Eagles Wake-Up Call: Talent Better Suited For a 4-3?


NFL: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles

Today’s question comes from Silvio on the Birds 24/7 Facebook page:

Two of our best young defenders (Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham) are better fits for a 4-3 scheme, and we are underusing them and risking losing them. Also, Trent Cole and probably Fletcher Cox are more suitable to a 4-3, while only Connor Barwin is a true 3-4 player. If the target is maximizing your talent, does it make any sense keeping this odd front?

Thanks for the question, Silvio. I actually think the job the coaching staff has done with the front seven in the past two years has been the biggest success story on defense.

Among defensive linemen, the one player we can say definitely would be better served playing in a 4-3 is Curry. He’s signed through 2015 and then will likely head elsewhere where he can play more snaps. Curry deserves credit for carving out a niche and finishing with nine sacks last season. But he just doesn’t have the measurables to be a starter on a 3-4 team that wants to two-gap on early downs.

Cox would be fun to watch in a 4-3 where he pinned his ears back and attacked the backfield. But he excelled in this scheme last year and played at a Pro Bowl level.

Meanwhile, Cedric ThorntonBennie LoganBeau Allen and Brandon Bair are all two-gappers who seem to fit the 3-4 perfectly.

On the edge, both Cole and Graham are better suited for a 4-3, but they’ve been successful transitioning to outside linebacker. Barwin, as you said, is a 3-4 player.

And finally, inside linebacker. I think Mychal Kendricks can play in either scheme. He was really good last year in a 3-4, but would likely excel in a 4-3 too. DeMeco Ryans might not even be back with the team, but he’s shown he can play in either front.

The Eagles finished 11th in sack rate and sixth against the run last year, according to Football Outsiders. What they were doing up front was working. It was the back end that struggled.

When Chip Kelly was searching for a defensive coordinator, he was attracted to coaches who had experience in both odd and even fronts. He also has admitted that 3-4 defenses have given his offenses the most problems in the past.

Coaches say they will adjust scheme to talent, but that only applies under certain parameters. From Day 1 under Kelly, the Eagles were going to be a 3-4 team. Sure, that might mean losing guys like Graham and Curry, but the scheme up front has worked well, and there’s really no reason to switch back to a 4-3 at this point.

WHAT YOU MISSED

“A trade with Philadelphia seems unlikely.” NFC East roundup on a potential deal with Washington, DeMarco Murray’s future and the Giants’ wide receiving corps.

Howie Roseman doesn’t seem to think that trading a bunch of assets for Marcus Mariota would be a smart move. Plus, notes on Jeremy Maclin and Mark Sanchez.

Weekend reading included a new cornerback name to consider with the 20th pick.

Jon Gruden weighs in on Mariota and the latest draft buzz.

What about safety Tyvon Branch as an option? T-Mac explores.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Zach Berman of the Inquirer looks at the decision the Eagles face with Brent Celek:

If there is any roster decision to watch, it’s with Celek’s contract. Celek is due $4.8 million in 2015. There would be no dead money if he is cut, although he maintains an important role in the offense, as noted above. The Eagles could always try to renegotiate if they wanted some cap relief. As of now, Celek is still slated to earn that salary.

Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz feels strongly that the Eagles will land Seahawks CB Byron Maxwell:

Both of us feel that the Eagles essentially have to sign CB Byron Maxwell. In fact, we almost take it for a given that they will.

This isn’t a case of inside information. Rather, the Eagles are desperate for corner help and Maxwell is the top guy on the market. He also fits the scheme and comes from a winning organization.

Maxwell feels like a player the Eagles must get.

COMING UP

This is the last day teams can use the franchise tag. Plus, we’ll continue to look at free-agent possibilities.