Eckel: Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly's latest move
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
Posted 27 January 2013 - 09:06 AM
Posted 27 January 2013 - 11:26 AM
Hmm. Obviously the team needs a nose tackle if they switch to the 3-4. People have been putting that in their mocks on here since the friggin' rumors started about a switch to 3-4.
Let's move on to the linebackers. The move to get rid of DeMeco Ryans wasn't because he was a bad inside linebacker in the 3-4, it's just that he became a two-down guy with the success Cushing was having for the Texans. The move was mostly about money for Houston, not because they wanted to get rid of a serviceable player.
He mentions putting Kendricks at OLB, but little does Eckel know that Kendricks actually played a considerable amount of ILB at Cal. Gee, think he could have taken the time to look that up? Same with Casey Matthews, albeit for Oregon.
So you're talking about having four 3-4 ILB's on the team (I think Chaney would be fine as a SILB), a should-be-great rushing OLB in Brandon Graham, and three spots up front taken care of (all 5 techniques). The team would need another 5, two nose tackles, and a couple of rush linebackers. Tall task? Sure. Something that can be accomplished in one or two seasons? You betcha.
Aubrayo Franklin, who once anchored the 49ers NT spot, is becoming a Free Agent. Glen Dorsey, who has experience with the Chiefs' 3-4, is becoming a Free Agent. Hell, the team could bring in Richard Seymour to be a leader up front and teach the young guys how to really play in the 3-4. He's played every spot in both the 3-4 and 4-3. Cincinnati likely won't re-sign Pat Sims with the success Michael Johnson and the other guys have had in that defense. Corey Williams might not want to play for Jim Schwartz anymore (guy seems like a real D-Bag), and he's a FA. Ty Warren, who went from New England to Denver, is a free agent. He blew his triceps early on, but he should be well recovered by now and certainly by next season. There are a plethora of guys who won't be franchised tag and have the option of coming to a team like the Eagles. And this is just up front!!
Let's rattle off some linebackers:
Connor Barwin (HOU)- likely to be re-signed, they need pass rushers badly.
Quentin Groves (ARI)- Wishy-washy, but he had high expectations coming out of college.
Gary Guyton (SD)- Had success with the Patriots, didn't do so well this year with the Chargers.
Robert Jackson (WAS)- With Orakpo going down, Jackson finally got some playing time and did rather well.
Brad Jones (GB)- Had a sucky playoff game against SF, but the entire team ished the bed.
Sergio Kindle (BAL)- Was supposed to light the world on fire, but he fell down a flight of stairs and cracked his skull wide open. This was just before the start of his rookie season, so who knows if he'll ever develop after that accident.
Paul Kruger (BAL)- With Ray Ray retiring, the team will have money to bring Kruger back. If not, he should be a target for every 3-4 team in the NFL.
Anthony Spencer (DAL)- Finally put it together this past season. Will likely be brought back, but he's another guy that will be highly coveted.
Not all of these guys are household names. And neither are some of the other 25 or so OLB's that will becoming Free Agents. But a lot of these guys played on decent teams and have NFL experience- the kind of players you have to start with when making transitions like this.
Then you look towards the draft, and there a number of NT's projected to be drafted and a gazzillion 3-4 pass rushers. If they can target some veteran cover guys and some young pass rushers, this team could look a lot like the Houston team of the beginning of the season. Yes, Fletcher Cox could be JJ Watt.
The best part? Nothing says the team can't keep Vinny Curry and Trent Cole and play some 4-3 as well. Cox and Jenkins can move from 5's to the 3's and bring in those two guys on the outside. Roll with Kendricks, Ryans, and another LB, and lookie there.... flexibility.
Posted 28 January 2013 - 07:59 AM
Joe Theismann, as the readers informed me (and I knew it) was born in South River.
I wasn't wrong ... I just mistakingly presented it in a way that wasn't right.