is the prototypical 3-4 DE and could dominate the line of scrimmage like 49ers Justin Smith. Cullen Jenkins also makes a decent option as a 3-4 DE with both versatile enough to play DT depending on the situation. Patterson/Thorton are not dominant/bull rushing DT's and could be a decent 3-4 End options (perhaps) as well.

    Linebacker is a concern (and has been no matter what defense the Eagles decide to run). While DeMeco is more familiar with the 4-3 defense, he's still good enough/experienced to play inside on a 3-4 defense. Kendricks could also excel at ILB and could leap in terms of production with a 3-4 scheme.

    The Eagles will need a DT and will have to draft him early (1st or 2nd round at the latest) if they want an impact player. The reason Antonio Dixon was cut, was because he didn't fit the speed rush of the "Wide 9". He skill set actually is more set to be a 3-4 NT given his size/speed.

    Vinny Curry is strictly a 4-3 End IMO but could provide depth when the Eagles decide to use the 4-3 alignment. I think he's going to be a nice addition as a 4-3 End and his skill set will be used (even if it's only situational).

    The secondary is one of the biggest concerns on the team (outside of offensive line). Nnamdi looked lost at times, and is starting to get older. DRC probably won't be back given the Eagles are probably going to move to a more physical style of play (don't be surprised if our top pick is the best CB in the draft Dee Milliner). His skill set is comparable to 49ers CB Carlos Rogers, and he not only excels at bump and run, but also is a sure tackler.

    The Eagles will draft a safety early. I see them grabbing one in either the 2nd or 3rd round. Nate Allen has been slow to recover from his ACL (generally takes 2 years to recover unless you are a freak like Petersen). He will be 2 years removed form his ACL injury, so if he's going to improve, this is the year.

    Obviously there is FA etc, so who knows what players will be on the team when draft day hits. Our priorities could shift at a moments notice. But right now, I think we have enough "moving" components to shift in either direction (4-3/3-4 hybrid defense is what we will probably run with this season).

    My guess is the Eagles will announce all their coaching staff post SuperBowl. Everyone (self included) is anxious to hear who the coaches will be, but remember, it's a marathon not a sprint. Best to weigh all our options and find the best fit. September is a LONG way off.
  • Two days ago I was making many of these points in a response to Easy.

    What I actually said was this:
    If the Eagles really want to go to a 3-4, not only do they lack the coach, they also lack the personnel. Things like a NT, a good passrusher at OLB, TWO ILB's (because Ryans wasn't comfortable with it in Houston (his words)), and a FS who can play centerfielder when the SS is walked up into the box. NONE of that is currently on this roster.

    The Eagles have a ton of guys who can play a 3-4 DE, but they'd need to replace 7 or so guys to be a credible unit. Of course I'm only basing that on how the better 3-4 teams (GB, Pittsburgh, SF, Houston, Baltimore) are built.
  • Truth is you don't know who the Eagles personnel will be next season. Do you think it will be extremely difficult for the Eagles to draft or sign a Nose Tackle capable of playing the 3-4? I highly doubt it and until they find their guy they could use Antonio Dixon as a stop gap. One player isn't going to stop the transition. Especially on a team that has so many questions defensively anyway.
  • Me, Mark Eckel, Kellyscott, and Latinferno, all get that the Eagles would have to move A LOT of roster to do this.

    "they'd need to replace 7 or so guys to be a credible unit." I said that DIRECTLY above your response. Nobody, (except you) said anything about just one player stopping a transition.
  • and a good point, something fans must remember "chip kelly has NO experience in the NFL...in college?? a hell of a coach..but this the big time....
    now did I say he will fail?? NO
  • I don't think it's fair to assume Ryan's wont be able to play in a 3-4. He was still recovering from his injury when they switched to a 3-4 and honsetly I don't think he has the lateral movement to be as effective in the middle by himself in a 4-3. Even if the Eagles decide to keep the 4-3 it doesn't mean Ryan's will be back. Ryan's was decent last season, but he wasn't outstanding and he's making a good amount of money. I believe Nearly all of Kelly's staff is hired or close to being hired, but for whatever reason Chip Kelly has decided to hold off the announcements. No sense getting worked up over when a guy gets hired. Chip Kelly's job is the one that's on the line so he better make the right choices. I don't care how long he takes as long as he makes the right choice.
  • it will be very interesting to see what unfolds

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