Eagles Wake-Up Call: On the Buffalo Influence
It’s not exactly Bills South, but the defensive roster did get some Buffalo 2014 flavor added to it pretty quickly once free agency opened last week.
Cornerbacks Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks and linebacker Nigel Bradham all ended up in Philly. They were part of that ’14 Jim Schwartz unit that finished in the top five in yards and points against, third against the pass and second in opposing QB quarterback rating.
A few themes have emerged as we take a closer look at these players. One is that they all had career years in their season under Schwartz. Bradham had 104 tackles (he’s never had more than 59 in any other season) and 2.5 sacks; McKelvin had a personal best four interceptions despite appearing in just 10 games; and Brooks had career highs in both tackles (30) and special teams tackles (10).
Given that success, it’s no surprise that they all sounded anxious to get back to the Schwartz way of life.
“I was excited when I heard that Coach Schwartz wanted me to come in and play in this defense. In Buffalo when he was there I think we were ranked the No. 3 or 4 defense at the time, and didn’t really get a chance to see how far we could go with him,” said Brooks. “I’m definitely excited about this opportunity to play under Coach Schwartz and that defensive scheme that he has because it’s been proven and it’s been shown that it works. And the mentality and the scheme that he brings to this organization is definitely going to be something to see.”
The front office is obviously allowing Schwartz to have big sway when it comes to defensive personnel, which seems like an important development. This is a new and unique scheme and and requires specific types of players to be ran well. A prerequisite, it seems, is that the player must be wired to strike.
That’s a big key to playing linebacker behind the Wide 9, says Bradham.
“You’ve got to have the ability to use your speed and attack, being able to shoot gaps and everything like that,” he said. “Obviously we have a great defensive line here, and I feel like they’re going to be able to attack. The offensive line is going to have to do something about it — they’re going to have to double those guys — so as a linebacker you might be free a lot to be able to just use your speed, shoot gaps and make a lot of tackles for loss.”
It’s a similar mind frame for the defensive backs, according to Brooks.
“I think I’m that type of corner that Schwartz is looking for as far as press — I can come up and press you — or whatever, it’s that type of defense: he’s looking for physical players on the defensive side that can come in and get in your face and lock up on the outsides.”
Brooks cautioned that there may be a pretty significant learning curve for first-timers (which gives the old Bills players a leg up and makes them valuable resources to a group that will have to pick it up on the fly) but says everyone will get it up before long. And when they do, big results should follow.
“If you look at the stats for any of us, I feel like in that type of defense we had our best production with that scheme that he had,” said Brooks. “And so I’m excited to get back to it, be reunited with Schwartz, be a part of this Eagles organization and bring that mentality of defense to Philly.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
“The lesser of St. Louis’ two safeties…McLeod was the beneficiary of a great pass rush.” Weekend Reading.
Cedric Thornton‘s fit in Dallas and more in Josh’s NFC East Roundup.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Bob Sturm of the Dallas News can’t make sense of the Eagles’ quarterback plan.
Now, the Daniel contract – 3 years/$21 million/$12 guaranteed – is more of what I expected Doug Pederson would wish to do when he was named Eagles coach. Daniel is unproven as a NFL starter, but he will also be 30 years old this year and has never had his chance, despite his name being floated for several years now as a likely idea for a needy team. He signs a 3 year deal with a nice check, but as a guy who is actually older than Bradford, he now goes to camp knowing he is likely the backup.
So, why would the Eagles have had such a mediocre year, partly because Sam Bradford was not very good, fire the coach and move many of his acquisitions out – only to reinvest in Bradford?
I honestly wish I understood this deal. If Bradford ends up leading the Eagles somewhere special, I will owe Sam an apology, but I just don’t see it. I have seen the first 6 years of his NFL career and there is nothing to indicate he will reach his original ceiling. But, teams continue to invest in him. I wonder if part of the reason they felt obligated to pay him again was the “sunk cost” investment of knowing they owe St Louis that 2nd rounder next month as part of that original trade. Those types of things can certainly inspire a team to “double down” and the outcome is seldom positive.
David Murphy of the Daily News thinks a lot hinges on the performance of No. 75.
The Eagles clearly seem to have faith in coordinator Jim Schwartz, given their contentedness to roll with an odd cast of personnel at defensive end, where their top three projected pass rushers include a couple of guys who have spent the last three seasons as outside linebackers and a guy who has not played more than 35 percent of the defense’s snaps in any of his four NFL seasons. The last player – 2012 draft pick Vinny Curry – might be the hinge on which the entire thing swings. It’s safe to say the front office felt the 27-year-old was underutilized by Davis and Chip Kelly, given the five-year, $46 million contract extension they handed him this offseason, a deal that includes $23 million guaranteed despite a career to date that has seen him record 16 1/2 sacks in four seasons. Now, they need to be right, at least with the depth chart in its current state.
Perhaps we’ll see some more movement as we enter the second wave of free agency.