By Mark Eckel/The Times
on January 27, 2013 at 8:00 AM, updated January 27, 2013 at 8:16 AM
It doesn’t matter how spread the Eagles offense is, or what kind of defense they play, the team has its share of needs.
They need at least one, if not two, more offensive linemen; they need a quarterback, and they need some depth at wide receiver and tight end.
Defensively, the needs are even greater. They need a defensive tackle, another linebacker, at least two cornerbacks and two safeties.
And that’s if they stay in their current 4-3 alignment.
If the Eagles, as rumor has it, are going to change to a 3-4 scheme those needs increase greatly.
As the roster currently stands there is not a big-time 3-4 nose tackle on the roster, not enough 3-4 ends or 3-4 linebackers.
Sure a couple of those spots could be filled through the draft and maybe free agency, but then what about the cornerbacks, the safeties and the offensive linemen. Where are you going to get them?
The Eagles haven’t played a 3-4 defense since Marion Campbell’s last year as head coach back in 1985 and maybe it should stay that way.
When Buddy Ryan replaced Campbell and brought the “46’’ defense to the Eagles, the team has remained in a 4-3 set through coordinators Bud Carson, Ray Rhodes and Emmitt Thomas, Jim Johnson, Sean McDermott, Juan Castillo and Todd Bowles.
Chip Kelly hasn’t named his coordinator yet, although reports are that San Francisco secondary coach Ed Donatell could be named after the Super Bowl.
Donatell coordinated a 4-3 defense in Green Bay in the early 2000s, but has also worked in 3-4 defenses such as the one the 49ers currently employ.
Could the Eagles successfully make the switch to the 3-4? Sure, but it’s going to take a lot of work and cost a lot of players’ jobs.
Let’s start up front where if the Eagles stayed in the 4-3 their likely front would include a rotation of Trent Cole, Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry at end, and Fletcher Cox, Cullen Jenkins, if he is kept, and Cedric Thorton plus a draft pick inside.
That actually isn’t a bad group. On a 4-12 team with holes everywhere, the line is probably the strength. Switch to a 3-4 and all that changes.
In a 3-4 you want big men up front. Ideally in the 6-foot-4 range and at least 300 pounds for the ends and then a massive nose tackle in the middle.
Cole, who is coming off the least productive season of his career and will be 31 in October, is not a good fit in the 3-4. He’s too small (6-3, 270) to stay up front and may not have the speed at this stage of his career to be a stand-up outside linebacker. Then again, maybe the organization is looking to move on from him anyway.
Curry, the team’s second-round draft pick who played well when given a chance late in the season, at 6-3, 266, is also a bad fit in a 3-4 scheme. It’s why the teams who play that defense stayed away from him in the draft.
Cox, 6-4, 298, and Thorton, 6-4, 309 could do well as the ends. Jenkins, 6-2, 298, is a tad short but played well as an end two years ago when Green Bay won the Super Bowl. The change could buy him another year.
The only player on the current roster who could qualify as a nose tackle is recently-signed Antonio Dixon, who was cut last year. But certainly another one would be needed.
At outside linebacker you want players who look and play like Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware (6-4, 260) and Green Bay’s Clay Matthews (6-4, 255).
Brandon Graham, 6-2, 265, doesn’t fit that exact size, but could drop some weight, add some speed and might be OK. There were several scouts who thought, and still think, he’s better as a 3-4 rusher.
That’s one, you need four.
There isn’t anyone else on the current roster, who figures as an outside linebacker. They may try Curry, but again 3-4 teams, desperate for pass rushers in last year’s draft, stayed away from him for a reason. He’s a 4-3 end.
Inside, the Eagles would likely try Mychal Kendricks, who might not be bad at all, with DeMeco Ryans, Jamar Chaney and Casey Matthews.
Ryans remember was traded by Houston to the Eagles, because he did not fit well in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme. And to be honest, Chaney and Matthews are backups no matter what system you play.
In his introductory press conference, Kelly made it clear he would fit his system around his players, not force players to do what they cannot do. It’s hard to look at the Eagles roster and see the makings of a 3-4 defense.
• MY BAD: You leave out one word and it changes everything, and 100, or so, readers point it out to you. In Thursday’s column it read that Baltimore’s Joe Flacco was the first New Jersey native to quarterback his team to a Super Bowl. It should have said South Jersey.
Joe Theismann, as the readers informed me (and I knew it) was born in South River. Also Jim McMahon (Jersey City) and Neil O’Donnell (Morristown) hail from our Garden State. Flacco is the first, however, from the southern part of the state.
ECK’S TOP 5
1. SAN FRANCISCO (13-4-1)
2. BALTIMORE (13-6)
3. ATLANTA (14-4)
4. DENVER (13-4)
5. NEW ENGLAND (13-5)
ECK’S BOTTOM 5
28. DETROIT (4-12)
29. EAGLES (4-12)
30. OAKLAND (4-12)
31. KANSAS CITY (2-14)
32. JACKSONVILLE (2-14)
Contact Mark Eckel at firstname.lastname@example.org