The Philadelphia Eagles appear to have completely revamped their defensive secondary by way of free agent additions. They said goodbye to Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and said hello to Patrick Chung, Kenny Phillips, Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams.
The fates of Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman have not technically been determined yet, but I certainly do not foresee them being the starters in 2013.
All offseason I’ve been clamoring for an entirely new secondary after witnessing such disgraceful performances these past two seasons. This led me to do a little research and see if any other teams had replaced their entire starting DB corps — and showed improvement — in just one offseason.
I wrote the below article exactly one month ago. Obviously, some actual moves have been since then, but I wanted to re-post it because it’s now relevant since it appears we have, in fact, replaced our entire defensive backfield in one offseason…and the draft isn’t even here yet.
Though I would have chosen different players as the replacements (except Phillips), I’m extremely happy that we’ll have a new group that should be the exact opposite of the old group in terms of hitting and tackling (and hopefully coverage).
Anyway, here’s what I wrote on 2/16/13. I was able to find three good examples of teams who reconstructed their secondary in one offseason and showed significant improvement the following season (plus some bitching about the “old” secondary)…
Link to original article ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
No matter what scheme Bill Davis runs for the Philadelphia Eagles, the first order of business in regards to fxing this abomination that we call “the defense” is to completely overhaul the secondary.
The Eagles need four new starters in the secondary next season. Nnamdi Asomugha, DRC, Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman should be either cut or demoted this offseason based on how they’ve played the past two seasons.
Whether it was the coaching, a dysfunctional mesh of personalities or they just simply are not good, these guys could not communicate on the field with each another and their pass coverage routinely suffered disastrous breakdowns.
Seriously, how many times did we hear about communication issues in the secondary between 2011 and 2012? It has been a constant issue. In 2011, we wrote it off to the fact there were new players, new coaches and a new scheme.
There were more changes in 2012 that may have affected the unit (Castillo firing/Bowles promotion, etc), but come on, something has to give. We can’t keep blaming the coaching/scheme circumstances, at some point a player has to play.
Per Pro Football Focus, the Eagles’ pass coverage was ranked 15th in 2011 and 27th in 2012. 15th is an “average” ranking, but does anyone want to take a guess as to why they were even ranked that high?
If you guessed “pass rush”, (aka, sacks), you’d be correct. The sacks weren’t there in 2012 and the coverage unit ranking dropped to 27th. Yes, logic would dictate that a better pass rush would equal better pass coverage, but if you watched the games you’d know just how bad this group was.
Individually, PFF ranked the Eagles’ secondary in 2012 as such: In their CB rankings, Nnamdi was 101st and DRC was 98th. In their safety rankings, Nate Allen was 84th and Kurt Coleman was 85th.
We all watched the games, this unit was brutal. Besides the constant breakdowns in communications, there was also completely unacceptable showings of effort and heart at tackling.
On more than one occasion, DRC seemed to “quit” on a play after he failed at initially defending it. Nnamdi will come up and make a good tackle on one play, then be tentative and looking to avoid contact on the next.
We simply cannot have that kind of attitude and play from anyone on defense. If Brian Dawkins saw his corners do that stuff, you can bet he’d be all over them in the locker-room.
Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman seem to “try” to make contact when they tackle, they’re just not very good at it. Do you think any receiver “fears” either of these guys when they comes across the middle?
<pause for laughter>
This is why an overhaul is drastically needed and brings me to my next question…
Is it possible, or at least feasible,to replace an entire starting secondary in one offseason?
Well, actually, let me rephrase that a little bit…is it possible to replace an entire secondary and have it be an improvement? Fortunately, the Eagles’ secondary has no place to go but up.
However, there are a few examples in recent seasons where a team made a 50 – 75% change in starters within their secondary from one season to the next.
In 2010, the San Francisco 49ers were ranked 22nd in pass coverage as per PFF (I consider PFF’s rankings most relevant in this regard). After that season, Jim Harbaugh came in and they replaced three out of the four starting players in the secondary.
The 49ers had released CB Nate Clements and demoted CB Shawntae Spencer and S Reggie Smith. They replaced them with free agent signings Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner along with promoting CB Tarell Brown (S Dashon Goldson was the lone holdover).
In 2011, the 49ers’ pass coverage ranking shot all the way up to third (and fourth in 2012).
In 2011, the Buccaneers’ pass coverage was ranked at 29th and they replaced three out of their four starters heading into 2012 and ended up at a much-improved 14th.
In 2010, the Texans’ pass coverage was ranked almost dead last at 31st, then replaced two of their four starters and greatly improved all the way up to fourth in 2011.
Both the 49ers and Texans improved by adding key free agents and the Bucs did it via the draft and free agency. Therefore, it appears to be possible to overhaul your secondary and see dramatic improvement from one year to the next.
The next question is who the Eagles can get via free agency and the draft that can help them turn it around. However, that deserves an entirely new post, which I’ll get to in the near future.
I just know we can no longer deal with our current group in the secondary.
Nnamdi will likely be gone for reasons of eroding skills and high salary. DRC is technically a free agent and though he has decent cover skills, I can’t accept his disinterest in tackling and giving up on plays.
Coleman and Allen? Let’s just cut our losses there. We need a set of hard-hitting safeties that can also cover. Those guys can’t do either.
If anyone in the secondary has a shot at keeping a starting job, I think it’ll be DRC. He does have talent and played well under Bill Davis in Arizona and his problems are mostly mental (tackling, disinterest, etc).
If DRC can get his head right, he can play well.
I just don’t to see any more of this crap…
That’s Nnamdi just letting Aldrick Robinson run free, even though he has nobody else to cover on the play. This was one of those “I thought I had safety help” plays. There is no excuse for just letting a guy go free when you have nobody else to be responsible for.
This is the old and diminutive Santana Moss out-jumping and out-muscling Kurt Coleman and Brandon Boykin for the ball and then bulling his way into the end zone.
Long gone are the days of Brian Dawkins, Troy Vincent, Bobby Taylor, Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard. Hell, I even miss guys like Quintin Mikell and Michael Lewis. At least they could hit somebody and make some plays.
I want our entire secondary full of guys that can hit and tackle. Of course they need to cover, but I want a physical secondary first and foremost. Interceptions and tight coverage are great, but nothing gets me pumped-up more than seeing a big hit.
I want corners who can be aggressive at the line and support the run. I want safeties who are physical and intimidating. I want guys that make receivers think about coming over the middle.
Being physical, yet legal, is an excellent counter punch to the fact that NFL rules significantly favor the offense these days.
Our current secondary has none of these traits, which is why a complete makeover is necessary. And the 49ers, Texans, and Bucs all showed it can be done in a year if the right players are available.