After a year in which the Philadelphia Eagles defense was led by a first-time NFL defensive coach, brought in five new defensive starters and had its complete scheme changed by the newly-appointed defensive line coach, things are finally looking up for the Birds' defense.
Statistically in 2011-2012, the Eagles' defense was actually quite effective. They were eighth in total defense, 10th in pass defense, 16th in rush defense, and 10th in points allowed.
Those are excellent numbers, considering the fact that they were also tied for first in the league in sacks. And that's good and all, but in reality the Eagles defense was not nearly as efficient as its talent would suggest.
Before a meaningless 4-0 stretch to end the year, the Eagles gave up 30-plus points five times in only 12 games, an awful number. In addition, they were the third-worst fourth-quarter defense through 12 games, surrendering late leads against San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and Arizona.
They were also completely dominated by Buffalo, New England, and Seattle in the first three quarters. Sure, offensive turnovers didn't help, but way too often the defense gave up easy first downs and three-minute touchdown drives.
A lot of the blame must be placed on defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, who used his two new corners—DRC and Nnamdi Asomugha—incorrectly, didn't know how to execute the wide-9 scheme and often blitzed at the wrong time, leaving his secondary out to dry.
However, that 8-8 catastrophe is behind the team, and a year using Jim Washburn's scheme means that the defense will only be that much more accustomed to it. In addition, the re-signing of Trent Cole and trade for DeMeco Ryans means that the defense is headed in the right direction, and a trade involving Asante Samuel could bring another piece to help improve it even further.
Given all of that, let's grade each defensive starter (as of March 23, 2012).
Read more of my work here.