Have you caught your breath yet from the Philadelphia Eagles' whirlwind free agency weekend? Now that the flurry of moves have subsided, let's take a look at how the personnel changes will affect the makeup of the Eagles defense in 2011.
Defensive end Jason Babin will line up across from Pro Bowl end Trent Cole, causing opposing offensive lines to combat a pair of superior pass rushers.
Babin had a career year in 2011, but has been a journeyman for the majority of his career. After leaving Philadelphia after the 2009 season, Babin was revived in Tennessee under current Philadelphia defensive line coach Jim Washburn in 2010, registering 58 tackles, 12.5 sacks and 2.5 forced fumbles.
The reunion between Babin and Washburn presents the possibility that what was built in 2010 in Tennessee can continue in Philadelphia.
Cole and Babin will benefit equally from each other's presence on the Eagles' defensive line because opposing blocking schemes may vary, allowing the other to break free into the offensive backfield.
The interior of the defensive line improved significantly with the addition of defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, formerly of the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers,
Jenkins provides the interior pass rush that the Eagles' sorely needed. As a result, Broderick Bunkley was shipped off to Cleveland for a fifth-round pick.
The weakness of the defensive tackle position on the defensive line has been their lack of size. Antonio Dixon impressed coaches enough to displace Bunkley from the tackle rotation towards the end of the 2010 season, making Bunkley expendable.
Jenkins' health has been an issue in recent seasons. In 2010, he played in 11 games and registered seven sacks.
The linebacking corps is young, fast and inexperienced. Perhaps the weak spot of the entire defensive unit, Jamar Chaney, Moise Fokou and rookie Casey Matthews currently make up the starting linebackers in 2011. There is the potential for this group to get by on being average due to the additions in other areas of the defense.
The biggest question mark of this group is Matthews. Playing middle linebacker, Matthews assumes the role of captain of the defense. Can this role be entrusted to a rookie? New defensive coordinator Juan Castillo has been impressed with Matthews early on in camp, calling the Oregon standout a "leader."
Chaney made an impact as a rookie in 2010, taking over for the injured Stewart Bradley late in the season. Chaney's natural position is in the middle, but will be moved over to the strong side for the time being with Matthews in the middle. Castillo's philosophy appears to be physical from the linebacker position. With Chaney on the strong side, Castillo has the physical presence he desires.
On to the secondary, where all the buzz has been over the last 96 hours. Nnamdi Asomugha brings a veteran presence to a secondary that was lacking depth and experience behind Asante Samuel. The signing of Asomugha forms a formidable pass defense that was fairly stout with the addition of Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie via the Kevin Kolb trade with Arizona.
Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie are two press coverage corners who play the game in an opposite manner from Samuel, the ball-hawking defensive back. Samuel appears to have dropped from first to third on the depth chart in a matter of a few days.
Samuel appears to be staying put amid trade rumors sending the playmaker out of Philadelphia to parts unknown. However, should the Eagles entertain offers for Samuel if the right offer is made? If a team is offering an impact linebacker, the Eagles should strongly consider moving Samuel to solidify what is already a strong defense.
On paper, the Eagles defense appears to have Super Bowl written all over them. However, the game is not played on paper, as you know. The hopes and aspirations have skyrocketed in a matter of days. Can this group come together as constructed and perform up to the level everyone expects? The talent is there for this to be a special group.
Only time will tell if these hopes can be met. Check back in February.
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