Alumni Alley runs each Monday throughout the offseason on PhiladelphiaEagles.com and features a former Eagle who writes about his time in Philadelphia and his perspective after his NFL career ended. This week: former linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, a four-time Pro Bowl player with the Eagles after he joined the team in 1998 as a third-round draft pick. Follow Jeremiah today on Twitter @JTrotter54 ...*
Defense still ranks very high in today's NFL, even with the way the game is played these days. When you look at Seattle's performance in the Super Bowl and San Francisco, you still see how much of a role a strong defense plays in the success of a team. Both of those teams have had great success these last couple of years without offenses to carry the day. Both of those teams have lived on their defenses.
Now, you can't play the game the way it was played in my day, which wasn't all that long ago. You can't play it like I played it, or like Brian Dawkins played it. I understand why the game has changed and I'm all for protecting the players as best as you can. But I still believe - and this was proven Sunday night - that defense wins championships.
How that relates to the Eagles is important as the team moves forward. I think what defensive coordinator Bill Davis and his coaching staff accomplished with his group in 2013 was remarkable. I think everyone would agree going into the season that the defensive side of the ball would be the side that would take the longest to come together, if it did at all. The Eagles changed so much in the course of one offseason – a new coach, a lot of new players and then they moved from a 4-3 front to a 3-4, which is dramatic. Dallas did it, too, and the Cowboys were one of the worst defenses in the history of the NFL.
The Eagles battled, though. It looked in the preseason and early in the regular season like the defense would be the weakest part of the team, but then there was the stretch during the season when the Eagles were playing defense as well as just about any team in the league and doing a great job keeping the points allowed down to 21 points or less.
The defense came up big in some big moments in very important games to win down the stretch and get the team into the playoffs. This defense played with a lot of energy and played Eagles football, which I had not seen in the couple of seasons before 2013. There was toughness, aggressiveness, being physical and giving 100 percent effort. I liked what I saw a lot, and it was something missing for the last couple of years.
So what do the Eagles need to do to get this defense over the top? I don't think they are far away. They need a game-changer at the outside linebacker position, because they struggled during the course of the season reaching the quarterback consistently without blitzing. That's the first priority, in my opinion. They need a Von Miller-type guy, and I know that Von Miller isn't just walking around on the street waiting to come to Philadelphia, but that's the kind of guy who will help get the defense to where it wants to be.
The Eagles may want to look at the safety positions and see if they can upgrade there as well, and then just continue to add good players, good talent and players who are going to be physical and give great effort. The Eagles aren't going to be able to overhaul the entire defense, and I don't think they have to do so. I think they can win big with the offense they have – I'm sure Chip Kelly will address some spots there – and by upgrading the defense at a couple of key areas.
For the record, I picked Seattle to win the Super Bowl because I felt that the Seahawks had the kind of defense that could match up with Denver's receivers man-to-man and still have safety help over the top, and at the same time generate the pass rush to get Peyton Manning off his game just enough to make a difference.
The way the NFL is played these days, offenses are going to move the ball and score points. But defenses make the big plays at the key moments, and great defenses lead to great success, and that's why I think the Eagles will make some moves in this offseason to add to a defense that was a lot better than people thought it would be in 2013.