Season Predictions: Is the Secondary Good Enough?
As we count down to the start of the regular season, Tim and Sheil try to answer some of the big questions facing the Eagles. On Sunday, they discussed life without DeSean Jackson. On Monday, they predicted what’s next for Nick Foles. Yesterday was a look at the offensive line, which faces an early challenge as Lane Johnson serves his four-game suspension. And today, they check in on the secondary.
BIG QUESTION: Did the Eagles do enough in the offseason to bolster their secondary?
Kapadia: Probably not, although I think this unit will perform better than it did a year ago.
I can understand the thinking behind not going after a high-priced safety, but I need to see more from Malcolm Jenkins before labeling him a massive upgrade. Jenkins has been sold as the DeMeco Ryans of the back end – a smart, mentally tough player capable of leading those around him, even if he does has some limitations. I liked what I saw out of Jenkins in the preseason, but am still in “wait and see” mode.
Nate Allen is in line to start opposite Jenkins, and there’s been little indication that Earl Wolff is really pushing him for that job.
At cornerback, Nolan Carroll II has been impressive, and we could see more dime looks from the Eagles on third down. But overall, the talent here is mediocre.
McManus: I think they are in much better shape than they were a year ago.
The coaching staff raves about what Jenkins brings to the back end. From the short time I have watched him up close he looks quick, decisive and has more edge to his game than I was anticipating. Allen will never blow you away but has benefitted from the system change under Billy Davis and seems like a pretty solid safety at this point.
One of the biggest problems on this team last year was lack of depth at corner. Not only did the wheels come off when one of the starting corners went down, it prevented Davis from rolling out different subpackages because they didn’t have the talent to make them work. The addition of Carroll should alleviate those problems. Jaylen Watkins might not be quite ready, but I don’t think he’s as far away as many think.
I’m having trouble answering whether it’s enough because of how interconnected the whole operation is. If the men up front can generate a pass rush, then probably. If they’re asked to carry a heavy burden, then the answer is no.
OVER/UNDER: 17, the Eagles’ rank in points allowed.
Kapadia: That’s where they finished last season, giving up 23.9 points per game.
I’ll take the under, although I’m not sure it’ll be by much. The run defense should be really good, and while the continuity argument has probably been overstated, I think it counts for something.
McManus: I’ll take the under as well. At the same time, I’ll predict that the defense will yield more than the 23.9 points per game. I think the way the NFL is enforcing the illegal contact rule will lead to a significant scoring increase league-wide.
One thing to watch is whether it adversely affects physical press corners more than other defensive backs. If so, that would not be great news for the Eagles.
Kapadia: Carroll will start ahead of Bradley Fletcher at some point, and it won’t be due to injury.
Fletcher played better than expected last year, but he has not had a great summer. Of all the Eagles defensive players, he is the most likely to be affected by the new rule emphasis on illegal contact downfield. Fletcher was whistled twice for that in the third preseason game.
Carroll has played well, constantly getting his hands on the football and challenging opposing receivers. He also provides some versatility with the ability to play inside or outside. At some point, I think he gets bumped to the starting lineup.
McManus: I agree with you on the Carroll prediction. But since you stole that one, Kapadia…I’ll say Brandon Boykin makes his way onto the Pro Bowl roster. Not an easy task as a slot corner, granted, but I think he’s creeping onto the national radar. If he finishes among the league leaders in interceptions again, why not give him the nod?