NOW I’ve already said that the Eagles would win the NFC East, now it’s time I discussed how.
You have stuff to do, so I’m not going to try and cram it all in one article. Instead I’m going to break it up into 3 parts: Offense, Defense and of course, Special Teams. Yesterday we looked at Special Teams.
THERE is a lot being made of how much better we played down the stretch last year. That may statistically be true, but we also faced a pretty soft stretch on the back half which included Oakland, (an Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews-less) Green Bay, Washington, Arizona, Detroit (in a surprise blizzard), Minnesota, Chicago, and Dallas (without Tony Romo).
Having acknowledged those things, we did make some improvements.
Aside from SS and barring injury, we all pretty much know who’s going start Week One.
The group will almost be made up entirely of last year’s line-up with the exception of FS Malcolm Jenkins and SS Earl Wolff (if he starts). Personnel-wise Jenkins (who has CB level cover skill) is the first real FS we’ve had back there in years. This is a definite upgrade over where we were last year.
DC Bill Davis is expecting improvement in the system to come mostly from players having a better understanding of it than they did last year. Since last year was also the first year that any player here played in that system, there was no one to lean for mentoring. That’s not the case this season so the learning curves of new players should be a lot less steep. From a mental standpoint that IS an improvement.
The scheme itself particularly with regard to the Front Seven, is where all the problems may show themselves this year.
Our defensive line doesn’t generate sacks, which makes us dependent on the OLB’s providing pressure, which means that the flats get left open for easy completions. It was a problem all last year and so far we’ve done nothing to address it.
Mentally this team should be sharper than last year, which again is a plus. However the NFL has a had a year to study any flaws intrinsic to this scheme. Had we not stood pat with our defensive front, opponents wouldn’t be able to be so confident in their scouting reports. However since we did stand pat, they’ll have lots of tape of what all our guys are good at and what they aren’t.
Also no defense is done any favors by spending a lot of time on the field. This is particularly true of 3-4 defenses, which can be worn down inside more easily than their 4-3 counterparts.
On the whole this unit will likely finish in the bottom third of the league as that’s about where we were last year, and we added no game-changers to the Front Seven. This is not helped by A) 2014’s opponents being tougher than last years, and B) Each division rival having upgraded their offensive unit.
What will hopefully save our bacon here, is the upgraded Special Teams unit. If we can win the hidden yardage battle, it will help offset how much offensive yardage we surrender, and maybe help yield another 10-6 finish.