THE Eagles 2023 Defense is going to be hard for me to pin down for a while. We have Defensive Coordinator Sean Desai, who is said to favor a 3-4 base. Like the man he’s replacing (Jonathan Gannon), Desai is also favor a “multiple alignment” approach. However, it’s our base which will drive the type of personnel that the team either adds, or allows to slip away...
Right now all the talk is about whether or not SS Chauncey “CJGJ” Gardner-Johnson will re-sign; and whether CB Darius Slay will be traded. These guys are important, but those aren’t the big issues for this Defense. Those guys benefit from our identity. They don’t create our identity.
Let’s start with something you already know: Pass rush and winning up front, are what the Front Office wish to be the calling cards of our Defense. So they usually spend the big money, and the early draft picks, on the front seven. Which poses a bit of a problem for this season.
If we’re switching to a 3-4 base, under contract, we have Haason Reddick at LOLB to build off of, and Jordan Davis to plug in at NT. However, every other player at the DT position: Fletcher Cox, Ndamukong Suh, and Linval Joseph, are all free agents as of this week, or already gone (Javon Hargrave). So we have no interior depth.
At 3-4 DE, we have possibly Milton Williams, but DE Josh Sweat and DE Brandon Graham aren’t 3-4 DE’s or OLB’s either. In fact, the last time Graham played in a 3-4, (back in 2015), he was moved to OLB, and was a liability vs the pass. Those legs are 8 years older now. So, two of our better 4-3 players don’t fit the new 3-4 scheme.
If we do switch, it would make far more sense to play Nakobe Dean at ILB. That would give OLB/DE Patrick Johnson a chance to shake his ill-fitting tweener label. Johnson has been used as a situational, pass rush, 4-3 DE; but he’s too small for every down use there. A move to 3-4 OLB could transform his career.
With OLB Kyzir White being a free agent, we really don’t have a presence at RILB, let alone depth. So there’d have to be a fair amount of roster rebuilding between now and September, with everyone learning how to communicate new terms, as they fill new roles. Which basically sounds like missing the playoffs, due to the division’s weakest defense.
Of course, if we stick with a base 4-3, we just need a DT to pair with Davis, and to re-sign White. After that, we’re building depth, and guys who are used to their 4-3 roles, are just learning new terms. Better still, the new DC can lean on veteran leadership. If everything is all new to everyone, we’re essentially playing 11 rookies.
BUT! Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. We’ll revisit this when Free Agency quiets down.