Originally posted on Player Perspective  |  Last updated 10/1/11

Eagles newly minted Defensive Coordinator must come hard or don't come at all. (wait...what?)

When the Eagles signed a bunch of new players, their rankings went up on both sides of the ball. I wasn’t one of the people who got super excited because as a fan of the team I remember how bad they were last year from a talent standpoint. The Eagles had lots of holes that were masked by the brilliant performances of Michael Vick, Desean Jackson, Trent Cole and the always gambling Asante Samuel.

I definitely thought they sured themselves up to an extent, but I couldn’t understand why they would sign three corners when they so desperately needed safeties. A lot has been made of the horribleness of the linebackers, and they are certainly bad. However, I’d be less worried about the Eagles giving up the run if they weren’t also giving up the world to Tight Ends. Of the 8 touch downs scored against the Eagles, 5 have been by running backs or Tight Ends. There’s no point in having three stellar corners to guard against the pass if you’re so holey elsewhere, teams can just abandon the pass with ease and still beat you.

Biggest issue I have with the Eagles defense right now is that it’s complicated for no reason. The Wide 9 approach which takes the defensive ends out of the run defense and puts them almost exclusively on pass rush every play is fine by me. Unfortunately, for ultimate success it seems to require the linebackers to be of some substance which they’re not. In particular, from my view, this kind of scheme needs a good (or at least respectable!) middle linebacker almost as bad as a base 3-4 defense needs a solid outside linebacker.

The Eagles are rotating the line to keep legs fresh, which also sounded great to me in the beginning but now I’m not sure. I do think it’s good to have 8 different guys learn the base defense and be semi-interchangeable, but it’s not really smart to think they all function the same way. Some of the guys are already playing 30%+ more snaps than others. And it might be throwing things out of wack since they’re rotating weaker players consistently rather than using weaker players only when injuries occur. I’m torn on which strategy is best at this point.

To make use of the three star corners, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Samuel and Nnamdi Asomugha, the Eagles are 1. sitting Rodgers-Cromartie way too much 2. putting Asomugha in a million different positions on the field 3. Making Rodgers-Cromartie play the slot when Joselio Hanson is soooo much better at it 4. Forcing the secondary to play in a zone style that suits Samuel and Samuel only.

I complained that the Eagles might trade Samuel (he’s my favorite Eagle) but at that point I was assuming they had some great strategy in mind for how to use the three corners together. I don’t think they did….or maybe they “thought” Rodgers-Cromartie would get the slot position down right away…but given his background (and no OTAs and mini-camps) there’s no reason to believe that would happen.

Of course, the Eagles don’t seem to be much into reality and that’s why they thought the undersized 4th rounder Casey Matthews could come in and make a difference right away. He is now being replace with *wait for it* a fellow rookie drafted even later than he was (6th round).

But back to my point…Asomugha alone has lined up: in the slot, as a safety, behind an end, as right corner and God knows what else. It has been disorienting for him. But it’s also been disorienting to his teammates. When watching the Eagles D play, you get a sense that no one knows where anyone else is. One of the biggest things in the NFL is the focus on giving QBs different looks and keeping them confused. I get it. But when you’re keeping your own players confused it kinda defeats the point.

Right now there is no synergy between the front and the back of the Eagles defense. I just don’t see why Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie aren’t playing press–at least for now. A lot of teams dream of having two PROVEN press corners. Eagles should leave Joselio in the slot and maybe try Asante out as free safety. I may be saying something radical here given his size and the fact that he hasn’t played the position since his freshman year of college, but if Asante wants to roam and ball hawk like a tiny Ed Reed, I say let him try it. It looks no sillier on its face than having linebackers that welcome you to munchkin land. If the Jets Jim Leonhard can play strong safety in the NFL at his size anything is possible.

They still need a better strong safety for the T.E.s but in the mean time they can use Asomugha to defend T.E.s when there is a Tony Gonzalez or Vernon Davis on the opposing team.

Next year when everyone is more comfortable, perhaps they can get fancier, but a simplified defense that emphasizes the players’ strengths would be much more productive for a team where 63% of its starting defense players are new to the team and there were no off season opportunities to jell.

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