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The Eagles' defensive stats were misleading in 2011. They finished eighth-best in yards allowed and finished tied for first with 50 sacks. You would think that would lead to being a really good defense, but the Eagles were far from that in 2011.
The Eagles gave up over 28 points five times in 2011, and lost fourth-quarter lead after fourth-quarter lead because of a lack of defensive stops late in games. That should change in 2012 with a defense that is better suited to play together.
Asante Samuel is a great corner. So are Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The problem was they had three outside corners and only two outside corner spots to put them at.
They also had a press corner in Asomugha and a player in Samuel who likes to roam the field and jump routes. That requires a lot of zone coverage. Now the Eagles can strictly play press man coverage with Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie.
Sacks will be an exciting race all season long. The Eagles were already a really good pass-rushing team. Their defensive line alone had 46 sacks in 2011. Their top three pass-rushers, Trent Cole, Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins combined for 34.5 sacks. 14 teams in the NFL didn't have 34.5 sacks.
The Eagles added three more outstanding pass-rushers to their line. One of which was on the roster last season, he was just a shell of his former self. Brandon Graham was out of shape and still recovering from ACL surgery last season. Now he is stronger than ever and his knee is 100 percent.
Fletcher Cox and Vinny Curry were two of the Eagles' first three draft picks last April. Cox is an outstanding inside pass-rusher. He is incredibly strong and athletic. The Eagles will move him all over the defensive line. I could see him developing into the best inside pass-rusher in the game.
Curry is another solid addition to this pass rush. He isn't a complete defensive end just yet. He will struggle in run support early in his career and is more of a pure pass-rusher right now. He will see action mostly on obvious passing downs which means he will have more opportunities to rack up sacks.
Jason Babin should lead the Eagles in sacks again in 2012 after having 18 last season. Trent Cole was second with 11, but Babin is just more of a natural pass-rusher.
There will be plenty of times this season where two defenders get into the backfield and it will depend where the quarterback goes to determine who will get the sack. Still, Babin should get around 15-20 sacks in 2012. I don't see Cole or anyone else getting any more than 12.
Tackles were a problem in 2011 for the Eagles. For the majority of the season, only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had more missed tackles than the Eagles. Poor play from the linebackers was the major reason for this. That will change now that DeMeco Ryans is manning the middle of the field.
He has had at least 86 solo tackles in each season he has been healthy. He should rack up close to 100 to 110 solo tackles as the Eagles middle linebacker.
I believe that Nate Allen will return to his 2010 form, but with more experience under his belt. He had two interceptions in his first two games as a rookie in 2010, but has had just three in his last 26 games. That number will go way up in 2012.
He will be playing with a ferocious pass rush and two outstanding press corners. He also will play with at least one really good slot corner. and a linebacker in Mychal Kendricks who is expected to be relied on to cover tight ends alone all over the field.
This all means that Allen can really roam the field and start to read the quarterback's eyes and jump on it.