Now that we’re through free agency, I think it’s time to take another look at the defensive line-up. Previously, I put together an illustration of the Eagles 2012 starting defensive line-up, with each position color-coded according to performance/ability.
Today, I’ll put the same illustration together, this time with a the scheme/roster additions reflected. I think doing this visually makes the comparison much easier to see. Additionally, I’ll go back an update last season’s using PFF’s ratings in an attempt to take some of the subjectivity out of the ratings.
This is an attempt to make roster evaluation as simplistic and easy as possible. Red = Bad, Green = Good.
Please note that this (the color-coding) is obviously subjective (hence the PFF adjustment in the second chart). My guess is there are a few players for whom there will be disagreement over the corresponding color rating.
For reference, Green = above average starter, Yellow = league average starter, Red = Below league average. If I could go back and change anything, it’d be the CB ratings. I was far too generous to both Nnamdi and DRC. Using pure performance (not potential), they both should have been red. For those paying attention, that means the ENTIRE Eagles secondary would be rated below league average (which sounds about right in hindsight).
Now let’s use PFF’s ratings. If a player was in the top third of the league (starters), they’ll be green, middle third = yellow, bottom = red. This chart will be a reflection of ONLY total performance, so no adjustments made for inconsistency (see multi-colored ratings above).
Note that Nate Allen and Akeem Jordan have replaced Anderson and Chaney. At the time I did the last one, Anderson and Chaney were the starters. However, over the whole season Jordan and Allen played more snaps.
Looks like the original ratings were pretty good, except for the previously mentioned CBs. Additionally, while Kendricks had runs of both very good and bad play, his overall rating was very poor.
As you can see, there was far too much red and not nearly enough green last year. It comes as no surprise then, that to date, most roster changes have been made on defense.
Now comes the hard part, trying to project next year’s team. First a couple of rules: Injury-risk will not be taken into account. This is obviously a major concern, but I don’t see any good way to incorporate it into the graphic. Therefore, I’ll projected the “on paper” defense, then highlight the risks afterwards. Also, since we don’t know the exact defensive alignment Kelly will use, I’ll stick with a basic 3-4.
Keep in mind that the actual physical alignment will be different from what’s shown above. However, I think right now this is as good a guess as any in terms of personnel.
What jumps out?
– Phillips, Chung, and Fletcher can all be considered “injury risks”. That’s a big chunk of the secondary (as well as the source of major improvement over last year). If any or all of those guys go down, the Eagles are back in the red.
– The DL has gone from a strength (relatively speaking) to a weakness. Cox is a keeper and should anchor the line (I don’t see him having an issue transitioning to the 3-4, regardless of whether he ends up as a 3-tech or 5-tech.) However, Spooky is just a body and can’t be counted on for even league-average play. Also, the opposing DE spot is a glaring hole on the roster (hence all the Star/Floyd draft talk). I think there’s a good chance they address this with one of those prospects. It’s also possible Vinny Curry puts on some weight and takes a shot at this spot. In any case, as of this moment, it has to be viewed as a weakness.
– As I mentioned after their signings, the Williams/Fletcher combo is going to take some getting used to (Fletcher may not even win the job). The hope here is for league-average play, nothing more.
Overall, the D looks a lot different from last year (personnel-wise). However, it’s clear we still need a couple of impact players (i.e. green). Maybe Barwin rebounds and becomes one of them. Maybe Cole or Graham transitions better than projected. Maybe Kendricks flourishes at his new spot and finds a consistent game. Hopefully the team can use the draft to upgrade from red to green either at NT or DE. That’s a lot of unknowns.
Keep in mind that it’s easier to go from bad (red) to average (yellow) than it is to go from average to good (green). It’s clear that Roseman and Kelly looked at the second chart above (the PFF adjusted one) and tried to address every red mark (weakness). On paper, they’ve been successful.
Even so, as of this moment, the Defense is still pretty far from one we can safely project as “good”. Though after last season, I’ll be happy with just average.