As the Eagles look to fill out their new staff, a haunting reality sets in.
Many NFL teams have recently switched to the fast-paced 3-4 defense. Chip Kelly will likely implement this system in 2013. The system requires three large defensive lineman, four quick linebackers, and playmakers in the secondary.
The marquee 3-4 defenses all boast tremendous ball-hawks in their backfields. Troy Polamalu brings life to the Steelers defense, covering alongside the two ILBs. DeAngelo Hall of the Redskins serves as a stout cover-man to aid the aggressive front seven, especially after the team lost Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker. Sam Sheilds and Tramon Williams anchor the back four of Green Bay’s 3-4, providing consistent coverage for the front seven to take advantage of.
How will the 4-12 Eagles adapt to the new style?
Up front, the ideal fit at DE would be Fletcher Cox and Cullen Jenkins. Both are currently pass-rushing DTs who can bolster the run and eat space inside on first and second down. The logical fit for NT would be Antonio Dixon, as he is the biggest tackle the Eagles have. Obviously, they could acquire one in the offseason if they so wish.
Among the LB group, Trent Cole and Brandon Graham would be ideal fits on the outside. Both have experience playing in this position, and should smoothly transition. Inside would likely be Mychal Kendricks and DaMeco Ryans, although Kendricks lacks the size recommended for the position. He will, however, have a full offseason to bulk up if required.
The Eagles could look to the draft to help the process. Jarvis Jenkins and Star Loutlelei would add experienced 3-4 defenders at OLB and NT, respectively. DeMarcus Milliner from Alabama could heal the wound left in the likely departure of Nnamdi Asomugha and/or Domonique Rogers-Cromartie. Matt Elam from Florida is an option at safety later in the draft. In free agency, the Eagles may bid for coveted prize Jarius Byrd or Dashon Goldson to play safety for them in 2013.
One thing is certain: the secondary will play a key part in whether Chip Kelly’s 3-4 defense achieves success in 2013.