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The Eagles Have Reinvented Their Defense

Although the Eagles finished last season with a 9 wins and a playoff birth, many questions still remained about how the defense was going to look after the offseason.

Rodney McLeod and Anthony Harris were free agents in an already underwhelming safety room. Steven Nelson was hitting free agency after one season as the CB2. Derek Barnett may have had a disappointing career so far but he still started down the stretch for the Eagles last year. Maybe they didn't have many linebackers becoming free agents but the position definitely needed upgrading.

But now it's May and Howie Roseman has completely transformed this defense with a couple of instant impact moves.

Credit: Sharp Football Analysis

First, let's wind the clock back to March 14th. The Eagles entered the first day of free agency with tons of needs on the defensive end; with maybe none of them bigger than an impact edge rusher next to Josh Sweat and Brandon Graham. Enter OLB Haason Reddick. Reddick was coming off a breakout season in Carolina and was looking to cash in on his success. The hometown kid from Camden signed a 3 Year/45 Million dollar contract and the Eagles had instantly upgraded their pass rush. More than just the player, Reddick fits the SAM role in Jonathan Gannon's defense. The days of Genard Avery are gone and the Eagles finally have an impact pass rusher from the linebacker spot.

Now we fast forward to March 26th, where Roseman did something he rarely ever does: he invested in the linebacker position. Former Chargers LB Kyzir White was coming off a very solid season but his market wasn't developing as well as he would've hoped. The Eagles were able to scoop him up on a total prove it deal, signing him to a 1 Year/5 Million dollar contract. For White, it makes sense as he can hopefully show his talent and get paid a nice deal in 2023 free agency. If White plays well enough the Eagles can attempt to re-sign him next year, but if not it's only worth 5 million so they aren't really risking anything. T.J. Edwards probably did enough to get a starting role this year but the rest of the linebackers are ether unproven or can't stay on the field. White could potentially be a huge steal for this team if he plays at the high level that he played at last year.

Credit: Chris Unger/Getty Images

Simply put, the Eagles got better following the 2022 NFL Draft. I was relatively critical of the Jordan Davis pick but the reality is that he's an absolute beast inside and will only get better the more he plays in the NFL. He may only be a rotational guy in Year 1 but assuming this is Fletcher Cox's last year, the Eagles were clearly preparing for the future with this pick. Then out of nowhere, the Eagles were able to snag another Georgia player in LB Nakobe Dean all the way down in the third round. Most people considered Dean the steal of the entire draft and for good reason. The Georgia defense was historic last year and Dean was one of the cornerstones all season. Even with the resume that Edwards has built over the past couple years, you have to find it hard to believe that Gannon doesn't find a pretty big role for Dean in this defense. The Eagles left the draft with two players that could've both been the best at their position in the whole class.

Still following all this, the Eagles had a glaring need in the secondary. Darius Slay and Avonte Maddox had great seasons last year but Steven Nelson going to Houston left the CB2 spot vacant. I'm completely ok with admitting that I was genuinely worried about throwing in one of these young cornerbacks in a starting role, regardless of how good the defensive line is.

Credit: @Eagles

But like Howie Roseman has done so many times in the past 5 years, he waited until the right deal at cornerback provided itself. He didn't overpay for one of the free agent corners or any of the trade candidates back in March. Instead, on May 18th the Eagles signed former Giants CB James Bradberry after he was released from the team as a cap casualty. The 1 Year/10 Million dollar contract feels almost identical to the Steven Nelson contract last year, but I'd even argue that Bradberry is a clear upgrade over Nelson. Bradberry had a down year in 2021 but was a Pro Bowler in 2020. Now playing in a better defense where he'll be guarding opposing teams second best wideout, I'm almost sure he'll improve. I'd point you towards my fellow Eagles writer LJ Nessler's article about Bradberry but I'll just say that I love the pickup and it feels the Eagles biggest need.

Here's a look at the Eagles current defense with the projected starters bolded.

Not bad, right? Obviously there's a chance that all these guys the Eagles added won't play as we expect them to, but on paper this has a chance to be one of the best defenses in the league. The only glaring need left is at safety, but maybe it's not as bad as we think it is? Anthony Harris was really just average last season but he has a chance to improve with these new playmakers around him. Marcus Epps has only improved in the last couple of seasons and is spoken incredibly highly by his teammates, especially Darius Slay. Even if they both are just average, I think the players around them may just be good enough to make it matter less.

This article does have an underlying theme of praise for Howie Roseman, which is honesty completely deserved. Roseman takes a lot of critique from everyone in Philadelphia but the reality is that he knows how to build a roster for now and the future. The Eagles have been a very successful team under his leadership and things are only shaping up to get better in 2022.

You don't play football on paper, but this defense has the potential to carry the Eagles to 11-12 wins next season. Looking at the Eagles schedule, they have no crazy row of QBs in a row like they did last year. As long as Jonathan Gannon can make the necessary adjustments that he couldn't last year, I truly believe this will be an elite defense.

Haason Reddick, Kyzir White, Jordan Davis, Nakobe Dean and James Bradberry. That's some rehaul of a defense.

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