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The NFL’s best defensive units run a 3-4 scheme. The Eagles have been one of the NFL’s worst defensive teams in recent seasons.
Philly needs an overhaul on the defensive side of the ball, and the implementation of a new scheme is ideal. Kelly and his new staff can literally build from scratch without the pressure of needing to realize immediate success.
But the Eagles have a few pieces in place now that they could build with.
For starters, though Cullen Jenkins has not been a dominant force since coming to Philadelphia from Green Bay, he was a Super Bowl champion 3-4 defensive end. It wouldn’t be bad to see him return to that role in Philadelphia. If you think he’s washed up, remember that Andy Reid misuses players all the time. Perhaps Jenkins wasn't the fit for Reid’s Eagles, and he’s likely not going to see a return to Green Bay form.
Also, Mychal Kendricks was an outstanding blitzer at Cal from the 3-4. Kelly probably knows that and will use it to his advantage. Kendricks could become one of the NFL’s better outside linebackers with Kelly. After all, he was decent during the 2012-13 season, and his skills in coverage (especially against tight ends) were exceptional.
Brandon Graham had a coming-out party last season. He was ferocious when given the opportunity. And he had been good during the 2012-13 season up to that point. Graham also has 3-4 experience from college, so he won’t be a complete novice.
Doubtlessly, Fletcher Cox will be on the defensive line where he should continue to only get better.
But what about Trent Cole? Could Cole be an outside linebacker? Remember when former Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott used to drop Cole into coverage and the disasters that ensued?
Cole likely won’t be going anywhere, but his future role just got a lot more interesting.
There are also players like Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and fan-favorite Cedric Thornton to deal with. Are they good enough to play in a 3-4?
Of course, Kelly is going to have to address the safeties. The Eagles' safety play in recent years from Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen has been embarrassing. Neither of them can tackle, and Coleman was so lost that his zones were left completely open for receivers to exploit. Often, the result was Nnamdi Asomugh not paying attention to the broken coverage and trying to play catch up with a receiver who had broken away.
And what about DeMeco Ryans? Didn’t the Texans just trade him because he couldn’t work in a 3-4?
Ryans could work inside, and the Eagles can’t afford to lose him because of how thin they are at linebacker.
Casey Matthews doesn’t matter.
The future of the Eagles defense—if nothing else—is one that will be refreshing and new. There’s a lot to be excited for.