Eagles Wake-Up Call: Fixing the Secondary
Let’s dive into today’s question:
— Larry (@lkenney1285) January 9, 2015
If you’re like me, you did a double-take upon seeing that Patrick Chung inked a three-year, $8.2 million extension with the Patriots on Friday ($3.4 million guaranteed). It was equally surprising to look up his numbers after the fact and find that he has 85 tackles and seven passes defensed and is rated as the 12th best safety in the league, per Pro Football Focus. Last season with the Eagles, he was ranked 68th.
There are a few ways to look at this. You can chalk it up to Chung being healthier and therefor looking more like his 2010 self when he had 96 tackles, nine passes defensed and three interceptions during his first go-around with New England. And you can question whether Billy Davis and the secondary coaches are getting the most out of their defensive backs. It’s certainly possible that both coaching and health are factors.
More than anything, though, I think Chung’s turn for the better can be tied to the talent that surrounds him. Last year, he was linked with cornerbacks Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams. This year, Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. Last season, Nate Allen started opposite him at safety. This season, Devin McCourty.
Picture Allen being paired with Revis. He probably doesn’t get beat on as many deep balls because of Revis’ ability to man-up receivers on the outside and take care of business himself, right? And because of that ability, wouldn’t Allen be freer to roam and make plays? It’s not like Chung morphed into this amazing player — he has yielded five touchdowns and opposing quarterbacks have a 106.8 rating when throwing in his direction — but the damage is down because the amount of playmakers around him is up.
That’s important to keep in mind as you set your expectations for the Eagles in free agency. Some are anticipating/hoping that three-fourths of the secondary gets overhauled, but I’m not sure how realistic that is in a single offseason. And maybe it’s not necessary. Fletcher and Allen are free agents and it seems unlikely that either are back. Both spots need to be upgraded. But the overall personnel group doesn’t need to be perfect. Even if they add just one impact player in the secondary, it should serve as a rising tide that lifts all boats.
Revis and McCourty, by the way, are two players that could conceivably hit the free-agent market.
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WHAT YOU MISSED
“He’s just an extremely raw version of Ben Roethlisberger at this point.” On Cardale Jones and Marcus Mariota.
What will it take for the Eagles to land Mariota? Bill Polian offers his thoughts.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Reuben Frank updates the personnel executive search.
Seahawks front office exec Scott Fitterer, identified over the weekend as a candidate for theEagles’ front office vacancy, has not been contacted by the Eagles, two league sources said.
ESPN on Friday quoted sources as saying Fitterer “is expected to interview this week” for the job that opened up when owner Jeffrey Lurie restructured the Eagles’ front office, stripping general manager of personnel duties and creating a new top-level personnel job…
According to various sources, Dolphins director of college scouting Chris Grier, Jaguars director of pro personnel Chris Polian and Texans director of pro personnel Brian Gaines are all serious candidates for the position.
Phil Sheridan notes that NFL teams with head coaching vacancies aren’t targeting college coaches much this time around.
The end of the college revolution shouldn’t be seen as a knock on Kelly. He was the face of that expected revolution last year. But the truth is, Kelly is simply a really good football coach with some interesting ideas. He happened to make his mark at the college level first.
The bottom line: There aren’t many coaches like Kelly anywhere, at the college or pro level. That’s why the revolution never happened. Not because Kelly wasn’t a good hire for the Eagles, but because he’s pretty much one of a kind.
We’ll keep an eye on the personnel executive search.