There are pieces, and really talented ones, everywhere. The front seven is loaded with depth and a great combination of youth and experience and versatility. The linebackers are new and fast and making plays early in Training Camp. The cornerbacks are some of the best in the entire league, with a healthy and excited young crew of contenders pushing for roster spots and recognition. The safeties are an interesting blend of veterans and younger players and everyone is peering over the hedges to see how that rotation pans out.
This is the Eagles' defense right now, one overseen by new coordinator Sean Desai that has a lot of new faces and moving parts and endless possibilities.
Is it too early to make a determination on how it's all going to work out? You betcha it is. Desai isn't going anywhere near making predictions, and instead is working through the installation and the verbiage and teaching the finer points fundamental step by fundamental step.
"The challenge every year is to redefine and recreate your team. Even when there's continuity and there's a lot of starters that come back, it's still a challenge for them to grow and learn from that. We don't want to get caught in a place of complacency and rely on our past," he said. "So that's the big thing. Whoever we're bringing in, if it's 11 guys, we're trying to find the best 11 to fit this defense and our personnel and our players and our team well.
"I think the guys are really taking that daily approach to do that and really rising to that challenge. And I'm saying that they're doing it, and they are, but it's really only day two of a long Training Camp here. They've got to continue to do it, and that's our job as coaches to motivate them to continue to do it."
There are certain things we know about the Eagles and how they want to play defense. They want to be able to run and they want to be physical. They want to limit big plays. They want to take the football away. They want to win in the red zone.
The usual stuff.
What we really don't know – and aren't likely to know until into the regular season, because the Eagles aren't going to show the intricacies of the defensive scheme or how they plan to employ some of their personnel until they are preparing for games that count in the standings – is what Desai is going to call in certain situations or how he's going to tailor his game plan each week. That's for everyone to observe when we're deep into September.
Right now, it's about giving everyone as many reps as possible, making sure the players are deep into their playbooks and on top of the X's and O's and evaluating every single day.
"The baseline has been set here, it's going to continue to be set and we're going to hold everybody to that standard, and now we just keep layering in the teaching of it," Desai said. "That's no different than anybody in the NFL right now. Everybody is installing their schemes and teaching. It doesn't matter who's on your team or where you came from, it's about what's going on today and winning the day really as best you can."
Desai's ability to teach has been well received inside the NovaCare Complex. Cornerback James Bradberry referred to Desai as a "guru" when asked about the new defensive coordinator on Friday.
"I think his understanding of football and what offenses are trying to do," Bradberry said, explaining the guru moniker. "He understands the NFL game and I think that's what really makes him smart. He puts us in position to make plays, so that's what I'm learning about the system and about him as well."
And that's where the defense is right now. It looks promising on paper and even better on the field with the speed, with the talent, with all of the experience and youth coming together. Desai is putting the pieces of the puzzle together for us all to see in the regular season and beyond.