What Will the Philadelphia Eagles' Defense Roll Out This Year?
To put this simply, the defense the Eagles will put on the field on opening day is a top-seven defense. If things can gel, it's a top four or five.
The secondary will be one of the premier secondaries in the league, the defensive line will be above average, and the linebackers, albeit young, are very talented and have shown great potential during the preseason and training camp.
The strength of the defense, as mentioned just above, is the secondary. With three top cornerbacks, a Hall of Fame free safety, and an average strong safety, the Eagles boast one of the most dominating units in the NFL.
In short-yardage situations, three or four backs can be on the field and lock onto single coverage. This will allow Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson to put an extra lineman or linebacker on the field to stuff the run.
In medium-yardage situations, Coach Johnson can use the basic lineup: the 4-3-4.
Anything over 3rd-and 7, Coach Johnson will most likely move to his nickel and dime packages. Corners Asante Samuel, Sheldon Brown, and Lito Shepard will all be on the field with safeties Brian Dawkins and Quintin Mikell.
Coach Johnson says he also isn't afraid to consistently use all five defensive backs on first-down situations. If he decides to do this, Coach Johnson says OLB Chris Gocong will be the linebacker that loses playing time.
Jim Johnson isn't afraid to use Lito Shepard's size, much like Arizona's Adrian Wilson, who sometimes almost doubles as a free, roaming linebacker and corner.
The Philadelphia secondary will allow other changes in the Jim Johnson defense. His signature style is lots of blitzes, but those blitzes have waned in past years. A strong secondary means fewer open wide receivers early in plays.
Best way to exploit that?
Send a lot of members of the front seven after the quarterback. It'll force quick throws to receivers that aren't open.
So, the best way for the Eagles to exploit their strength is to go after the QB with an increased number of blitzes that Coach Jim Johnson definitely knows how to deliver.
Coach Johnson will have the right personnel to consistently keep constant pressure on the man under center.
The Eagles have also had a history of rotating a lot of defensive linemen in and out of games in order to keep them fresh. This year will be no different, and the Birds are deepest on the line in years.
Defensive ends Trent Cole and Juqua Parker combined for almost 20 sacks in 2007 and have great backups.
Chris Clemons got to the quarterback over a half-a-dozen times in 2007 for the Raiders and will come off the right side for the Eagles in 2008.
Veteran Darren Howard will also see somewhere between 10 and 20 snaps at DE. He's had a strong training camp and given his limited role, he should be able to exert maximum effort each time he goes down into the three-point stance.
The Eagles will use those four linemen in nickel situations, when Coach Jim Johnson wants to really get at the quarterback. He's openly said that he will be using four pass rushers in nickel instead of two defensive ends and two defensive tackles. He says he's willing to risk the run in order to go after the QB.
Johnson's plan is not an insult to the defensive tackles, but it's a way to play to the strengths of the overall defensive unit.
The DTs will be very solid, with established players Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley plugging the holes. Rookie Trevor Laws will get into the mix at some point and newcomer Dan Klecko has a motor that never stops.
So overall, the Eagles' defense should be an above-average unit, with the potential to be, once again, a premier defense in the NFL. The defense will keep the Eagles in more games and will also win more games than the offense will.
The Birds' pass rush and strong secondary should create turnovers in bunches against inexperienced quarterbacks and lackluster offensive lines.
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