Sunday, September 4, 2011

NFL Season Preview - The Eagles' Defense and Special Teams

Over the next few days, we will be doing a look at the upcoming 2011 NFL season. Today we continue the preview by examining the defense and special teams of the Eagles. Ryan will be handling this one; regular readers know he is my cousin and my adversary in NFL Picks each week. Thanks for doing this. Anyway, scroll down to check out the last two days of offerings concerning the Eagles. Feedback in the comment thread is welcome, as always. Enjoy! -- J.L

Defensive Line

Trent Cole, Mike Patterson, Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin - This looks like the one of the deepest positions on the team this year. It will be interesting to see how the line works now with new coach Jim Washburn running the show. He will be bringing in the Wide-9 technique, which basically says that the line should attack the quarterback and react to the run. It has worked in Tennessee for years and I think it will work out for the Eagles. They have the players who can play in the system such as the newly signed Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins. Adding these players to a core group that includes Trent Cole, Mike Patterson, Juqua Parker, Antonio Dixon and Trevor Laws, this could be one of the best defensive lines the Eagles have had in years. I especially think this will lead to a big year for Trent Cole, who seems to be the perfect fit for this type of scheme. The team has reloaded on defense and are hoping that it will lead to bigger things for this season. I expect big things from this group this year and it will be imperative that they play especially well for the Eagles to play well on defense.

Linebackers

Moise Fokou, Casey Matthews, Jamar Chaney - This is the going to be one of the weak links in the defense to begin the year. I was hoping that with all the spending the Eagles did, they would spend some on a veteran linebacker. Juan Castillo seems to believe in these guys. He really believes in Casey Matthews and is relying on him to be our starting middle linebacker. He may not be the fastest, but he is smart and knows how to position his body to make a play. He will struggle early in the year due to the pace of the game, but as time goes on I think it will turn out well for the D. Fokou is going to be the weak side linebacker in Castillo’s new scheme. He is a good linebacker who will have to worry mostly about run-stopping in his new role. The biggest role for this defense will be the strong side linebacker, which Jamar Chaney will be playing. He showed a lot of potential in the middle last year and he will now in charge of covering the tight end. He is going to be the one the Eagles count most on and hopefully he lives up to what the Eagles expect. If this group can be consistent, this Eagles D will only get better.

Secondary 

Asante Samuel, Nnamdi Asomugha, Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman - This is the deepest position the Eagles have on defense. With all the uncertainty that the Eagles had in the secondary last year, especially at cornerback, the Eagles decided to spend money on that position. First, they traded for Dominic Rodgers-Cromartie from the Arizona Cardinals and they didn’t stop there. They made the biggest signing of the FA period in Nnamdi Asomugha. Adding them to Asante Samuel, they made one of their biggest weaknesses into their greatest strength within 2 days. This secondary will be one of the hardest secondaries to throw on this year. Asomugha is one of the best cover corners in the league and will only make the Eagles better. For the safeties, it is a different story. We are going to be relying on two 2nd year players in Coleman and Allen and Allen is coming off of an injury. I question what will happen with the safeties, but with the cornerbacks I think they will play better than expected. The cornerbacks are what make this group and will help the safeties throughout the year. We have talent, we just have to worry about the play of the safeties and that is a legitimate concern.

Special Teams 

Alex Henery, Chas Henry - The Eagles are taking a risk in their kicking and punting combination with two rookies. Henery was drafted in the 4th round of the NFL Draft, so that was the writing on the wall for David Akers. He attended Nebraska and has played in any type of weather you can think of. He has a booming leg, but can get inconsistent on technique. As for Chas Henry, he played at a certain university that I go to (UF!!!) and won the Ray Guy Award last year as the best punter in college football. He also has a strong leg and is very accurate with his punts. I really think he will be a major weapon for the Eagles' Special Teams this year. Also, did I mention he was a Gator? Anyways, it is a risk to come into a season with two rookies, but if Andy believes in them, then I guess I can’t question it.

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