Originally written on Eagles Eye  |  Last updated 11/9/14
The good news--- a pretty decent rookie camp just concluded.

The sobering spin--- it's the veteran players on the roster who will need to step up on Defense.


DE Brandon Graham has got to perk up and smile less, according to our resident GateKeeper Brizer...

It's not enough that the Eagles added so many high-end defensive players in this year's NFL Draft, after acquiring accomplished middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans in a trade...

The only way for the team to be truly better and have a championship-level defense is for some of the returning veterans to play better, specifically cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, defensive end Brandon Graham and safeties Jaiquawn Jarrett and Kurt Coleman.

Asomugha did little during the 2011 season to confirm the notion that he still is an elite player. While it is true he was thrust into unfamiliar zone coverages by then-new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, he failed just as often in his more familiar bump-and-run role in single coverage. If he has a bounce-back year, the signing is justified. If not, don't look for him to be starting very much longer.

Graham is a player coach Andy Reid and general manager Howie Roseman have done nothing but rave about in this offseason, saying how much better he looks compared to last season, when he was still supposedly feeling the effects of a knee injury the year before. As Reid likes to say, we'll see.

Graham insisted right up to the end last season that his knee was not an issue, but the Eagles rarely threw him into the rotation. We'll know this year what was really up.

Jarrett was a rookie who really seemed lost without the benefit of minicamps because of the lockout and could not come close to taking a job that was open for him. Reid admitted earlier this month that Jarrett was "thinking too much."

That, or not enough. Again, we'll know a lot better by the end of this summer.

Coleman had tremendous production at times but too often whiffed on tackles. The good news is that it wasn't because of fear. The bad news is that it might have been due to limited ability. No, I did not just say that! Leo Pizzini likes Coleman... so I am biting my tongue...


With all the question marks about some of the returning players as well as two possible new starters (Ryans and Mychal Kendricks) at linebacker, there is plenty this unit has to prove.

But in the interest of journalistic balance, I must point out: the Eagles Defense in 2011 was not as horrible as you may remember...

While the Eagles' defense wasn't perfect, it should have been good enough with the way the Eagles were able to move the ball on offense. But the tragic amount of offensive turnovers they suffered last year single-handedly ruined their season. The offense ended up sending mixed signals to the defense, moving the ball like a team that scores a ton of points but then failing to produce results. The defense became a team that would be good for a team that could score---- and ended up becoming the scapegoat when the offense faltered.

This is not to say the defense was elite. It was far from it, and with all of the moves the front office has done in 2012, the defense should show marked improvement next season. But the idea that it was the defense that ruined the Eagles' 2011 season is just flat-out not true. It was the offense's propensity to commit turnovers that not only hindered their scoring but also put the defense between a rock and a hard place...many times.


According to Matt Harkenreader of Bleeding Green Nation, it boils down to this:

"On paper, the Eagles additions in defensive personnel most definitely put them in a position to improve next season. Of course, 'on paper' does not always translate perfectly into reality, so we'll have to wait like we do with everything else. The offensive side of the ball is a little more difficult to put a finger on. Turnovers aren't really quantifiable in the NFL; you can't get a new coach or new players and call the problem 'fixed'. A problem like that rests solely on the mentality of the players. It's up to people like Michael Vick, responsible for around twenty of the Eagles thirty-eight turnovers, to take a hard look in the mirror and notes on film to improve their play."

"The good news is that the Law of Averages suggests the Eagles should commit fewer turnovers next season. But that alone may not be good enough; it will probably take individual effort on the part of the players to really solve the problem. With an improving defense that was already 'good enough' last season, a commitment by the players to become great and improve upon their faults may be sufficient to field a team in September that could be fighting to hoist the Lombardi Trophy next February."

Well, I won't argue with that. That's the kind of spirit we need around here. It's the perfect "perk up!" moment on a dreary Wednesday in May...

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