Eagles Wake Up Call: A Focus On Defense

Chris Nicoll / USA TODAY Sports

Chris Nicoll / USA TODAY Sports

Chip Kelly recognized the imbalance. To try and correct it, the offensive mind has spent the bulk of his first offseason as head of personnel addressing the defensive side of the ball.

He traded away his most formidable offensive weapon for a middle linebacker. Signed Byron Maxwell to a six-year, $63 million deal. Made a big push to steal safety Devin McCourty away from the Patriots.

“We were inadequate in terms of the money allocated defensively to offensively,” he said at the owners meetings back in March, “and we’re trying to balance that out. I think it showed in our play.”

 In 2014, the Eagles ranked fifth in cash spending on offense and 14th on defense, according to Over The Cap. Perhaps an example of you get what you pay for, the offense finished fifth in the NFL and the defense 28th. The correction won’t be made in one season — especially in a year when the Eagles added Sam Bradford‘s $13 million to the books — but over time, you should see the two sides of the ball coming closer together financially assuming Kelly stays the course. (The Eagles’ spending on defense has gone from about $55 million in ’14 to over $63 million so far this season.)

The concentration on defense continued in the draft. Kelly went with wide receiver Nelson Agholor in Round 1, then spent the next five picks on ‘D’. Was that a conscious decision coming in?

“Yeah,” said Kelly. “And when your needs match the board, then that’s when you’re in good shape.  When your need crosses that talent line where you’re pushing a guy [that’s when you get in trouble.]”

The Eagles traded up to select Utah defensive back Eric Rowe in the second and went with linebacker Jordan Hicks in the third. Defensive backs JaCorey Shepherd and Randall Evans and D-lineman Brian Mihalik rounded things out.

Three of the teams’ six selections were spent of defensive backs. Kelly expects Rowe to start his pro career at cornerback, noting in his one-on-one with CSN that “we think corners are harder to find than safeties.” Both positions have caused this team trouble for a number of years. Evans has experience playing corner, nickel and safety. Ed Marynowitz talked about the idea of acquiring players that can cross-train at both spots, and that could very well be what we’re looking at with this group.

“If you look at the history, and I studied the history here, they haven’t drafted a lot of DBs in the last 10 years,” said Kelly, whose defense ranked 31st against the pass last season. “We need to develop those guys and try not to rely on free agency to go out and get those guys. We had to because of the situation we were in. We hope to continue to get defensive backs through the draft and develop them.”

This offseason, Kelly has gone both the free-agent and draft and trade route to try and bolster the defense. Bradley Fletcher, Cary Williams and Trent Cole are among those out. Maxwell, Alonso, Walter Thurmond, E.J. Biggers, Brad Jones and a slew of draft picks are in. The level of investment has gone up in hopes that bigger returns will follow.


Kelly talks about the front office setup during the draft.

The trade winds now calm, Kelly and Sam Bradford hit the field together for the first time.

The Eagles shook up their personnel department, letting three people go.


Mike Sieleski of the Inquirer argues that offensive line help doesn’t need to come through the draft:

Consider: Of the 16 linemen on the Eagles’ roster as of Sunday, eight of them were undrafted. That figure, 50 percent, might seem high. It’s not – not relative to the NFL’s four best teams last season, anyway. Of the 57 offensive linemen on the Patriots’, Colts’, Seahawks’, and Packers’ rosters, 28 were undrafted. That’s 49 percent of them, and those 29 linemen who were drafted include five who were selected in the sixth or seventh round.

What those numbers demonstrate is a general dichotomy in how teams go about acquiring offensive linemen and prioritizing each position along the line.

Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz looks at the potential of the Eagles seventh-round pick, Brian Mihalik:

Mihalik played RDE, LDE and DT for BC. They mostly ran 4-man lines, but occasionally went to a 3-4 look. He lined up as a 3-4 DE vs Penn State and had a beautiful sack of Christian Hackenberg. Mihalik just threw the RG out of his way and engulfed the QB. Really impressive.

He is talented, but was awkward at 4-3 DE. I think he is best suited to play in the 3-4.

Taking a chance on a guy like this in the 7th round is smart. Ray Rhodes used a 1st round pick on a similar player back in 1997 and it was a disaster. Jon Harris was a complete bust in the NFL. Mihalik is a better scheme fit and is going to work with a terrific DL coach. I think he can definitely play in the NFL.

Derrick Gunn with an attendance update:


Sheil offers 10 thoughts on the draft.