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December 30, 2015

Could the Eagles move to a 4-3 defense?

Eagles NFL
123015BrandonGraham Chris Szagola/AP

A switch back to a 4-3 would make a lot of sense for the Eagles.

One of Chip Kelly's shortcomings as a head coach was that players were forced to adjust to his scheme and ideas of "the way it should be," and not the other way around. A prime example of this was Kelly's insistence on having a 3-4 defense, despite defensive personnel that did not fit a 3-4. For example, players like Brandon Graham, Trent Cole and Vinny Curry, who were clearly best as 4-3 defensive ends, were forced to play far outside their comfort zone, either as outside linebackers or as 3-4 defensive ends.

The assumption here is that defensive coordinator Bill Davis will likely no longer be with the team, whether he is fired after the Eagles-Giants game this Sunday, or replaced when the Eagles hire a new head coach.

The new coaching staff will have defensive personnel that can fit either a 3-4 or a 4-3. For those of you pining for a return to a 4-3, here's what that may look like:

Defensive line

The Eagles' defensive line would throw a party if the Eagles moved to a 4-3 alignment. It would allow them to attack up the field rather than engage with offensive linemen in a stat-killing two-gap system.

 Connor Barwin Fletcher Cox Bennie Logan Brandon Graham 
 Taylor HartCedric Thornton (FA) Beau Allen Vinny Curry (FA) 

Taylor Hart and Brandon Bair would no longer be fits, and potentially not Allen. I just left Bair and Marcus Smith off completely.

The starters look like a disruptive bunch. To note, I'm not sure that Vinny Curry is a three-down player, but he would certainly play far more in a 4-3, so think of Barwin, Graham, and Curry as a starting rotation rather than Curry simply serving as a backup or pass rush specialist only. Obviously with a 4-3, it would also increase Curry's chances of staying with the team, as he will be a free agent this offseason. 

Somehow Fletcher Cox had 9.5 sacks this season playing as a two-gapping 3-4 DE. The sky is the limit on what he could be as a three-tech DT in a 4-3. Pairing him with Bennie Logan on the inside would give the Eagles a very strong defensive tackle duo.


I believe this would also be an easy transition for the players already in place.

 Kiko AlonsoJordan Hicks Mychal Kendricks 
 Connor Barwin DeMeco RyansNajee Goode 

I think that Connor Barwin could also be an intriguing fit as a SAM, so I inserted him as the backup there, although clearly, if that were to become his full-time position, he'd be ahead of Kiko Alonso on the depth chart.

What say you?

Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski

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