Eagles NFL
051817JordanHicks Chris Szagola/AP

The Eagles have some star players on defense, but their depth is shaky, at best.

May 18, 2017

Better or worse than last year: Eagles defense edition

With the Philadelphia Eagles' offseason basically complete (barring trade possibilities), we'll take a look at each of the Birds' positional groups and determine where they got better or worse. Yesterday we began with the offense. Today we’ll continue on with the defense.

Defensive end

2016: Brandon Graham, Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry, Marcus Smith

2017: Brandon Graham, Chris Long, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry

Graham returns as the Eagles’ best edge rusher, and he’ll have more help from the other side this season. Barwin proved to be a bad fit for Jim Schwartz’s 4-3 defense, and was unable to put pressure on the quarterback for long stretches of games when he faced quality left tackles. Long and Barnett should upgrade the Eagles’ presence on the side opposite Graham considerably. Meanwhile, Curry will be playing for a chance to keep his salary in 2018 and beyond.

Better or worse: Better.

Defensive tackle

2016: Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Beau Allen, Destiny Vaeao

2017: Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, Elijah Qualls, Destiny Vaeao, Beau Allen (?)

Out goes Logan, a quality run defender who did not create much pressure in the passing game; in comes Jernigan, who is more of a penetrating, one-gap defender. The Eagles lost some depth here for an unknown amount of time when Allen injured his pectoral muscle this offseason. Cox and Jernigan may have to play a ton of snaps, and the Birds could be in trouble if they lose either guy.

Better or worse: Worse.

Linebacker

2016: Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Mychal Kendricks, Stephen Tulloch, Najee Goode, Kamu Gruguier-Hill

2017: Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Najee Goode, Joe Walker, Kamu Gruguier-Hill, Nathan Gerry

Yes, we’re sticking with the premise that Kendricks won’t be on the roster when the 2017 season begins. With Kendricks likely (in our view) to be out of the picture, the Eagles have extremely shaky depth behind Hicks and Bradham, both of whom played a high percentage of snaps a year ago and managed to stay healthy. Yes, they’ll save some money under the cap by moving on from Kendricks one way or the other, but they’ll be thin at linebacker.

Better or worse: Worse.

Cornerback

2016: Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll, Ron Brooks, Jalen Mills

2017: Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson, Ron Brooks, Rasul Douglas, Sidney Jones (maybe?)

It's hard to imagine the corners being worse in 2017 than they were in 2016, but, well, we'll see.

Better or worse: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Safety

2016: Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Jaylen Watkins, Chris Maragos, Terrence Brooks

2017: Same

No changes here, and no significant progression or regression is anticipated.

Better or worse: Neither.


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