Friday, May 22, 2015

Eagles 2015 Projected Depth Chart-Defense

In my last post I took a closer look at the Eagles' 2015 projected depth chart on offense according to Yahoo Sports, so this time around I am going to turn my attention to the other side of the ball. The following is Philadelphia's projected depth chart on defense:

• Left Defensive End
1. Fletcher Cox
2. Brandon Bair

• Nose Tackle
1. Bennie Logan
2. Beau Allen

• Right Defensive End
1. Cedric Thornton
2. Vinny Curry

• Left Outside Linebacker
1. Connor Barwin
2. Marcus Smith II

• Left Inside Linebacker
1. Mychal Kendricks
2. Jordan Hicks

• Right Inside Linebacker
1. Kiko Alonso
2. DeMeco Ryans

• Right Outside Linebacker
1. Brandon Graham
2. Bryan Braman

• Left Cornerback
1. Byron Maxwell
2. Eric Rowe

• Right Cornerback
1. Walter Thurmond III
2. Brandon Boykin

• Strong Safety
1. Earl Wolff
2. Chris Prosinski

• Free Safety
1. Eric Rowe
2. Chris Maragos

There is little doubt that the Eagles' defensive has been the Achilles Heel of this team during Chip Kelly's two-year tenure as head coach. You cannot place all that much blame on this new regime considering the mess that Andy Reid's staff created with this unit in his final few seasons at the helm.

The main problem has been a defensive secondary that gives up too many big plays. The Eagles have also had major problems getting off the field on third down as well as giving-up points late in the game. All of these things added up to a defense that was ranked 28th in the league in average yards allowed (375.6) and 23rd in points allowed (25.0) in the 2014 regular season. This unit was ranked 15th at stopping the run with an average of 110.7 rushing yards allowed, but it fell all the way to 31st in defending against the pass with 264.9 yards allowed.

Kelly has obviously made it a priority to address the situation through both free agency and the draft. He brought in veteran defensive backs Byron Maxwell from Seattle and Walter Thurmond III from the New York Giants. He traded for inside linebacker Niko Alonzo while resigning outside linebacker Brandon Graham. The biggest surprise in Kelly's defensive makeover was using all five of his draft choices after the first round selection of wide receiver Nelson Agholor on this side of the ball.

The upgrade in talent is pretty obvious, but I still have to question how quickly will all of these new faces come together to play as an effective unit under the guidance of defensive coordinator Billy Davis.

As a collective whole, I would give this defensive depth cart a grade of B-. It is solid up front with a defensive line that helped Philly rank second in the NFL in sacks last season with 49. They Eagles are loaded at linebacker especially on the inside, but they are going to need some solid production from Marcus Smith II on the outside as last year's first round pick.

Many experts are calling Maxwell a bit overrated as a cover corner and Thurmond III is still a question mark as a bona fide starter at the other corner position. Any kind of significant improvement in one of the porous secondaries in the league could hinge on just how quickly Kelly's three draft picks at the defensive back position develop at the next level with an extra emphasis on second-round pick Eric Rowe.

My overall assessment for Philadelphia's defense heading into the new season would be cautious optimism. I believe that Kelly has done a good job filling some obvious needs on this side of the ball if all of the new additions can play to expectations. The only thing that is definitely in this unit's favor is that is really has nowhere to go but up, especially when it comes to defending against the pass.

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