The Key To A Repeat: Eagles Beefing Up The Defense
It is no secret that the Eagles defense of 2017 was excellent, making key plays and stops when needed the most. The best examples include Patrick Robinson’s pick-six in the NFC Championship game, and Brandon Graham’s Super Bowl-clinching strip sack of Tom Brady. This year, the offseason goal is repeating a Super Bowl victory. The key? The Eagles beefing up the defense to produce another lights-out performance, paired with an even higher powered offense is crucial.
The Eagles Beefing Up The D Is A Step In The Right Direction
Since the start of the offseason, the Eagles have made moves. The Eagles beefing up their defense started with their trade for Michael Bennett, adding another monster to the line. Next, they traded Torrey Smith to the Panthers for young cornerback, Daryl Worley. After the two trades, the Eagles signed free agents Corey Nelson and Haloti Ngata to one-year contracts.
Although the team lost Beau Allen and Vinny Curry, two excellent players have arrived to fill their spots. The Eagles defensive line, with combinations of Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan, Chris Long, Michael Bennett, and Haloti Ngata appears almost impenetrable.
With the addition of Worley, the Eagles now have a core of young and fast players in the secondary including Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones. These young corners and safeties are lead by veteran Malcolm Jenkins.
Corey Nelson joins a solid group of linebackers, including the recently extended Nigel Bradham, Jordan Hicks, and Joe Walker. When it comes to free agents Najee Goode and Dannell Ellerbe, the team has not yet announced their plans. However, rumors indicate the Eagles will continue to shop Mychal Kendricks after the addition of Nelson.
What Does This Mean For The Offense?
The Eagles beefing up their defense has taken center stage during the beginning parts of free agency period. The caveat, however, is so are the losses on the opposite side of the ball. The Eagles traded wide receivers Torrey Smith and Marcus Johnson to different teams. They lost Trey Burton and LeGarrette Blount to free agency and have cut Brent Celek.
Lastly, they need a punter after the retirement of Donnie Jones. Although the entire offensive line is locked down for the year, there is a lack of depth as compared to the defensive line. The backfield rotation, as well as the man under center, is also still not solidified.
The recent signing of wide receiver Mike Wallace filled one of the holes in the offense. Although there weren’t many holes, to begin at the start of the offseason, the Eagles created some as a result of their moves. There are two holes at tight end, as well as question marks at running back and quarterback.
The question at quarterback merely is about Carson Wentz’s knee. Wentz recently posted a video of him planting on his left knee and throwing, which is a good sign. However, it is still undetermined if Wentz can start going into Week 1. With a Super Bowl MVP as our backup, there is no reason to rush Wentz. Instead, making sure he is above 100% before getting back on the field should be the priority.
At running back, the Eagles’ plans for free agents Darren Sproles and Kenjon Barner are unclear. There is also the impending return of Donnel Pumphrey, who has reportedly gotten bigger and stronger, poising himself for a solid comeback in 2018.
Will The Draft Be Enough?
There is one question remaining after looking at the Eagles moves: will the draft be enough to fill the holes and maintain a Super Bowl caliber offense that can win another title? The answer to this question is undetermined. The Eagles have spoken to and met with some running backs, tight ends, and offensive linemen in preparation for the draft.
They need a tight end who can make critical blocks on offensive drives, as well as a reliable guy in the passing game. With the losses of Celek and Burton, two distinct skill sets need to be replaced. Whichever player is drafted will need to be a instant fit.
Some of the tight ends that have caught the Eagles attention include Durham Smythe from Notre Dame, Dalton Schultz from Stanford, Dallas Goedert from South Dakota State, and Troy Fumagalli from Wisconsin.
Eagles running backs coach, Duce Staley, was in attendance for Georgia’s Pro Day, watching Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. A few other running backs on the Eagles radar include Derrius Guice from LSU, as well as Rashaad Penny from San Diego State. Both Guice and Penny have had private visits with the team.
Lastly, at offensive line, the Eagles have taken an interest in Chukwuma Okorafor from Western Michigan. Eagles line coach, Jeff Stoutland, ran offensive line drills at Western Michigan’s Pro Day. Okorafor has also privately visited with the team.
How It Can All Come Together
The Eagles have an extensive list of draft prospects that they have interacted with at the Senior Bowl, Combine, and Pro Days. Usually going into an offseason, several holes need immediate addressing. Coming off of a Super Bowl win, the Eagles appeared seamless.
However, with the repercussions of trades and losing guys to free agency, there have been holes created. The Eagles beefing up the defense is a step in the right direction. Now, as a fan base, we have to wait and see if Howie Roseman and the rest of the Eagles personnel make the right decisions to continue on a winning path. The goal this offseason is to continue to improve from last year, but only time will tell if the Eagles will be victorious once again.
Featured Photo: Nazrul Islam
Article originally posted on Tha Sports Junkies 101.