Eagles 2012 Defense Preview

The D-line looks good, and anything would be an improvement over last year' linebacking corps, but there are still some questions marks in the secondary.

This week started with the tragic news that , where he had been assisting the Eagles conditioning staff.

On a human level, one has to feel great sympathy for Reid and his family. The outpouring of support from fans, the media and the Eagles and NFL families has been heartwarming.

Football and Garret Reid’s death are in two disparate categories. Andy Reid seems to be a very compartmentalized person; it is my opinion that, as fans, we should approach this situation in the same compartmentalized way. We all have the requisite sympathy for the Reid’s loss. Anything beyond that is an inappropriate infringement.

Accordingly, with the season fast approaching, a preview of the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles is in order. This week, the defense is under the microscope.

The Eagles tied the Minnesota Vikings for the league lead in sacks last year with 50, and the lion’s share of those came from the defensive line. Part of that outstanding production came from the new system brought in by defensive line coach Jim Washburn.

The new system produced sacks, but also put a great deal of pressure on a subpar linebacker corps. Unable to withstand that pressure, the Eagles struggled to stop the run.

. Brian Rolle showed an ability to make plays last season and will most likely be the starting weakside linebacker.

The Eagles require strength at the point of attack from their defensive tackles because their defensive ends are almost exclusively pass rushers, with the notable exception of Trent Cole. He is one of the best run/pass defenders in football. Fletcher Cox will be expected to improve the tackle position.

Whether Ryans and Kendricks are the answer to the linebacking problems of 2011 is unknown. Kendricks, of course, has never played in an NFL game, but seems to have all the tools needed to be successful. Ryans is a respected veteran who has been a very good NFL player, but will be in his first season with the Eagles. Surely, he is an improvement over last year’s opening starter, Casey Matthews.

The Eagles defensive secondary was average at best last season. With Asante Samuel gone, they hope having Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha in place at their natural positions will settle the backfield down.

With an offseason of working together with the safeties, the secondary should be able to reduce the confusion that haunted them last year and left opposing receivers wide open at times. The third corner will probably be Joselio Hanson, a proven veteran who has been very solid over the years.

Asomugha’s play was bitterly disappointing last season. He was hailed as the second best cover cornerback in the NFL (behind Darrelle Revis of the Jets), and his acquisition had been viewed as the Eagles' most shrewd move last offseason. 

Watching him play, fans thought that reputation was a mirage. Asomugha has to play like the player they thought they were acquiring when they signed him to a rich contract a year ago. Both he and Rodgers-Cromarite must improve if the Eagles hope to have a successful defense.

The safeties are the unit that draws the most skepticism from fans and rightly so. They were not good enough last year and the position was not addressed in the offseason. Kurt Coleman is the starter at one of the safety spots. A hard-working, hard-nosed player, he was a seventh-round draft pick for a reason. Coleman makes the most of his abilities—he just may not have enough of them.

The Eagles would be well-served to partner a really strong safety with Coleman, which would make him more than just adequate. They do not have one in Nate Allen. Young and talented, Allen did not play well last year. He improved as the season went along, but at times was downright bad. The Eagles did not have enough around him to compensate for his problems and cannot afford more growing pains from Allen this season.

Overall, the defensive line is a strength, as it was last year. The linebackers are unknown because of the new players, but fans can expect them to be better than the linebackers from last year. The cornerbacks are the same players who did not live up to their reputations last year. The safeties are unproven and look to be the weakest unit on the defense.

The Eagles added a ton of new faces last season, mostly on the defensive side of the ball. Some, like Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins lived up to their reputations and more. Others, like Asomugha and DRC, did not. The hope is that they will benefit from a full offseason and play up to the reputations they had before they arrived in Philadelphia.

The same can be said for Juan Castillo, the offensive line coach turned defensive coordinator. He was placed in a difficult spot last year. He was first time defensive coach with a lot of new unfamiliar players and no offseason. The defense struggled mightily in the beginning of the season and Castillo received a lot of the blame. The defense improved significantly as the season progressed, yet Castillo did not get any of the credit.

By the end of the season, the Eagles ascended to having the eighth-ranked defense in the NFL. They must force more turnovers this year, especially if their own offense does not improve dramatically in protecting against turnovers.

The season as a whole will go a long way in determining Andy Reid’s future. Even more so, the performance of the defense this season will determine Juan Castillo’s future.

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Porterincollingswood August 16, 2012 at 11:54 AM
I'll be watching closely on MNF, but I'm bracing myself for at least some version of the 2011 Eagles defense - sack the passer or get burned for a first down. We have a very, very good and deep DL and I expect more pressure from the DT position this season (Cox). So on some days that strategy will work. But if the opposing QB gets time...watch out.
Porterincollingswood August 16, 2012 at 11:57 AM
That game got away from Andy. We should've focused on the run and made the Bucs pop-gun offense move the ball long stretches to get points. Early signs suggested that was the gameplan, then it became over-reliant on the pass and the game spiraled out of control...Eagles offense becomes one-dimensional, Bucs defense attacks. Familiar story.
Mike Diviney August 16, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Porter, yes I agree they should have run more, but remember, that was before Westbrook became a weapon and Duce was only ok by that point, I think.
Mike Diviney August 16, 2012 at 07:32 PM
Another thing Bo, you can talk about how good the Bucs defense was, but it was the same D, for the most part, the Eagles beat the previous 2 yrs in the playoffs. The Eagles also beat them earlier that SAME SEASON. The Eagles were also significant FAVORITES in the game so Vegas didn't see the Bucs D as unbeatable as you did.
Bo August 16, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Never said they were unbeatable, just pointed out the obvious, while you lauded Andy's play calling and ripped Donovan up and down for not being able to carry it out with any success. Four Tampa Bay defenders, who were on the field that day; Sapp, Rice, Brooks and Lynch, are lock hall of famers. So sure Donovan played horrible, but don't forget that he did it against a defense that has to be ranked somewhere in the top ten of all time. I guess we forgot to mention this '02 Bucs defense when we all got lost in talking up the merits of the '00 Ravens defense, but really we only spoke of the '85 Bears defense and of course our beloved '91 Eagles Defense. When you think about it now, Andy forgot that Bucs defense too, wherein he took for granted his prior successes, in beating that Bucs defense, in those previous playoff wins that you just mentioned. What a shock, when the moment couldn't be any bigger, the two guys who we all know are a bit too big, both performed in the smallest way imaginable. The Vet deserved better, and we all should have enjoyed the greatest send-off party, that our fine city has ever thrown. Yeah that spread you speak of, that had a lot to do with one of the most special sports venues, that ever graced this earth.
Mike Diviney August 17, 2012 at 02:57 AM
Didn't say a word about Andy's play-calling. Said he didn't call an INT to Rhonde Barber something McNabb specialized in doing it 2 more times next time they played the Bucs and lost then too. The Eagles beat them earlier the same season Bo so that defense wasn't that great, very good, but certainly not top 10. Rice might get in but he's not a lock.
Bo August 17, 2012 at 06:38 AM
'The '02 Bucs defense wasn't that great,' is what you just wrote. Seriously Mike, you gotta put down that pipe now, and seek help. What infamous line did Whitney Houston leave us with, and it was much like yours right there, "crack wasn't that great, but very whack." I gotta bring some levity here, a little laughter, cause saying a defense, which won a Super Bowl, in the same fashion as the '00 Ravens and '85 Bears did, but you say isn't top 10 all-time, is whack! That must only be in your all-time top 10, right? It is without question, and with four hall of famers to support the greatness label, but also by the fact that this Defensive unit brought the Tampa Bay franchise its 1st Super Bowl, makes them top 10. Though please tell me nine defensive units, in the history of the game, who you think are better. Though please, before you start this list, pass that pipe to me, I'd love whatever it is that your smoking.
Mike Diviney August 17, 2012 at 06:52 PM
It gets very old when you keep saying whoever disagrees with you must be on drugs. The Bucs weren't even in the Top 5 THAT year against the rush. The '91 Eagles were No. 1 against the run AND the pass and gave up 30 fewer yards a game rushing. The '85 Bears gave up 20 fewer yds a game rushing. You have your opinion, I have mine.
Gary B August 17, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Sad when people take entertainment and become delusional and vulgar about it. Mike, you handle yourself well.
Mike Diviney August 17, 2012 at 08:37 PM
Very much appreciated Gary.
Porterincollingswood August 17, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Plus, the Eagles offensive system and personnel were a good matchup against that cover 2 Bucs scheme. For what that's worth.
Porterincollingswood August 17, 2012 at 09:07 PM
Gruden's knowledge of the Raiders offense made a HUGE difference in that Super Bowl. Just a reality check.
Bo August 17, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Vulagar, sure I guess you can interpret that anyway you want but actually tongue and cheek, Mike and I have engaged in conversations like this for three decades now. What wasn't delusional, is what I, a die hard Eagles fan, can objectively opinion here, in respect to this Tampa Bay defense, which all but shutdown our Eagles offense on that day That defense was in fact great. I shouldn't let my personal bias cloud me from the truth, and Mike here is clouded from that truth and also in who he thinks should shoulder most if not all of the blame. Yes, Donovan should be called out for his poor play, least we forget that EVERY play during that game was called in by Big Red. Donovan was never given that freedom, to change the play at the line or quickly check out of it when he saw something he didn't like. So Mike can say Andy didn't throw the ball to Ronde in that game, but Donovan had to carry out that play, even if he got a look he didn't like. Now what might be seen as vulgar is you Gary B, making fun of fat people, but specifically Donovan, with a few of your comments seen here. I guess he did alright for whatever physical limitations you and Mike believe he had, so do say such mean spirited stuff again and again, is counterproductive to an objective dialogue here. The comments you both make in regards to Donovan are personal and only seek to diminish the person, not the QB who won how many playoff games, but Mike is the journalist here, right?
Mike Diviney August 18, 2012 at 03:30 AM
I've never met Donovan McNabb so the only opinions I've formed of him are of him as a QB. If he was out of shape, which he was, that's not a personal fault, it's a professional one as he had a responsibility as a pro to be in shape enough not to throw up during games, which he did more than once. I don't think "objectively" you really think I was taking drugs while disagreeing with you. Furthermore, Mcnabb didn't have the freedom to change plays based on the look he got because Andy knew Mcnabb didn't know what he was looking at. Just ask Mike Shanahan and Frazier and they'll say the same thing.
Mike Diviney August 18, 2012 at 03:31 AM
Porter, of course they were a good matchup. That's why the Eagles beat them the previous 2 years in the playoffs and earlier the SAME year as the playoff game. The Eagles, and particularly Mcnabb, choked.
Gary B August 18, 2012 at 03:57 AM
I'll throw my two cents in & just say this; his passive aggressiveness on tv was just a small glimpse of his personality (disorder)
Bo August 18, 2012 at 06:56 PM
You two are a trip, to now make-up a diagnosis of a personality disorder, which you Dr Gary B just stated, where does this piling on Donovan end. Of course Mike isn't on drugs, but seriously what planet are both of you from. What I was saying in my tongue and cheek response is the ridiculousness of not acknowledging that '02 Bucs defense isn't great, just so you can further diminish Donovan, The Eagles did win the previous two meetings vs the Bucs before that NFC Championship loss, so your using that fact, to support your misguided belief that this Bucs defense wasn't great. When did Gruden take over this Bucs team, and in what year did they win the Super Bowl. So please Mike, I think the world of you and your wisdom which you are now expressing here, but you & Dr Gary need to mask your visceral hate for Donovan a bit better here, cause it without question diminishes anything else you might state which does sound intelligent. Here are the clear facts that support the greatness of that defense. Simeon Rice - 122 career sacks 13th all time. Derrick Brooks - 11 pro bowls selections, 9 1st team all pro selections & '02 AP Defensive player of the year Warren Sapp - 7 pro bowls, 4 1st team all pro, 99 NFL Defensive POY, 97 career sacks is 2nd all time for a defensive tackle John Lynch - 9 pro bowls, 4 1st team all pro selections Ronde Barber - 5 pro bowls, 4 1st team all pro, 1st CB in NFL history to have 20 sacks and 20 INTs in a career, 43 career INTs.
Gary B August 18, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Mike Diviney August 18, 2012 at 07:32 PM
The visceral hate of Donovan comes from the way he played and the way his personality disorder affected the Eagle's fortunes so it's legit. Gary B. is correct in his diagnosis and that performance on ESPN was just the tip of a very large iceberg. Gruden took over the Bucs about 8 games before the Eagles beat them in the regular season. About 8 games before Mcnabb choked against them in the NFC Championship Game as he did in Jan. 2004 and January 2008 and Dec. 2009- with his air guitar.
Gary B August 18, 2012 at 07:40 PM
And not that it matters explaining this, (those who understand do, those who don't just argue)...But I've had more than several opportunities to interact with 5 in very casual dinner settings on his personal time and I know from others who have had first hand interactions with him in the same settings as well. He is a the definition of passive aggressive. .
Gary B August 18, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Lastly...the Bucs game was almost ten years ago. The article is about the upcoming 2012 season, if I'm not mistaken
Mike Diviney August 18, 2012 at 08:04 PM
You're correct Gary. Enough of the sidetrack. Let's look forward. Offensive preview up tomorrow.
Gary B August 18, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Sounds good brother, lookin forward for the O piece ,,,can't wait to hear Merrill do some hollering!
Mike Diviney August 18, 2012 at 08:22 PM
It's gooooooooood!!
Bo August 18, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Yeah Brett Farve probably talked to much too, no wait Joe Theismann talked way too much, could we agree on that. Farve has one Super Bowl ring and Joe has two, but both in different ways rubbed many the wrong way by talking to much. Jerry Glanville, once the Falcons coach, truly hated Brett Farve and the way he ran his mouth all the time. So when Packers GM Ron Wolf came knocking with a 1st rd pick for Brett, a former 2nd round pick, everyone in the Atlanta organization jumped for joy to unload him, but also what they got in return, which ended up being the 19th pick in the '92 draft. McNabb isn't anywhere close to as talented as Brett, right, but any amateur shrink wouldn't deny that they both have an over inflated sense of worth. I'd say they are playing a position which is the most scrutinized of any position in any sport, and that the NFL is the most popular sport in our country. So I think they are both over projecting and your both way overreaching. That if Donovan had the same amount of Lombardi trophies as Brett, you wouldn't even bring this non-sense up. You could argue that Donovan has better career passing stats than Joe. The fact is both Mike Holmgren and Joe Gibbs are better coaches than Andy Reid. If Joe T had never found his way out of the CFL to win two SB's with the Skins, you would have never had to hear him run his mouth, which he and Jaws both continue to do to this day, both as highly articulate & respected analysts.
Mike Diviney August 18, 2012 at 08:54 PM
If Mcnabb ever won a Superbowl, he could say whatever he wanted. He never did, never will and never COULD... so he should shut up.
Bo August 18, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Yeah great you spent a few dinners with Donovan, and he might be passive aggressive, but you have expertise or training in the field of psychology, right, or are you talking out of your. How are you connecting the two, with your expertise in football and psychology, I and I strongly suspect others who are Eagles fans are long ago tired of hearing Donovan blamed for everything, because they hate the person, which has nothing to do with his successes on the field. You couldn't even construct one point here that had anything to do with what skills he lacks and how those short comings equated to the Eagles losing NFC Championship games. Tell me something like he doesn't throw a good short to medium range pass, we've all seen the duck balls or flat out missed targets. It is foolish not to think that this sport, which is the ultimate team sport, didn't have many members of the Eagles organization, whose collective mistakes and short comings combined, are the real reasons why we haven't won a title under the Reid regime, and not one individual who you both don't like cause if his personality. Sure argue, that's what your doing and all the McNabb haters have for years, I am just defending, cause you all really have no argument and I know that Reid and his coaching staff, along with the front office and college scouting and lastly James Thrash, Chad Lewis and Todd Pinkston all came up short, along with Donovan. Move forward Mike, but Gary B bring something factual next time.
Gary B August 18, 2012 at 10:29 PM
Bo August 18, 2012 at 10:52 PM
Mike Diviney August 19, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Bo, not sure where you got the idea you are the director here? After reading your link, the only relevance I see is that Donovan Mcnabb always sought out scapegoats, openly trying to blame the defense or his coaches. He is, was and will always be a loser because he was inaccurate, lacked leadership, didn't take responsibility, and allowed his personality disorders to prevent him from being winner on the field. Move on? I agree. 2012 is the focus here and I'm not getting sidetracked by ancient history beyond this second.


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