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Eagle Eye: How Will Jim Schwartz Utilize His New Toys?

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With the league year officially underway, the Eagles were busy to start the new league year. Early on Wednesday, the team agreed to terms with linebacker Nigel Bradham, who was an integral part of the Super Bowl season. Three-down linebackers are not easy to find in free agency or the draft, so being able to retain Bradham’s services was huge for this defense and this team.

Now let’s get to the additions the team made official on Wednesday, and I want to start with the acquisition of Michael Bennett from Seattle. I’m very excited to see how he fits in with this disruptive Eagles defensive front. The veteran played over 900 snaps a year ago for the Seahawks, all while dealing with a foot injury. When I watch him and anticipate how he’s going to look in the structure of the Eagles' defensive scheme, all I can do is smile.

Bennett is a relentless player with a great motor. He’s naturally powerful, is wired into the snap count (giving him a great jump off the ball), and can attack the run and pass equally well. His versatility will absolutely be put to good use in Jim Schwartz’s defense, as he’s got the ability to rush both outside and inside.

Note that there is audio commentary for each of the video clips.

Shot 1 - Really excited to see Michael Bennett in this #Eagles defense. In base, I expect he'll get most of his reps off the edge, and he has experience from both the left and right side, with the ability to win with both speed and power #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/G3imATI4dq — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) March 14, 2018

Shot 2 - In the #Eagles subpackages, however, is where I expect him to really get after offenses. Bennett's quickness against guards allows him to win easily on the inside, and having @mosesbread72 inside with Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett? Whew. #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/0Vrm84gcAb — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) March 14, 2018

I expect that Bennett will get plenty of reps on the inside as a part of the Eagles’ subpackages. Lining him up inside next to Fletcher Cox, with a potential pairing of Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett on the outside, is going to be lethal when the other team is faced with a "must pass" situation. Whether he’s winning with size and strength or quickness and flexibility, he is tough to block.

Shot 3 - Bennett is also really effective in stunts and twists up front. He's tough enough to block head up, but when he's coming at you from the side he's even harder to keep off the quarterback #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/BwT5OpaF9R — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) March 14, 2018

Another area where Bennett is effective is on stunts and twists up front. Seattle ran a lot of them, and the Eagles have been known to do that under Schwartz (though more so in 2016 than in 2017). Whether he’s serving as the "pinner" or the "looper" on these stunts, Bennett can be disruptive in those "games" for the defensive line.

Bennett isn’t just a force as a pass rusher, however, because he gets after it in the run game as well. Whether he’s winning off the ball with his quickness and knifing into the backfield or exploding into a lineman’s pads and jolting him backward at the point of attack, he can make plays when the run is coming in his direction. When the run is going away from him, he’s just as productive, putting his high motor on display on a weekly basis.

Shot 4 - Michael Bennett is disruptive against the run as well as against the pass, and with his quickness off the ball he's able to wreak havoc on the other side of the line. Love the violence on some of these plays #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/LbLnCGycmV — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) March 14, 2018

Shot 5 - Watch Bennett come off the ball and get into opponent's pads on these plays. Consistently saw that snap anticipation, which allows him to not only win with speed but also with his natural power off the ball; he's so violent at the point of attack #Eagles pic.twitter.com/s8uCFHm13g — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) March 14, 2018

Shot 6 - Bennett's motor makes him extremely fun to watch and it will make him a fan favorite here in Philly. Constantly chasing the ball and arrives with BAD intentions #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/W5lyY3Bo5x — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) March 14, 2018

I’m really excited about Bennett and his addition to what is already the best defensive line in football. I can’t wait to see how the veteran meshes in with this group; it’s going to be fun to watch.

The Eagles made another trade official on Wednesday as well, trading Torrey Smith (who we will all miss both on and off the field) to Carolina for cornerback Daryl Worley. The former mid-round pick from West Virginia was a rookie starter in 2016 and was in and out of the lineup this year with a new defensive coordinator. They clearly wanted to go in a different direction, but make no mistake, Worley is a talented player.

Watching Worley at West Virginia, he was a bit up and down, but his flashes were extremely impressive. He’s got legitimate size at the corner spot, can come downhill and finish as a tackler at a high level, and his ball skills are really good. He made some outstanding interceptions in college in all areas of the field. For that reason, it wasn’t a surprise to see those ball skills show up during his time in Carolina.

Shot 7 - Darryl Worley's best trait coming out of West Virginia was his ballskills, and that carried over to the NFL. He plays the ball extremely well in the air, and he does not panic when he's beat off the ball. To me, that's the best part of his game #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/AgRZ7kjJvP — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) March 14, 2018

Whether he’s in-phase (hip-to-hip with the receiver with his eyes on the football) or out-of-phase (in catch-up mode on a vertical route with his eyes on his man), Worley has a knack for making a play on the football. That first interception above is one of the better plays I saw from a corner this year around the league, and even the pass breakup against DeSean Jackson was impressive because he didn’t panic when he was beaten vertically.

Shot 8 - Worley's route recognition skills from off coverage really impressed me too. Watch him plant and drive on these throws in-step with the receiver, meeting the ball at the catch point and getting it on the ground. Big-time plays! #Eagles pic.twitter.com/j2UPXUhMpB — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) March 14, 2018

When he’s in off coverage, which he did a lot of in college and in Carolina this year, Worley shows a pretty good ability to read route breaks and jump throws on the outside. He’s not the most explosive athlete, but he plays faster than he times on a stopwatch because of his eyes and his instincts. The two plays he makes in the shot above are great examples of that. Did he play like a Pro Bowl corner last year? No. There were some big plays he gave up and he was sidelined due to that inconsistency. Here in Philadelphia, though, Worley likely won’t be relied on to start right away, and with his skill set, he’s going to be a nice depth piece in the Eagles' secondary.

Lastly, the Eagles agreed to terms with linebacker Corey Nelson, formerly of the Denver Broncos. A young, athletic player with sideline-to-sideline range, Nelson was a key part of Denver’s subpackage unit two years ago under Wade Phillips. He was expecting a bigger role in 2017, but an injury derailed his season. On film, his athleticism pops off the film, and you can see why the Eagles were excited to add him to the fold.

Shot 9 - As soon as you turn the film on, new #Eagles LB Corey Nelson's athleticism stands out immediately. An explosive, rangy player with sideline to sideline speed, Nelson was a key part of Denver's subpackage two years ago. He's a very intriguing player for this #Eagles D pic.twitter.com/G946JYi8c8 — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) March 14, 2018

A versatile coverage player and aggressive run defender, Nelson has three-down potential (even if he doesn’t fit that role right away), with the ability to be an explosive part of the Eagles' special teams units. I’m excited to see how he fits in with the current linebackers on the roster. Overall, it was a strong first day for the Eagles in free agency, as they were able to keep their top priority in Nigel Bradham, get better up front on the defensive line, and add more depth at the second and third levels of Jim Schwartz’s unit.

Fran Duffy is the producer of “Eagles Game Plan” which can be seen on Saturdays during the season. Be sure to also check out the "Eagle Eye In The Sky" podcast on the Philadelphia Eagles podcast channel on iTunes. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University Football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team’s games, practices and opponents.

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