We aren't real certain about what to expect from the Eagles defense in the 2013 season. One thing we do know is that the defense will be bigger. Chip Kelly believes that big guys beat up little guys. He values size and built the defense accordingly. This is a difference from Andy Reid and his emphasis on speed.
The starting front seven for most of last year was Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins,
The biggest difference is up front. The Eagles will have a trio of 300-pound players on the field at almost all times. That was a rarity in previous years since the 4-3 defense is built more on speed than size. Having a massive nose tackle and a pair of big defensive ends will allow the Eagles to better control the line of scrimmage.
One of the effects of having bigger guys should be playing better run defense. This has been a weak spot for the Eagles over the past few years. Here are the recent rankings for rushing yards given up by the Eagles defense.
2012 - 23rd
2011 - 16th
2010 - 15th
Size isn't everything. Playing the run is a skill. It takes strength, technique and tenacity. As I've gone back to re-watch tape from 2012, both Cox and Thornton stood out as run defenders. It took Thornton a while to put the pieces together, but he was really holding his own by the end of the year. Sopoaga has played both the nose and end. He is a veteran who can eat up blocks and keep the linebackers clean.
Cole has been one of the best run defenders in the league for years. He plays the run as if his life depends on it. He will be more out in space now and that could make him even more effective. Barwin is a solid run defender. He's got the size to set the edge and funnel runs back to the inside. That is the goal. Keep the ball in the middle so that Ryans and Kendricks can make tackles. Ryans is a very good tackler and also is good at shedding blocks so that he can get to the ball. Kendricks must work on shedding blocks. He has the speed and physicality to rack up a lot of tackles on run plays. He also has the speed to chase the ball on those plays when it does get outside.
Beyond the front seven, the defense will be better against the run for a couple of reasons. First is scheme. The wide nine front put tremendous pressure on the defensive backs. They weren't just part of run support. They were tasked with being primary run defenders. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis watched 2012 tape and talked about how difficult it must have been for safeties to come up and cover the A and B gaps. This doesn't happen in most schemes.
The other big help to the run defense is the acquisition of
It is hard to predict how much better the run defense will be. Don't expect a dominant performance or anything like that. I do think the group can be above average. It would be great to see them finish in the top 10.
How Many Rushing Touchdowns Will The Eagles Score?
One area where the offense must improve is rushing touchdowns. It is hard to believe that
Kelly is a firm believer in the run game. I fully expect the Eagles to run for an additional five to 10 scores. They ran for 18 touchdowns in 2010 and 20 in 2011.
Having McCoy healthy for the whole year will make a big difference, but the real key is the offensive line.
An Interesting Quarter-Century Stat
The last 25 years have been good to the Eagles. The team has only had six losing seasons in that span. The winning began in 1988 when the team went 10-6. Prior to 1988, the Eagles had a run of six consecutive losing seasons.
In the past 25 years, the coaches have been Buddy Ryan, Rich Kotite, Ray Rhodes and Andy Reid. All of them had multiple winning seasons and the last three won at least one playoff game. Let's hope the winning trend continues with Chip Kelly.