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Eagles Must Focus on Rebuilding Entire Secondary in 2015 Offseason

Andrew Kulp@@KulpSaysContributor IDecember 28, 2014

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 28:  Rueben Randle #82 of the New York Giants makes a catch in the first quarter as  Nolan Carroll #23 and  Nate Allen #29 of the Philadelphia Eagles defend during a game at MetLife Stadium on December 28, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Eagles lack a clear-cut franchise quarterback. They released one of their most dangerous weapons in wide receiver DeSean Jackson during the offseason. The offensive line is aging and possibly in decline.

All of these issues contributed in some way, shape or form to the Eagles’ collapse and ultimately the club’s absence from the playoffs. Yet nothing has been as detrimental to the franchise’s cause as a secondary that will finish near the bottom of the NFL for a second season in a row.

And if Sunday’s victory over the New York Giants proved nothing else, there isn’t any one player to blame. Popular whipping boy Bradley Fletcher was inactive for the 34-26 victory in the regular-season finale. His replacement at cornerback, Nolan Carroll, was not any better.

Opposite Carroll, Cary Williams experienced his own customary struggles, as did safety Nate Allen. That’s three of the four starters in Philadelphia’s defensive backfield all underwhelming at best, completely terrible at worst.

The Giants gashed the Birds for 429 yards through the air, the third-highest total in Eli Manning’s 11-year career. Phenom rookie receiver Odell Beckham Jr. accounted for 12 receptions, 185 yards and a touchdown. Even inconsistent wideout Rueben Randle hung 158 on the Birds.

Philadelphia Pass Defense Stats & Ranks
YDS/GMYDS/REC20+/40+RATING
Stats264.97.872/1891.6
Ranks31st26th32nd/32nd20th
Source: NFL.com

Not surprising.

Philadelphia’s defense entered the week ranked 25th in the league in pass defense. After Sunday, it dropped to 31st. In 2013, the unit finished 32nd—dead last.

Big plays also continued to be a sore spot for the unit. No defense had allowed more completions of 20 and 40 yards or more, and that’s unlikely to change after Sunday, when New York tacked on six completions of 20-plus, two 40-plus.

The sad part is this already is what constitutes a rebuilt secondary, at least in theory. Following the disastrous 2012 campaign, when the Eagles surrendered the most touchdown passes in the NFL and finished 4-12, the front office replaced three of four starters.

Two years later, the organization appears to be facing a similar type of overhaul. As many as three starters should probably be replaced immediately or at least as soon as possible.

Otherwise, it may not matter what other changes the Eagles make in the offseason. As bad or inconsistent as facets of the offense and even special teams have been in recent weeks, the defense has had a hard time keeping opponents off the scoreboard.

Actually, it’s been a season-long trend. Philly entered Week 17 allowing 24.9 points per game, 23rd-highest in the league. The difference has been special teams and the offense haven’t been bailing the defense out.

Dec 28, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Rueben Randle (82) catches a pass against Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Cary Williams (26) in the first half during the game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TO
USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps the scariest part of all is the fact that the secondary’s production was counter to one of the most productive pass rushes in NFL. The Eagles came into the week ranked second in sacks. Granted, the front seven failed to get to Manning so much as once, but it’s an intimidating group nonetheless.

There are few quarterbacks who can keep their squads in games on a weekly basis while the opponent is tearing the defense to shreds. For all of the Eagles’ problems, there is absolutely no debate which issue looms largest heading into the offseason.

Not that secondary struggles will come as news to Eagles fans or NFL enthusiasts in general. That being said, if addressing that area of the roster isn’t the prime organizational directive this offseason, there’s not much reason to expect significant improvement in 2015.

Then again, maybe there isn’t reason to expect a major jump in performance anyway. Replacing as many as two or three starters in one offseason is no easy task.

Whether it’s even possible to build a quality or just a passable secondary in one year remains to be seen. And as we know all too well, the Eagles’ last effort at doing so hasn’t been met with much success.

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